It was quite a surprise for me to see large old-growth Manzanitas in Joshua Tree National Park. We hiked in the Barker Dam area where my friend Tracy showed me some rock art.
But, coming to think of it, it’s probably not that surprising after all – this area of the park is at a higher elevation (around 4200ft/1300m) – Manzanitas seem to do quite well at these elevations (in San Diego, at Volcan Mountain for example). Also, Manzanitas seem to like granitic soil (I’m thinking about my hike to Granite Mountain – there’s a beautiful Manzanita “garden” right at the summit, amidst large granite boulders).
So the washes around Barker Dam, somewhat sheltered from the sun by walls of granite, appear to be quite favorable for them, and allow them to grow into impressive specimens. These are probably Arctostaphylos glauca but even with the “Field Guide to Manzanitas” in hand it’s impossible to tell from my photos – I should’ve packed the book, and even then it may have been hard to reliably identify them. Ideally, one needs to see the plants burl (digging?!), leaves, flowers and fruits (not possible at the same time usually), and so on, and so on… they’re quite fascinating plants, aren’t they? :-)
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