Notes from South of the Border
Panorama of Mulege Oasis

This section contains entries written for the UC BEE, the monthly newsletter for volunteers and staff of the
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, about our botanizing in Baja California, and starting in October, 2012.

Click on any photo for a larger image.


Mulegé, Baja California Sur – Nov. 12, 2012

We are enjoying a unique experience here in the Baja Desert following unusually prolonged summer rains Aug-Oct and a real drenching brought by the passage of Hurricane Paul along the Pacific coast Oct. 15-17.

The desert is a sea of endless varieties of green; in places the dirt isn’t even visible through the dense vegetation. We’re not the only ones saying that we’ve never seen it this lush, and over such a large area, in probably the last 20 years. At times like these, it’s hard to believe that we are in the middle of one of the most arid regions of the Sonoran Desert. I’ve even seen mosses and liverworts!

This is the desert?

Squint and it could be an oak woodland. Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana) and (non)native herbs and grasses (Kallstroemia californica, Bouteloua spp., Chloris virgata).

Where is the trail?

And the trail is where? Looking south into Bahía Concepción from near mouth of the bay. The trail is straight ahead from the middle bottom of the frame!

In the past 6 years, this area has been affected by three major cyclones, each of them bringing heavy rainfall to the mountain range to the west, leading to flash flooding in the Mulegé river valley.  The effects of climate change seem all too real here, as the pace of the “50-year flood” has increased to every 2-3 years.

However, not until this year has the coastal area itself received much direct rain. Cacti seem ready to burst and most of the xerophytic shrubs and trees are leafy, although only a handful of species are actually flowering.  Ruellia californica (Flor de Campo), Cordia parvifolia (Vara Prieta), Solanum hindsianum (Mariola) and Jacquemontia abutiloides (Manto de la Virgen) are probably the most noticeable.

Cordia parviflora

Cordia parvifolia (Boraginaceae)
Vara prieta, Small-leaved cordia.


Jacquemontia abutiloides in bloom

Jacquemontia abutiloides (Convolvulaceae)
Manto de la virgen, Morning glory.

Trianthema portulacastrum

Trianthema portulacastrum (Aizoaceae)
Verdolaga de Cochí, Desert Horse Purslane


Wildflower mix

Mentzelia adhaerens (Loasaceae) Pega pega; Allionia incarnata (Nyctaginaceae) Trailing windmills.

Much of the flowering is from summer annuals like Manzanilla (Pectis papposa and P. vollmeri, a local endemic), Trianthema portulacastrum (Verdolaga de Cochi), Allionia incarnata, and Amaranthus watsonii (Quelite).  There are also an abundance of annual grasses adding to the ground cover.

I’m looking forward over the next few months to what the desert will bring.

— Debra Valov, curatorial volunteer