Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus)

Of all the arts, I believe that photography – specifically nature photography – is the one that encourages the highest levels of observation, awareness, sensitivity, and curiosity. Non-photographic artists can invent their subject matter and works. Photographers need to find theirs. We have to be intimately attuned with our surroundings and subjects and aware of the many photographic possibilities in order to make great images come to life. Such photographs never happen by accident or luck (although the latter remains a constant point of derision for our medium). Combine the love of photography with a love and awe for desert, botany, light, and life, and you’ll find someone who is willing to wait for hours to spend an entire afternoon photographing an odd patch of desert plants.

The funky-cool and not-so-common Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus) flickered for my attention one recent afternoon on the Mojave Desert. This California endemic – found only here – arises only after a good rainy season. And man, did we have one. In the Brassicaceae family, they may look like asparagus but are related to cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli. I arrived at this incredibly unique garden under the hot light of midday but these flaming candles told me to stay until the light ran out.

There were no tulips here but still I tip-toed through the Candles and Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia tessellate). One can easily make such photographs without injuring, killing, or ripping wildflowers from their beds to impress a social media audience. It’s not really hard to do and requires no special skills or talents. You just need to care and recognize that your wants should never outweigh the needs of other living things. I treat my own garden no differently. What sort of person would destroy a wild one?

Wildflowers matter. Perhaps not to you, but they matter to every bee, moth, and butterfly that pollinates and depends upon them for their existence. Wildflowers are living things that bring life and joy to all who utilize and love them. Crushed wildflowers cannot go to seed. Less seed means a smaller seed bank. A smaller seed bank means less potential for future “super blooms”.

Should you visit any wildflower fields this spring, please be a good steward for the flowers and for our shared planet by carefully tip-toeing through them. Leave no trace. Leave it better than you found it. Give a damn. Thank you!

You are visiting the blog of landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

3 thoughts on “Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus)

  1. Very cool, Michael. I have never seen these Desert Candles before, either in picture or IRL. What a lovely light they carry; I’m sure that’s how they got the name LOL. The social media epidemic of floral destruction in search of yet another narcissistic moment is making me a little nuts. Okay, a lot nuts. I don’t want to see us have to shut down the world, but it seems that shutting these places down is the only way to contain the epidemic. Sadly.

    • Thank you for your comments, Lori. Shut downs are problematic on public lands but it would be just fine by me if everyone would stop sharing locations and critical details. Those who really want to find these places will while everyone else can vicariously and harmlessly enjoy them through the photographs of others. They’ll say it’s selfish and elitist. And I’ll say that I was able to enjoy this patch alone and in a pristine state and flowers got to live and thrive because the ‘grammers had not been notified.

      Kids readily understand “don’t be a dick” but this is lost on too many adult wildflower peepers. Check out #publiclandshateyou 🙂

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