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Borrego Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
© W.P. Armstrong 12 March 2010

Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) is a drought tolerant weed from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. The earliest record in California is from Coachella Valley in the 1920s. By the 1970s it was widespread in the low deserts of Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora, Mexico. As of 2010 it is literally taking over large areas of Borrego Valley and is rapidly moving up the canyons and alluvial fans of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is adapted to poor soils in very arid habitats, and is even tolerant of saline soils. According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it is also allelopathic and suppresses the growth of other competing annuals and perennials. Dried plants break off at ground level and roll in the wind, thus dispersing seeds like tumbleweeds. A hard freeze will severely damage Sahara mustard, possibly giving native annuals a chance to grow and reproduce in some years.

1. Naturalized Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii) from Mediterranean Region

Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) northeast of Borrego Springs. This fast-spreading weed is native to deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. It is literally taking over large areas of Borrego Valley.

2. Borrego Valley Wildflower Field in 2005

This 2005 field of sand verbena and desert sunflower is now completely covered with Sahara mustard.

3. Some Locoweeds (Astragalus) in Borrego Valley & Vicinity

Locoweeds belong to the large and diverse genus of flowering plants Astragalus (Fabaceae), with approximately 2,000 different species in the northern hemisphere, 380 species in North America, and 94 species in California. Some are rare endemics that only occur in one isolated mountain range or canyon. They are sometimes called milk vetches from the notion that milk secretion in goats was increased when they fed on the common Old World forage species (Astragalus cicer). Like many legumes, the leaves are typically divided into a dozen or more leaflets, and the flowers resemble small pea blossoms. Some species produce inflated seed pods that make a distinct popping sound if you step on them. Locoweeds are also called rattleweed because of the bladder-like, inflated pods, particularly when a gust of wind rattles the seeds inside. Astragalus is derived from a Greek word meaning anklebone, the plural of which means dice. Perhaps the dice connotation refers to the rattling of seeds inside papery pods, like the sound of dice in a thrower. In anatomy, the astragalus or talus is one of seven bones in the ankle joint. Anklebones were apparently used for dice by ancient Greeks, and to this day, veteran crapshooters in Las Vegas refer to dice as "bones." Since adult astragalus bones are a little too large for dice, some of the smaller, cuboidal or cuneiform anklebones were probably used.

Astragalus lentiginosus var. borreganus, an endemic locoweed in the Borrego Valley area.

Desert dwarf locoweed Astragalus didymocarpus var. dispermus, a common prostrate annual in sandy areas.

Astragalus aridus, an uncommon annual locoweed with silvery appressed hairs.

A Locoweed & A Dead Steer
Mind Altering Plant Alkaloids
Model Of Locoweed Poison Molecule
Endemic Dune Locoweed & Sand Food
  Scarlet Locoweed (Astragalus coccineus)  

4. Crab Spider On Sandmat (Chamaesyce polycarpa)

Crab spider on sand mat (Chamaesyce polycarpa).

5. Harvester Ants (Messor) & Filaree (Erodium cicutarium)

Harvester ants of the genus Messor and husks of Erodium cicutarium (blue arrow).

6. Iridescent Beetle On Desert Dandelion

Desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata). The beetle is Lytta stygica, a blister beetle in the family Meloidae

7. The Rare & Endangered Gander's Cryptantha

Gander's cryptantha (Cryptantha ganderi) in Coyote Creek.

8. Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa var. villosa)

Desert sand verbena (Abronia villosa var. villosa) in Coyote Creek.

9. Assorted Wildflowers In Coyote Creek

Sand verbena (Abronia villosa), desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata) & spectacle pod (Dithyrea californica).

10. Ground Mallow (Eremalche exilis In Coyote Creek

Ground mallow (Eremalche exilis). This small annual belongs to the same genus as desert five-spot.

Desert five spot (Eremalche rotundifolia) photographed in 2008.

11. Dune Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides ssp. deltoides) In Coyote Creek

Dune Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides ssp. deltoides).

12. Desert Lily (Hesperocallis undulata) In Coyote Creek

Desert Lily (Hesperocallis undulata).

13. The Unusual Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus)

Mojave mound cactus (also called cottontop cactus), a species typically found in the Mojave Desert.

14. Dried, Cracked Mud In Coyote Creek

15. Metal Dinosaur Sculptures

One of many metal sculptures on Galleta Meadows Estate made by the artist/welder Ricardo Breceda.

  Galleta Meadows Estate  

View From Fonts Point.

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