Fruits of the Desert

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Except for a few hardy cacti flowers, this year’s wildflower season has nearly come to close. For those that have spent the spring hunting the desert floor for blossoms, all is not lost. Now that the flowers are gone, the desert fruits are emerging.

Blog for Fruits

From left to right: rhatany fruits, boxthorn fruits, and thick-leaved ground cherries.

Fruits on some desert plants can be as delightful as the flowers. Take the rhatany (Krameria grayii) plants for example. The plant’s round yellow fruits brandish shiny purple spikes. Depending on your age, they may remind you of the mines in the old Minesweeper Game.

Walking around the park looking for fruits, you will probably begin to notice an uncanny abundance of beans drooping from trees, shrubs, and plants. Here is a short list of the legumes you might find in the park:

  • Cat’s claw acacia (Senegalia greggii)
  • Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
  • Desert rock pea (Lotus rigidus)
  • Desert senna (Senna covesii)
  • Bladderpod (Isomeris Arborea)
  • Palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
  • Although it is not a member of the legume family, the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) does produce some strikingly bean-like fruits. The tree’s long fruit pods contain winged seeds.

Berries are ripening around the park, too. Look for the boxthorn shrub’s (Lycium andersonii) bright red berries on the Boy Scout Trail. They look like the bulbs on a string of Christmas tree lights. In Smith Water Canyon, the Split Rock Trail, and areas leading out to Twin Tanks (as well as many other places around the park), the sumac bush’s (Rhus aromatic) lemony berries can be seen from afar, glowing red, orangey, or white.  Plus, there is the coyote’s favorite snack: the powdery blue berries of the juniper tree (Juniperus californica). Thick-leaved ground cherries (Physalis crassifolia), which resemble tomatillos, can also be spotted in rocky areas.

Here are some other fruits you shouldn’t miss: fuzzy desert almonds (Prunus fasciculate) and, of course, the fleshy pods on Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) and Mojave yuccas (Yucca schidigera).

As the summer arrives, keep an eye out for cactus fruits, too! Already this season, we have seen hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) fruits ripening in the sun.

To help you spot desert fruits, we have created a new Pinterest board with pictures of all the fruits mentioned in this blog post.

Inside the park’s borders, please remember that any collection of vegetation is prohibited. It is important to leave these fruits for desert wildlife. Birds, rodents, and larger mammals will rely on their nutrients to get through the harsh summer.

 

 

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