right: gravel ghost, aka parachute plant
Atrichoseris platyphylla


below: desert chicory, aka plumeseed
Rafinesquia neomexicana

I figure if the various hard-to-tell-apart yellow flowers can be referred to as DYCs, then I can refer to the white ones as DWCs. Here are two of them from Death Valley.


The flowers of gravel ghost stand about 2 feet from the ground on naked stems; the only leaves are gray-green and form a basal rosette.


See how the flowers appear to be floating in mid-air?  You can barely make out the stems.  This is how the plant comes by its common names.

Young inflorescences are really pretty up close: the rays are tipped in purple.

In contrast, desert chicory has leaves on rather weak stems, so that the plant is often seen either somewhat flopped over or growing through another plant for support.



Gravel ghost is found in the deserts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Desert chicory can be found in the same states and also New Mexico and Texas. Both plants are annuals.

Bad News, Good News

The first week of March there were news reports about a “superbloom” of wildflowers in Death Valley. Since I had an airline credit to use, it was an easy decision to fly out and spend a few days there, just me and the camera.

I arrived late on Monday, March 7 to find the show not as spectacular as the news articles suggested. On March 9, an update was posted at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The bad news: hot weather and a windstorm had damaged the flowers before my arrival. The good news: there were still plenty of flowers to see. And since I had never visited that part of the country, it was all new to me.

I believe I found about 30 different species of plants flowering, but I’m only just starting to go through the photos to identify them.  It’s a good way to pass time while sitting in an airport lounge awaiting the flight home.

Here’s a teaser: flowers in the badlands area of the Black Mountains near Artist’s Palette.  This view is looking southwest toward the Panamint range, with snow-covered Telescope Peak in the distance.  The yellow blossoms are desert sunflowers, aka desert gold (Geraea canescens, Asteraceae).  Also visible are the white-flowering gravel ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla, Asteraceae) and purple caltha-leaved phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia, Hydrophyllaceae).