First time I saw a Smoketree in bloom I almost ran the car off the road. For most of the year they are scrubby pale gray-green shrubs that colonize washes and vacant lots around Rancho Mirage. Many can be seen south of Highway 111 across from The River and a couple of blocks to the left and right behind the Bank of America along Sahara Road. For an even more impressive stand of trees follow Sahara Road west until it dead ends at Mirage Road. Turn left noting the Smoketrees lining the west side of the road until you reach the entrance to the Blixseth Mountain Park.
During the month of June Smoketrees shed their mousy personalities and come out in an extravagant but elusive blaze. What’s unique about these extraordinary trees are their masses of pale purple flowers share the same color value as the plant’s pale whitish-green leaves so that optically, the tree when in full bloom, looks like a wisp of smoke, a ghost, a desert phantom. A sight to behold!
The Smoketree can be found in great number at Joshua Tree National Park and in and around all the cities in the Palm Springs Valley. They require a lot of water for a desert plant so they are generally found in washes where they catch the run-off from our few winter storms. These unique plants are also called Indiobush, Corona de Cristo and Smokethorn dalea. Their scientific name is Psorothamnus spinosus. Look for them. A Smoketree sighting is an experience unique to the deserts of the Southwest.