After the lushness of Sherman Gardens on the coastal bluffs of Corona del Mar, we drove out to visit Palm Desert. Palm Desert is truly arid land. Coastal Southern California looks and feels like Seattle compared to Palm Desert.
The hills around Palm Desert are mostly rocks with small bits of vegetation, recently greened by winter rain:
We went to The Living Desert, a small zoo with a modest collection of botanical specimens. Where locals are concerned, it is a place for to take the visiting grandkids for a few hours when they get bored with splashing in the pool. Meerkats, for example, are a featured animal. Popularized by a TV show, they are a big attraction.
On a more scientific note, The Living Desert houses very rare desert animals and is working with the San Diego Zoo and other organizations to breed them and prevent extinction. The extreme arid climate is apparently necessary for some species survival; this location is ideal for trying to save such species as the Arabian Oryx and the Small Horned Gazelle.
There was a small screen house containing butterflies and hummingbirds. This Lunar Moth was quite dramatic:
Lunar Moths have no mouth, and live only two to five days.
As for plants, there still exists some of the original vegetation, brittle bush, creosote, and others, with the addition of desert-dwelling Palms, many Acacias of various kinds to provide much-needed summer shade for visitors, along with a small number of Aloes, quite a few Euphorbia turicalliis, and a grouping of Madagascar plants (Alluadia procera, etc) unfortunately overrun with Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi.
They did have an interesting non-succulent shrub from Southern Africa, Rhigozum obovatum. It looked remarkably similar to shrubs native to Southern California chapparal. It is heavily grazed by African herbivores such as Gazelles. Surprise! There's more to South Africa than Aloes:
There was one good-looking Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata), at maturity a huge towering presence on the African savannahs. Here in the Mojave, it was impressive even though young:
Commifora madagascariensis looked something like a very exotic succlent version of Lambs Ear (Stachys). It was unfortunately also overrun with the very invasive Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi:
There was a fine specimen of Aloe ramosissima near the African Wild Dog area.
The Desert Bighorn Sheep blended perfectly into their rocky backdrop. They are photogenic beasties:
The largest Alluaudia specimen was in rough shape. It was wrapped with a ragged piece of carpet padding to protect the trunk and wired to hold it steady to some rough stakes--possibly the combination of Mojave windstorms and the recent rain made it vulnerable. No criticism intended, the staff is probably doing the best they can with what they have:
All the children seemed to find the animal exhibits fascinating. Understandibly, most of the budget must go to support highly endangered mammals and birds. The plants are appreciated by those few who had sufficient knowledge of them. Hopefully budget can be found to maintain them a little better, (and get rid of all that bleeping Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi!)