Desert trumpet: Eriogonum inflatum, Polygonaceae (buckwheat family)

Sound the horns, desert trumpet is #5 in the countdown as we push thru the home stretch with this plant-a-day project. I can't wait to post pictures of my dogs. 

Throughout the winter, I noticed patches of dried up desert trumpet, consisting only of the solo foundational inflated stem. They were always rust colored—or completely white, bleached from the sun—and cracked as if dry rotting, often torn open to reveal nothing inside. I thought maybe they were all dead and worried that they were going extinct, since they were kind of rare in my neighborhood, and they do have a rather prehistoric silhouette that could easily be handsome grazing material for the gentle brontosaurus. (Or like I always tend to imagine, underwater creatures slowly bobbing and swaying with the currents at the very bottom of the ocean floor.) But then spring rolled in, and right next to the colonies of sun-baked stems I started to notice skinny green tubes poking out of rosettes of healthy baby leaves. I was genuinely excited to know the trumpet was alive and well, and felt like a nurturing mother everyday on my walks while I watched these little alien plants worm their way out of the ground, growing antenna in pairs atop nascent forms, not yet fully inflated. 

The swollen stems of a mature plant are hollow, a perfect spot for insects to deposit larvae. Trumpets divide at nodes right above the girthy apexes, and have this really intricate, almost geometric branching patterning that feels characteristic of the buckwheats. Which is why I love them so much. (!) They're spindly but intentional in their shape, and seem to be bursting out of the ground, but with a poised restraint that compliments their ability to ghost out into the landscape. Humble beauties.


Yellow turbans: Eriogonum pusillum, Polygonaceae (buckwheat family)

This ghostly little plant is nearly invisible if you peer at it from directly above. The teeny tiny flowers (we're talking mere millimeters here) wash into pebbles against a backdrop of sand. While picking up one of my dog's droppings, I noticed one the other day, the flowers vibrating in the wind, hovering over the ground as if suspended in midair without scaffolding. Crouching down, I saw the thread-like limbs, and then saw that I was surrounded by an army of these camouflaged p(l)ants.

I went out looking for that same patch this afternoon, but was unable to spot any due to the low contrast resulting from overcast skies. Yet again, tending to my dogs, I noticed a twitch out of the corner of my eye, a little like psychedelic pattern shifting. There they were, those invisible little flowers, dancing their jittery two step back and forth, bringing granules of sand in and out of focus. 

I struggled to pin down a precise classification, so many micro factors that I won't begin to list. I chose this species because the involucre (base of flowering head) is kind of hairy (not smooth like E. reniforme) and fairly wide (2mm vs. 1.3mm in E. thomassii) But if you know it to be otherwise, please correct me! The genus Eriogonum contains over 250 species, so look closely!