Surviving the desert with beauty and efficiency

I’m away this week for an out-of-state seminar and a little annual leave.   Some of my favorite places to visit this time of year are the high deserts of California.  Today we hiked to Horse Thief Creek, a relatively easy trail in the Santa Rosa Wilderness.  It’s the perfect time of year to see the high desert in bloom, especially with last winter’s substantial rainfall.

In graduate school I became interested in environmental stress physiology, and I still am entranced by the plant kingdom’s ability to overcome nearly every environmental extreme on earth.  Desert ecosystems are particularly harsh, as rainfall is limited to a short period of time, often in the winter or spring.  While many perennials are able to tolerate the subsequent dry season, annual species cannot.  In essence, they escape drought stress altogether by existing only in seed form for most of the year.  Seeds contain relatively little water anyway, and are so protected against environmental extremes that they can remain viable for decades or even centuries.

But back to our desert.  After the rainy season, seeds of annual plants go into overdrive, germinating, growing, setting seed, and dying back all the span of a few weeks.  Thus, the lucky hiker can find an abundance of tiny, brilliant desert annuals when seasons and vacation schedules coincide.

Tomorrow it’s the Salton Sea.  Not sure what we’ll see in terms of plant life, but we’re hoping to catch some of the migratory waterfowl on their journey north.





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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

3 thoughts on “Surviving the desert with beauty and efficiency”

  1. Paul (and others), if you click on “properties” for each of the photos, you’ll find the names of the plants. (When I get home and have a better connection, I’ll try to remember to post the names under the photos as well.)

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