Arizona Naturalists --> Sonoran Desert Naturalist --> Sonoran Desert Places --> Quartzite

Plomosa Mountains, Arizona

Introduction

If you happen to be traveling Interstate-10 in June or July and stop even briefly at Quartzite you might wonder how this could possibly be anyone's destination. For sure, in summer daytime temperatures are normally well above 40 °C making comfort hard to find. But for 5 or 6 months of the year the weather in this western Arizona town is sunny and close to perfect every day. Tourists and semi-retired snow birds flock here for the winter months and the nearly-free camping available on nearby BLM lands. Giant swap meets and rock and mineral shows provide the majority of entertainment. Many visitors are delighted to venture off into the hills for some rockhounding or simply to explore the vast Sonoran Desert environment.

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View Larger Map. Quartzite town is indicated by the blue balloon. Northeast of town, the trekking icon locates the Plomosa Mountains. Twelve miles south of Quartzite off Hwy. 93 another hiker icon locates Palm Canyon in the KOFA Mts.

Directions

From the Phoenix area head west on I-10. The town of Quartzite is just 16 miles from the California border. To reach the Plomosa Mountains exit at Gold Nugget Road, 10 miles east (i.e. before arriving at Quartzite), exit #26, then turn north. A gravel road leads directly into the mountain range - high clearance recommended.

Plomosa Mountains as viewed from the south.  Photo © Mike Plagens

The Plomosa Mountains are northeast of the Quartzite townsite. Photographed Mar. 1, 2009.

Plomosa Mountains as viewed from the south.  Photo © Mike Plagens

A wash near the Plomosa Mountains ablaze with Fairy Duster bushes. The yellow-green trees are Foothills Palo Verde and the dark green tree at far left is ironwood. Photographed Mar. 1, 2009.

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Birds

Commonly Encountered Species:

  1. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher -- Polioptila melanura -- S,F,W,Sp
  2. Black-throated Sparrow -- Amphispiza bilineata -- S,F,W,Sp
  3. White-crowned Sparrow -- Zonotrichia leucophrys -- W,Sp
  4. Costa's Hummingbird -- Calypte costae -- S,F,W,Sp
  5. Verdin -- Auriparus flaviceps -- S,F,W,Sp
  6. Cactus Wren -- Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus -- Sp,Su,F,W -- absent following estended drought.
  7. Gila Woodpecker -- Melanerpes uropygialis -- Sp,S,F,W
Black-throated Sparrow Verdin Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Cacti

In general order of Abundance:

  1. Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
  2. Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus) --
  3. Fishhook Pincushion (Mammalaria grahamii)
  4. Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) --
  5. Beavertail Pricklypear -- Opuntia basilaris
  6. Teddy Bear Cholla;Jumping Cholla -- Cylindropuntia bigelovii
Photo © by Michael Plagens

Beavertail Prickly Pear Cactus. Photographed in the Plomosa Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona, USA. 01 March 2009.

Shrubs and Trees

Yellow Felt Plant Pen & Ink Illustration © by Michael J. Plagens

The leaves of Yellow Felt Plant are soft and velvety, but give off an unpleasant odor if crushed.

In general order of Abundance:

  1. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
  2. White Bursage -- Ambrosia dumosa
  3. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) -
  4. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) - A few along drainages
  5. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) - Parasitic shrub growing upon various desert trees including Palo Verde and Ironwood.
  6. Janusia Vine -- Janusia gracilis
  7. Cat-Claw Acacia (Acacia greggiii) - mostly along the washes
  8. Wolfberry (Lycium californicum spp.) - concentrated along wash banks
  9. Fairy Duster -- Calliandra eriophylla
  10. Fagonia -- Fagonia laevis
  11. Trangle-leaf Bursage(Ambrosia deltoidea) --
  12. Ratany (Krameria grayi) -- purplish cast to woody stems
  13. Desert Lavender -- Hyptis emoryi
  14. Trixis -- Trixis californica
  15. Brittlebush -- Encelia farinosa
  16. Ocotillo;Coachwhip -- Fouquieria splendens
  17. Sweet Bush -- Bebbia juncea
  18. Desert Senna -- Senna covesii
  19. Yellow Felt Plant -- Horsfordia newberryi
  20. San Felipe Marigold -- Adenophyllum porophylloides
  21. Lance-leaf Ditaxis -- Argythamnia lanceolata
  22. Desert Poinsetia (Euphorbia eriantha)
  23. Joint Fir -- Ephedra aspera
  24. Pygmy Cedar -- Peucephalum schottii - despite name actually a composite with yellow flowers
  25. Desert Trumpet -- Eriogonum inflatum
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Spring Wildflowers (obs. March 1, 2009)

Red Flowers

  1. Fairy Duster -- Calliandra eriophylla

Orange Flowers

  1. Orange Fiddleneck -- Amsinckia intermedia
  2. San Felipe Marigold -- Adenophyllum porophylloides
  3. Desert Globe Mallow -- Sphaeralcia ambigua

White Flowers

  1. Esteve's Pincushion -- Chaenactis stevioides
  2. Peppergrass -- Lepidium lasiocarpum
  3. Arch-nutted Comb Bur -- Pectocarya recurvata
  4. Wingnut Cryptantha -- Cryptantha pterocarya
  5. Guadalupe Cryptantha -- Cryptantha maritima
  6. Spurges -- Chamaesyce spp.
  7. California Mustard -- Guillenia lasiophylla
  8. Emory Rock Daisy -- Perityle emoryi

Greenish Flowers

  1. Lance-leaf Ditaxis -- Argythamnia lanceolata
  2. Desert Mistletoe -- Phoradendron californicum

Purple/Blue Flowers

  1. Notch-leaved Phacelia -- Phacelia crenulata
  2. California Thornbush (Lycium californicum)

 

Pink/Lavender Flowers

  1. Fagonia -- Fagonia laevis
  2. Desert Lavender -- Hyptis emoryi
  3. Trailing Four O'Clock -- Allionia incarnata
  4. Yellowthroat Gilia -- Gilia flavocincta

Yellow/Cream Flowers

  1. Brittlebush -- Encelia farinosa
  2. Pygmy Poppy -- Eschshcolzia minutiflora
  3. Asian Mustard;Sahara Mustard -- Brassica tournefortii
  4. Yellow Sun Cup -- Camissonia brevipes
  5. Stick-leaf -- Mentzelia sp.
  6. Tansy Mustard -- Descurainia pinnata
  7. Desert Trumpet -- Eriogonum inflatum
photo © by Michael Plagens

Yellow Suncup. Photographed in the Plomosa Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona. 01 March 2009.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010