Central Desert

The Central Desert region of Baja California is the stereotypical part of Baja California that is recognized by most naturalists.  Landscapes covered with Cirio Trees (Fouquieria columnaris), large columnar cacti (especially Pachycereus pringlei), and Elephant Trees (Pachycormus discolor) are what most people, who know something about Baja California nature  (a small minority of the population), think of when visualizing Baja California.  Most of the common photos are taken within a few miles of the small roadside town/village of Cataviña, situated among granite bounder fields.

Relief map showing the regions of the Central Desert and the Vizcaino Desert. Some towns are noted. “LA Bay” is the anglo shorthand, the proper name is Bahia de los Angeles. The delineations here (ours) are very rough and transitions between the various biotic provinces in Baja California are rarely distinct. Refer to the floristic province map for more precision.

Many species found in the Central Desert of Baja California are only found in this region, while many others have a much wider distribution. Some cacti like Cylindropuntia molesta, C. tesajo and Ferocactus gracilis are primarily Central Desert species (see below).

Although a very small overall component of the flora, one of the more memorable items of the flora around Cataviña are the fan palms found in the large washes that the main highway crosses both before and immediately after the town (as you proceed southward).  There are two species, one with green leaves (Washington filifera – the same as that found in the California desert) and one with distinctly blueish leaves (Brahea armata).  This is the first time most tourists will have seen the latter palms; they are not common along the main route – in fact this is probably the only place naturalists traveling the main highway will see them.

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