20 life giving Plants in the desert

by Marc De Laria
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How do you imagine life in the desert? You could perhaps start with the thought of intense sun, rolling sand dunes, waterless and uncultivated valleys, great barrenness, rocky, unfruitful wasteland, scorching heat at midday and bone-chilling temperature at nighttime, and the list goes on. While many of the desert regions are “dead”, so to speak, there are, however, some that were not always so. In fact, studies the world over showed that life in the desert is evident. Conditions in some of the desert regions vary and differ, making it quite possibly more favorable to traverse. There are some plants that can withstand the extreme temperatures in the desert and the most famous are the cacti. These survive the excessive heat by storing up water on rainy days. Apart from the cacti, there are also other life-giving plants in the desert. It is noteworthy to spend some time and take a look at how these other plants can be servants to other creatures. Below are the lists of the names of the plants that grow in the desert.

20. Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactusThe Prickly pear cactus can be easily spotted because of its flat, green pads. This plant belongs to the cactus family. The colors of its flowers are red, yellow, and violet. This plant is known to have fibers and pectins which aids in lowering the glucose in the blood. Some experts even thought of this plant to have the ability of controlling cholesterol levels.

19. Palo Verde

Palo VerdePalo Verde derived its name from the Spanish words ‘Verde’ which means ‘green’, and ‘Palo’ for ‘stick’. This is due to the plants’ green trunks and branches. There is also a blue variety of this tree. This type of tree can live for more than 100 years. Seeds of this tree are eaten by the Seri Indians. They either eat the seeds raw, toasted, or they grind it and use it as flour.

18. Brittlebush

BrittlebushThe Latin name Brittlebush is Encelia farinosa, and it is also known as Incienso. The shape of this plant is daisy-like which has yellow florets, and can grow up to 5 feet high. Brittlebush plant belongs to the sunflower family. One of its characteristics is that the stems are hairy. This is essential since these hairs aid in protecting the plant from exposure to heat and cold.

17. Chain fruit Cholla

Chain fruit ChollaThe scientific name of this plant is Cylindropuntia fulgida, and common names include Jumping Cholla and Chain fruit Cholla. Its flowers are usually pink or purple. The name Chain fruit was derived from its characteristic- the flower blooms on old fruit which attaches to the plant for a long period of time, thus forming and creating a long chain. Drought animals depend on the plant’s fruit.

16. Creosote Bush

Creosote BushThe scientific name of this plant is Larrea tridentata. Desert people believed that this plant has medicinal properties and that it can cure different types of illnesses. Leaves of this plant may be boiled or steamed and can be drunk as tea. This plant is also known to be a host to Tachardiella larreae.

15. Crimson Hedgehog Cactus

Crimson Hedgehog CactusThe common name of this plant includes Hedgehog Cactus, Mound Cactus, Claret Cup Cactus, and King’s Cup Cactus. The flowers of this plant bloom for a few days and usually stay open in the evening. Native Americans eat this by mashing the flower stems, adding some sugar, and then baking them.

14. Desert Ironwood

Desert IronwoodThe scientific name of Desert Ironwood is Olneya tesota. This plant can be found in the Southwestern parts of America and in Mexico. One characteristic of this plant is its weight. This plant is very heavy, and to be able to move it, current motion is needed. The popular use of this is for knife handles. It is ideal because of its hardness and the design of the wood.

13. Joshua Tree

Joshua TreeThe scientific name of this tree is Yucca brevifolia. This tree is famous for its several uses. Its root extracts are mixed into shampoo and soap to cure dandruff, hair loss, skin diseases, and even bleeding. Leaves are brewed and steamed to treat asthma, headache, inflammations, ulcers, and even prevent blood clots. The extract is even used as vitamins to help animals improve their digestion and bowel movement.

12. Jumping Cholla

Jumping ChollaThe scientific name of this plant is Cylindropuntia fulgida. Jumping Cholla can grow up to 8 feet tall. This plant was called ‘jumping’ because its pads separate easily from the stem and seem to be jumping and attaching to anything that is near it. This cactus has a pink flower and its thorns are yellow-gold.

