Saturday, February 21, 2009

Creosote pod

Creosote pod (Larrea tridentata)
West Odessa, Texas

Another very common plant here is a creosote bush. Indeed it does produce creosote, called "wood creosote" from an oil in its waxy leaves, but it's not the same as the black creosote, "coal tar creosote" used as a wood preservative on railroad ties. This creosote has been used by native desert peoples as a medicine, whereas the coal tar creosote has been shown to cause cancer. Recently wood creosote has been sold as a treatment for herpes.

The creosote has a lot of interesting characteristics, including the fact that is it extremely long-lived. And I do mean extremely. Perhaps the oldest living thing in the world is a creosote clone, dubbed "King Clone," in the Mojave Desert, aged at 11, 700 years old! And how ironic that the longest living thing is found in the desert.

The creosote is also very slow growing -- it's a mere seedling at a foot tall when it's ten years old. The seeds have a low germination rate, next to impossible if the seed doesn't get far enough from the mother plant. Some think the creosote puts out a chemical that inhibits growth around it, while others have said it is due to the fact that the mother plant is so efficient at moisture absorption that the seedlings don't have a chance.

That puts the pod above -- no bigger than a green pea -- in a new light. Its round shape apparently is for rolling away, and the hairs to catch the slightest wind to roll further.

And even then, it might get eaten by a jackrabbit or a kangaroo mouse.


From the Joshua Tree Park site, this informative article also indicates that there are actually three species of creosote bush based on differences in the number of chromosomes, the one in west Texas having the fewest and, thus evolutionarily the oldest?

From the Sibley Nature Center site, the creosote has 84 different kind of bees that visit it! And some only visit the creosote, no other kind of flowering plant.

From this site about the Mojave Desert, the creosote is chosen frequently by wildlife for dens and protection.


The Finely Tuned Woman said...

Now I know more about the creosote then I ever knew before and it is all interesting. You do live in an incredibly interesting ecological environment, Debi. Anything we have here in the Netherlands pales in comparison.

Bev said...

Like Irene, I have don't know much about the creosote, but I do now.

It has an unusual pod - it looks almost like bird's feathers.

Bobbie said...

Such an amazing plant. Who would think they were so old. They don't look it for sure, but under the ground that is where one would see it.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid Miss Debi that I'm gonna have to give you a F for this photo. 2 F's me thinks!
One for Fantastic and the other for Facinating. Your blog looks terrific and I really like your focus on this one.

John said...

Quite creo.tive.

Narrative matches the high grace of thy pic.

This kangaroo rat loves it.

Godinla said...

Creosote Bush? What the hell? Is that really on Earth or have you been out photographing other planets again?

I work on the Cates Project a little every day. Today was fairly productive. Can't wait to finish and send it your way.


Debi said...

Thank you everyone for your comments.

I'm afraid in future I might be a little more prone to sharing these intricacies with you as I spend a lot of time these days learning them myself and they -- nerd that I am -- excite me.

It is a fascinating world we live in -- that includes the Netherlands, Irene.

GILA, no need to search outerspace for amazing things. I am very excited about the "Cates Project" -- I can only imagine what it will be like coming from an original mind such as yours.

Mom (Bobbie) I think it was you that first told me how long-lived the creosote is.

Bev, I hadn't thought of that. Yes, like the smallest ever bird feathers.

Lisa, so good to see you here! You scared me a little with those two F's, though. ha

Joh.n, your gracious comments always make me feel good and I greedily look forward to them.