Tracking land policy in the Golden State.
Botany
Is That a Cactus? A Guide to Identifying Cacti and Their Look-Alikes

Is That a Cactus? A Guide to Identifying Cacti and Their Look-Alikes

The Hidden Desert: You take a step backward and feel a sharp pain in your calf. You turn: a plant with swollen stems and sharp spines has invaded your personal space, puncturing your skin. You suppress a curse, opting for something milder. "Stupid cactus!" But is it a cactus?
An Ancient Partnership Put in Danger

An Ancient Partnership Put in Danger

The Hidden Desert: Giant Sequoias and coast redwoods are among the many trees put on a group's endangered list, but the story of whitebark pine should not be overlooked.
One of the Oddest Flowers: Desert Trumpet

One of the Oddest Flowers: Desert Trumpet

The Hidden Desert: From the Joshua trees and saguaros to the raggedy chollas, there are a lot of odd-looking plants in the desert. You'll have to get out of your car and look around to really get to know one of the oddest.
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Our Lord's Candle, Spanish Bayonet, or... What Should We Call This Plant?

Our Lord's Candle, Spanish Bayonet, or... What Should We Call This Plant?

The Hidden Desert: It's one of my favorite plants in Southern California, but I'm never sure what to call it in polite company.
Joshua Tree Bloom Due To Climate Change? Not So Fast

Joshua Tree Bloom Due To Climate Change? Not So Fast

The Hidden Desert: I've warned of the danger of human-created climate change since the early 1970s, so you might expect me to be completely on board with this analysis. I'm not.
The Grand Defiance of Agave Blooms

The Grand Defiance of Agave Blooms

The Hidden Desert: Heading downhill yesterday toward "downtown" Joshua Tree I saw it. It was the developing stalk of a flower, growing out of one of my neighbors' Agaves.
What The Heck is a Milk-Vetch?

What The Heck is a Milk-Vetch?

The Hidden Desert: If it seems to you you've heard the word "milk-vetch" come up in one desert environmental issue after another, you're remembering right.
Rains May Unlock An Enduring Mojave Mystery

Rains May Unlock An Enduring Mojave Mystery

The Hidden Desert: If the Mojave Desert gets some rain in the next six weeks, then we might just see one of the desert's least-understood phenomena take place, as Joshua trees work to create a new generation of themselves.
The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The Hidden Desert: I don't know what kind of oak it is, and I don't realize as I take a dead leaf for later identification that I'm about to connect one of humankind's oldest technologies with one of our newest.
Joshua Trees, Taxonomy, and Divorce

Joshua Trees, Taxonomy, and Divorce

The Hidden Desert: All life on earth, every thing that lives and has ever lived, every bird and beetle and box elder tree shares a common ancestor. We are each and every one of us related, each and every one of us the front of an impossibly ancient flood of genes rising from a single spring.
Nation's Largest Known Sycamore Found in Santa Barbara County

Nation's Largest Known Sycamore Found in Santa Barbara County

Botany: It's the second tree in Goleta that has been recognized as a "national champion."
Winter in Joshua Tree Country

Winter in Joshua Tree Country

The Hidden Desert: Joshua trees may denote hot deserts in many minds, but the place they live in gets pretty cold as well.
Don't Crush the Crypto! Soil Crust Communities of the California Desert

Don't Crush the Crypto! Soil Crust Communities of the California Desert

Commentary: Here's why cryptobiotic soil crust is every bit as crucial to maintaining the California's ecological health.
Not Empty, Not Barren: Why You Shouldn't Diss the Desert

Not Empty, Not Barren: Why You Shouldn't Diss the Desert

Wildlife: The Mojave has long stood in, in the public mind, for barrenness, an impression reinforced by generations of forbidding location shots in westerns and other films, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Western Scrub Jays are Replanting the Desert One Acorn at a Time

Western Scrub Jays are Replanting the Desert One Acorn at a Time

Commentary: The birds are excellent at storing food, but they do lose a significant portion of their acorn caches to germination.
Desert Nurses: How Seedlings Survive Harsh Conditions to Become Full-Fledged Plants

Desert Nurses: How Seedlings Survive Harsh Conditions to Become Full-Fledged Plants

Botany: You see it everywhere in the desert: mature shrubs with little plants of other species in their shade.
The Hunt for the Westernmost Saguaro

The Hunt for the Westernmost Saguaro

Botany: The California desert is a botanical frontier, and there are discoveries to be made around every bend of the wash.
Black Hills a Blank Spot on Map of Imperial County

Black Hills a Blank Spot on Map of Imperial County

Commentary: We know so little about the Black Hills in Imperial County. This piece may well be the only published description of the range's flora and fauna, sketchy as it is.
An Introduction to Desert Sagebrush and its Evolution

An Introduction to Desert Sagebrush and its Evolution

Botany: A sea of sagebrush may appear monotonous to the casual observer, but it turns out sagebrush is a pretty complex thing.
Will 2012's Desert Spring be the Wildflower Bloom That Wasn't?

Will 2012's Desert Spring be the Wildflower Bloom That Wasn't?

Commentary: Unless these storms bring Southern California some much-needed rain this week, most of the California desert isn't going to have a stunning spring wildflower display this year.
California's Desert is the 'Rainforest' Next Door

California's Desert is the 'Rainforest' Next Door

Botany: The deserts are largely unexplored, in a biological sense: much of our deserts' biological diversity is yet to be discovered and described. It's a floristic frontier out there.
Roundup: Thinking about Weeds

Roundup: Thinking about Weeds

Golden Green: Americans have a conflicted relationship with weeds.
The Most Astonishing Boring Plant in the Mojave

The Most Astonishing Boring Plant in the Mojave

Commentary: Blackbrush can live 400 years or more, but will this slow-growth plant survive climate change?