The deserts of California may look bleak and dead to the casual visitor. But to afficionados, the subtlety of color and texture and aroma hint at the life under the khaki.
Depending on how wet the year has been (and it generally isn't very), there is a brief spring bloom of wild flowers in the desert. First, tiny ground-hugging flowers carpet the desert floor, in succession of white and pink and yellow. A little later, the brilliant cactus flowers appear, like garish neon lights from all-night diners, luring in traveling birds and insects for a meal. None of it lasts very long, so the desert parks have "wildflower hotlines" not unlike the leaf-peepers of a New England Autumn. This picture from 2008 shows the long, spindly ocotillo, the fuzzy looking cholla, and the beavertail cactus with its vivid pink flowers. That silvery branch in the front right looks like a piece of smoke tree.
Usually BP and I try to get out to the desert during wildflower season, to admire how the brief period of color illuminates the normally stark landscape. But this has been a brutally busy year for us and we have had no chance to get away. Now, the season is over, and we missed it, and are worn out to boot. Oh well. Maybe next year.