Desert Bloom

August 06, 2010


Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren; Riley Mitchell; Jason Baker

August 2010 Earth Science Picture of the Day Viewer's ChoiceEncouraged by just enough precipitation, tiny purple and yellow flowers find a precarious foothold in the cracked ground and mostly barren desert between Capitol Reef National Park and Hanksville, Utah. The purple flower is low brittle scorpionweed (Phacelia demissa), which it is said gets its name from its curling flower-head, resembling a scorpion’s tail. There are two different yellow flowers pictured. One is a dwarf yellow bee plant (Cleome lutea); the other is Eastwood's sundrop (Camissonia eastwoodiae). A desert bloom like this occurs only every five to ten years. South-central Utah had higher than usual precipitation this past winter and spring, allowing these miniatures to create a dense floral carpet in a dry wash, stretching toward the barren, gray shale hillocks nearby.  Scorpionweed, bee plant and sundrop are related to dozens of species throughout western North America. With continued moisture, an iffy proposition in this location, they can grow much taller and cover considerably larger areas. The bee plant in particular has been used by Native American tribes of the Four Corners area, such as the Navajo, Hopi and Ute peoples, for various purposes. The flowers can be boiled to make a black pigment for painting. The leaves and seeds are edible. Additionally, the plant material can be used as a poultice to treat insect bites. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D60; Focal Length: 125.0mm; Aperture: f/16.0; Exposure Time: 0.017 s (1/60); ISO equiv: 100.