Monday, May 7, 2012
Monolith Gardens Loop - Cerbat Flats RA - 5/6/12
This part was familiar to us as we often hike on bike trails at home, too.
Fouquieria splendens Engelm. is a desert plant of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Common names include ocotillo, desert coral, coachwhip, Jacob's staff, and vine cactus, although it is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green.
leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months. The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminantly at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees. Ocotillo plants prefer well drained sandy or gravely loam soils with light to moderate amounts of organic content. ~ Wikipedia
The tortoises are able to live where ground temperature may exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) because of their ability to dig underground burrows and escape the heat. At least 95% of its life is spent in burrows. There, it is also protected from freezing winter weather while dormant, from November through February or March. With its burrow, this tortoise creates a subterranean environment that can be beneficial to other reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates.
The desert tortoise is a herbivore. Grasses form the bulk of its diet, but it also eats herbs, annual wildflowers, and new growth of cacti, as well as their fruit and flowers. Rocks and soil are also ingested, perhaps as a means of maintaining intestinal digestive bacteria as a source of supplementary calcium or other minerals. As with birds, stones may also function as gastroliths, enabling more efficient digestion of plant material in the stomach.
Much of the tortoise’s water intake comes from moisture in the grasses and wildflowers they consume in the spring. A large urinary bladder can store over forty percent of the tortoise's body weight in water, urea, uric acid and nitrogenous wastes. During very dry times they may give off waste as a white paste rather than a watery urine. During periods of adequate rainfall, they drink copiously from any pools they find, and eliminate solid urates. Adult tortoises can survive a year or more without access to water.
One defense mechanism the tortoise has when it is handled is to empty its bladder. This can leave the tortoise in a very vulnerable condition in dry areas, and they should never be alarmed, handled or picked up in the wild unless they are in imminent danger (like in a road). If they must be handled, and their bladder is emptied, then water should be provided in order to restore the fluid in their body. ~ Wikipedia