Death Valley: The Devil’s Cornfield

The Devil’s Cornfield in Death Valley National Park CA, photographed 03/10.

One interesting location in Death Valley is The Devil’s Cornfield.  The plants here aren’t corn, they’re arrowweed (Pluchea sericea, Asteraceae). From what I understand, this plant gets its name because native Americans used its straight woody shoots in the construction of arrows.  This plant spreads using rhizomes, horizontal underground stems that give rise to new plants. Grasses tend to spread in the same manner, which is why edging is so commonly used in gardening and landscaping.

The edge of the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

The sand here is readily carried in and out by the wind, as so elegegantly displayed by the nearby Mesquite Sand Dunes.  The wind exposes the dense rootstocks of the arrowweed.  The bare roots and tall shoots of the plants cause them to resemble corn shocks, hence the name “cornfield.”  The “Devil” part probably comes from the nearly-130 degree Fahrenheit daytime temperatures here in the summer.  Coincidentally, a number of locations here share similar names (Devil’s Golf Course, Devil’s Hole,  Hell’s Gate, Furnace Creek).

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Geology, National Parks and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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