Every rose has its… prickle?

I’ve just ended my first week as a Seeds of Success botany intern with the Needles, CA field office of the BLM. It’s been very busy and feels like I’ve been here for far more than 5 days! Getting to know my fellow interns, our mentor, and the other staff at this small office has been great, and I’m looking forward to my five months here in the “Heart of the Mojave”.

So far I’ve completed various training courses that will help my team and myself stay safe while doing field work out in the 3.2 million acres of land that the Needles office encompasses. The range of wilderness and other land that we’ll be working in is impressive, including desert, mountains, and even a volcanic crater! I’ve also begun to learn some of the many plants in the area, and some of the plants I’ll be scouting for and collecting seed from. Some favorites so far include ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), a desert giant that can reach heights of up to 10 feet, and the beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) which some of us refer to, affectionately, as “basilisk” because of its species name.

Fouquieria splendens towering over other desert species.

Fouquieria splendens towering over other desert species.

A "basilisk" in bloom!

A “basilisk” in bloom!

This week I have had the chance to see some of the interesting desert wildlife out in the field. Various lizard species were running around the rocks alongside us earlier in the week as we collected seeds at a site. I also spotted my first group of wild burros while out driving, which was exciting! One of the wildlife cameras our biologist set up captured some fun pictures of a packrat running around a borough as well.

A chuckwalla sunning itself on the rocks.

A chuckwalla sunning itself on the rocks.

A packrat caught by one of our wildlife cameras.

A packrat caught by one of our wildlife cameras.

I think one of the highlights of the week, though, was attending a cultural presentation given by a Chemehuevi elder about the history of their tribe, traditional uses for native plants, and their people’s connection to the land, which is adjacent to our field office. We were shown a couple of petroglyph sites and then were also invited to the Chemehuevi cultural center for some more in-depth education. I feel it is important for myself and my fellow interns to learn about the cultural history of the area we will be working in, as well as meet the indigenous people of the area who the BLM work with, so it was a very enriching experience.

Chemehuevi petroglyphs.

Chemehuevi petroglyphs.

Bureau of Land Management

Needles, CA

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