11. Mojave Aster

Mojave AsterThe scientific name of Mojave Aster is Xylorhiza tortifolia. This belongs to the sunflower family. The large flowers are purple to white in color, while the disk flowers are colored yellow. Mojave aster can grow up to 30 inches high. This perennial shrub naturally grows in dry climates. After winter, pests such as black caterpillars can be found on the foliage, sucking the nectar.

10. Ocotillo

OcotilloFouquieria splendens is the scientific name of Ocotillo. This shrub is easy to spot in the desert because of its long stems that grew from a small trunk. Its red flowers grow at the tip of the stems. Studies showed that Ocotillo can live up to 60 or even over 100 years. Common names for these plants are Slimwood, Jacob’s Staff, Candlewood, Flaming Sword, Coachwhip, and Vine Cactus.

9. Elephant Tree

Elephant TreeBursera microphylla is also known as the Elephant Tree. This tree was so rare that people doubted its existence not until it was confirmed to be actually growing. It has a strong fragrance which smells like incense. Native Americans believed that medicines formulated from this tree have a very powerful effect. The resin is also used as cement.

8. Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe CactusStenocereus thurberi is the scientific name of Organ Pipe Cactus, and this can grow as tall as 23 feet high. It has a red edible fruit that can be eaten raw, dried or made into jelly. Native Americans had enjoyed eating this for centuries. Some make the red fruits turn into syrup and then ferment it. Whereas, the wood was used as torches.

7. Desert Sage

Desert SageDesert sage (Salvia eremostachya) is a shrub that has healing properties. Sage leaves can help prevent colds. But most of the time, sage is used as an aromatic means to drive away evil spirits. This is most especially if a baby is born since people believe that the evil spirits are waiting to enter the body of a baby once its umbilical cord is cut. Desert sage is the color purple.

6. Desert Marigold

Desert MarigoldBaileya Multiradiata is the scientific name of Desert Marigold. Being a member of the Asteraceae family, this plant has a head wherein the florets were arranged densely, thus making it seem like there is only one flower. Researchers have found out that several compounds can be extracted from desert marigolds which might aid in cancer therapy. But it is also notable that desert marigolds are poisonous to goats and sheep.

5. Desert Lily

Desert LilyHesperocallis Undulata is the scientific name of Desert Lily. It is a bulb which blooms its flowers somewhere between February and May. Its flower resembles a lily, with silver linings at each side of the petals. This plant is edible. It can be baked or boiled, with a distinct taste of garlic, thus its name ajo lily from the Spanish word ‘ajo’ meaning ‘garlic’.

4. Desert Willow Tree

Desert Willow TreeChilopsis Linearis is the scientific name of Desert Willow tree. This shrub or tree is called willow tree because of its leaf similarity. This blooms sweetly fragrant flowers with colors ranging from white to pink to purple. This plant is believed to have medicinal properties. Dried leaves are used to make tea which can cure coughs and other chest and lung related illnesses. The bark and leaves, however, are used to treat skin infections and diseases.

3. Palm Trees

Palm TreesThe scientific name of the Palm tree is Arecaceae. This tree belongs to the evergreen family because it never loses its leaves in any season. It is interesting to know that there are almost 3,000 species of palm trees. This tree generally grows in tropical areas, but some can be found in warm temperate countries. The most distinguishing appearance of a palm tree, aside from its leaves, is its fruits. And the most common is the coconut.

2. Saguaro

SaguaroCarnegiea Gigantea Or commonly known as Saguaro, is a member of the cactus family. This is the largest cactus in the United States, having several huge branches which are covered with spines. This plant bears fruits that ripen during the rainy season. Almost all living creatures in the desert eat the fruits of this plant.

1. Barrel Cactus

Barrel CactusBarrel cactus (Ferocactus Cylindraceus) is always in barrel form. Its height is normally 3-5 feet. This blooms yellow flowers. Native Americans value this plant, as they can drink water from the pulp, stew the whole cactus to make food, and keep the spines to be used as needles, hooks, and awls.

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