|Picture Notes: This picture was captured on 05/16/13 while hiking down a ledge filled wash that was descending from the Yucca Peak fossil bed area just below Yucca Peak in the Desert National Wildlife Range. Even though I spotted several of these plants, most appeared quite wilted, suffering from a long, harsh winter season with very little precipitation.|
Description: The Desert Larkspur (Delphinium parishii ssp. parishii), a.k.a. Parish's Larkspur, is a flowering perennial forb in the family Ranunculaceae (the buttercup family) with unusual and complex flowers borne on a single, unbranched, upright 2-3-foot tall stalk. The dark blue flowers have the appearance of an open corolla tube with long, reflexed (bent backwards) petals and an even longer spur sticking out the back of the flower. This uncommon component of desert and montane vegetation communities is native to the Mojave Desert in the US Southwest, from northwest Mexico to Southern California. It can be found in dry, well-drained,sandy and gravelly soils on flats, in and along washes, and on bajadas into the lower mountains in the Lower Sonora (Creosote-Bursage Flats), Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub), and Transition (Yellow Pine Forests) life zones at elevations between 1,000 to 8,000 feet. Some of the best "stands" of Desert Larkspur are in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area along Northshore Road east of Callville Bay. Its leaves are basal with 3 to 5 lobes, but mostly on the stem when in flower. Leaf blades are palmately lobed; cauline leaves (leaves on the stem) have 3 to 15 lobes. It blooms between April to late spring. Inflorescence: stalk with up to 75 flowers; pedicels to about 2 inches. The flowers are delicate light-blue to dark blue, and sometimes purple, with the appearance of an open corolla tube with long, reflexed (bent backwards) petals and an even longer spur sticking out the back of the flower. The spur is formed from the uppermost "petal," which is actually a sepal. The reduction of its vegetative parts has allowed it to adapt to harsh desert environments, enabling the plant to withstand withering heat and prolonged drought.