After the desert, no more complaining about my sunny, sandy Florida garden (maybe)

banana yucca, sand, red brown cliffs, red rock canyon, las vegas nevada, desert

I’m tempted to vow that I’ll never again complain about the harsh conditions in my Tampa, Fla., garden. (Not!)

But if they can grow this … heck, you can grow that!

I took my first trek into a desert this week and I was amazed by what grows in sand. This is Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, about 20 miles west of Las Vegas. (If you head to the Strip, know that even my husband loved this respite from the black jack tables). I saw lots more vegetation than I expected — and stumped two rangers at the Visitors Center, who whipped out reference books as we tried to ID the  plants I’d shot.

We do know the spiky stuff in the foreground, above, is banana yucca (Yucca baccata). The Indians who lived here ate the seeds, flowers and fruits. They made soap from the roots and used the leaves’ fibers to weave baskets and make twine. They were rich — this stuff is ALL over the place.

red rock canyon, prickly pear cactus, round green sections, cholla cactus, branches about 1 inch diameter, green, banana yucca, spiky green leaves, sandstone

180 million years ago, Red Rock Canyon was sand dunes. Now those dunes are rocks — and yet, stuff grows! In the foreground, prickly pear cactus (that grows here in Florida, too, and it’s good to eat); behind it to the right, a variety of cholla cactus (I love those branches!), and to the left, banana yucca (I think).

The rangers said Red Rock Canyon is looking particularly colorful right now because they’ve had an unusual amount of rain since August. These neon blooms, rabbit brush, were a hit with the butterflies.

bright yellow hassle blooms, mojave desert, red rock canyon, green lance-shaped leaves, butterfly attractor

On the 13-mile driving loop through the canyon, there are many places to park and hop out to look or hike. I took a hike on the Children’s Discovery Trail while my hub relaxed with the rental car. What could be hard about a children’s 1-mile trail?? Long story short, if you take a hike, carry water and a cell phone — even if you think a “children’s” trail is a no-brainer. I got lost, thought I saw a guy tying his shoe (thank God!!) but it was a mirage (!!), thought about all the Death Valley westerns I’ve watched, freaked, and high-tailed it back the way I’d come.

BUT, since I wasn’t carrying much, I had little to lose. Unlike my fellow hikers.

At the head of almost every trail we ran across was a lost item very kindly retrieved and “posted” by a fellow hiker at the trail head. (How sweet, right?)

car key stuck in post at head of calico hills trail red rock canyon

sneaker tennis shoe on rock at head of trail at red rock canyon mountains in distance

blue hair bow on sandstone rock at head of trail red rock canyon nevada

One more surprise: evergreens! I was stunned to find this pine tree — sorry, can’t tell you the cultivar.

evergreen, pine cones, red rock canyon, mojave desert

Supposedly, we should also have seen wild burros and horses, tortoises and roadrunners, among other desert wildlife. We saw some lizards that look a lot like our Cuban invasives here in Tampa, butterflies, and two chipmunks with wide silver stripes down their backs. Also, a strange man, all dressed up in a yellow pullover sweater and slacks, who seemed to be hiding in a rock crevice. For wildlife, he was our most exciting sighting.

This is a “You Can Grow That!” post — an effort by garden bloggers all over the country (maybe the world?) to make it easy for anyone to get growing. Find more You Can Grow That! posts at Folks – the official You Can Grow That Site .