Desert Velvet


also known as turtleback
or velvet turtleback
Psathyrotes ramosissima


This neat little plant is not quite a belly flower: it is very low growing (five inches tall at most), but it can spread pretty wide. It’s variously described as a small shrub, annual forb, or short-lived perennial. On many desert plants, the foliage is as attractive as the flowers, and so it is here: thick, fuzzy, silvery sage-green leaves are mounded so as to resemble the back of a turtle. The inflorescence consists only of disk flowers (no rays).

Apparently it’s pretty common in the Mojave desert at low elevations, but for some reason I saw only this one plant, in a wash near Beatty Road.


And that’s it for the Death Valley report. There are a few more plants that I haven’t positively identified yet (five of them probably Cryptanthas), and I don’t have great pictures of them. There are still about 200 landscape photos to go through; eventually I’ll be posting a dozen or two of them on my other website (


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