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Blooming desert peach: Spring is on its way

April 30th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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It definitely feels like springtime here in the Mono Basin—the days are warming up and the cloudless sky is electric blue; the birds are returning, preparing to croon their overtures, practicing for their unabridged performances; the trees are bursting with minute glittering gems of new leaves that dance ecstatically in the breeze; and the blooming desert peach is glazing the hillsides pink.

A six-petaled Desert Peach flower (usually they are five-petaled). Photo by Nora Livingston.

A six-petaled desert peach flower (usually they are five-petaled). Photo by Nora Livingston.

When I breathe in, I feel the spring absorbing into my lungs; my skin, my nerves, my blood is rich with it. It is nice to be reminded each spring that regeneration is cyclical, so that we always have something to look forward to even when the winter trees seem lifeless without leaves or if the air is pregnant with silence, lacking birdsong.

Brand new baby aspen leaves. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Brand new baby aspen leaves. Photo by Nora Livingston.

The quaking aspen groves, Populus tremuloides, are already dazzling patches of brilliant green among the more subdued grey-green of sagebrush hillsides. The aspen exploding into green is matched wonderfully with the blooming desert peach, which adds a soft blushing pink to the landscape. Apple trees all over town are bursting with white blossoms as well. It is quite a sight to behold.

A beautiful Desert Peach bottle brush branch bursting with blooms. Photo by Nora Livingston.

A beautiful desert peach branch bursting with blooms. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Desert peach, Prunus andersonii, has smooth shiny silver branches with inch-long woody spines at each cluster of flower buds. The leaves unfurl in April or early May, depending on the year, and the pink flowers follow shortly after. Once bloomed, the two-meter high shrubs are impossible not to notice on the roadsides and hillsides. Their flowers range from deep rosy pink to almost white (and sometimes, though rare, all white). I have found freshly uncurled petals that have a darker magenta pink perimeter that bleed to baby pink. The flower usually has five petals and has a firework-like cluster of bright yellow stamens bursting out of the center. Desert peach blooming coincides with the hatching of no-see-ums, poppyseed-sized biting midges that inflict a nasty welt, so stopping to look at the flowers for too long can be an exciting endeavor filled with lots of swatting. I think it’s worth it. In a few weeks, after the flowers have withered and dropped off, the shrubs will grow fuzzy dime-sized fruits reminiscent of tiny peaches. Sadly, the pit makes up most of the size and there is only a thin, inedible layer of actual fruit flesh. Apparently the native Pauite boiled just the leaves and twigs to make a tea used to cure rheumatism and common colds (Mozingo 168).

Do you enjoy learning natural history tidbits about what you are seeing during your visits to Mono Lake? We now offer guided trips where you can spend a half or full day with a naturalist guide who can help you view the region with knowledgeable eyes so you can deepen your Mono Lake experience. There are many trips scheduled throughout the summer and it is also possible to design your own private trip with a guide—we can take you spots you likely wouldn’t know how to get to on your own, and provide a special look at the Mono Basin and its unique features. Come join us!

Work cited:

Mozingo, Hugh Nelson. Shrubs of the Great Basin: a natural history. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1987. Print.

One Response to “Blooming desert peach: Spring is on its way”

  1. avatar R. Ansel Young Says:

    Plz notify me of “staff” musings (amazing writing).