Rain Gauge

A leaf is a leaf is a … rain gauge? Yup. Sort of. Brittlebush leaves act like Ma Nature’s precip monitor. The drier it is, the smaller and whiter the leaves it produces. If the soil dries up too much the leaves drop off altogether.

The we’ve-got-enough-water leaves are dark green, almost hairless. Turn up the heat and turn off the tap and that changes quickly — the next leaves to appear will be greyer and covered by white hairs. Those two factors keep the leaves from overheating by reflecting the sunlight. The tiny hairs also trap moisture.

I took the leaf shots this morning just as the rain started — the wet leaves really show the colour contrast.


Brittlebush is one of the most common plants on the Sonoran Desert. It grows in a half moon shape, like an upsidedown bowl. That shape and the profusion of eye-popping yellow flowers make it easily recognizable.

The image below shows what happens to a single bush when it moves into town and onto a lot where the owner waters plants. Wow. 🙂


Brittlebush   Encelia farninosa
Chuparosa    Justicia californica (aka Beloperone californica)
Palo verde   Parkinsonia aculeata



4 thoughts on “Rain Gauge

  1. Plants are amazing the way they can adapt to different growing conditions. I guess this is why different gardeners archive different results with the same plant. You are right it is a Wow


    1. We had a glorious rain last night and this morning. Always welcome on the desert. We got about 20 mm (0.7″). That should give the spring flowers the boost they need. 🙂


  2. It’s glorious, and interesting. I read somewhere about another plant that uses hairs to protect from water loss — just don’t ask me where or which one. Your post is also a reminder that I need to go right now, and water my plants. Now!


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