My back yard is mostly sand.  At least twice previous owners have tried to grow grass there and given up, leaving the strings which once held sod together.  The ground is a pale yellow color.

Until the summer rains come.  Then all manner of weeds sprout up, providing a cover of green.  It is said that a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place, but I find the situation is more complicated than that.  Some weeds I pull as fast as I can: the lanky grass that goes to seed so quickly, and the pretty, spreading plant called goathead, whose yellow flowers turn into nasty pronged seeds that stick to cloth and hurt bare feet.

Purple Mat

Other weeds I have reclassified as wildflowers.  One of these is purple mat (Nama hispidum).  When we have a wet winter, which we did not this year, this low plant shows up across the desert where I walk.  In my yard, it likes the shady spots where moisture lasts a little longer.  I had to go out early to get a picture of it in the sun.  And even so, you can hardly make out the purple flowers.

Another native flower I’m fond of is limoncillo ((Pectis angustifolia).


Its English name, lemonweed, may reflect what most people think of it, but I think it’s lovely, with its thin leaves and yellow flowers.  I usually get a scattering of this.  This year, it has sprouted all around our small pool, as if it had been planted there.  How very nice of it!  I happily pull out all the competing weeds so that it can shine.

In this harsh desert climate I’ve had little luck at the kind of gardening I did in Pennsylvania. Even when I focus on heat-hardy plants, my seedlings fail to take hold and my vegetables die off before producing.  I’m dependent on nature and native plants to fill my yard.  After the poppies of early spring there were “wire lettuce” with its wee pink flowers, and stickweed, currently called “Velcro plant,” whose pale yellow flowers are best appreciated from a distance.  Then things got hot and dry.  After the rains come, purple mat and limoncillo arrive to give me joy.  They are a gift I did nothing to earn.