The wild desert tortoise shares its habitat with many other animal and plant species. Like the tortoise, many of these species have been negatively impacted by man’s disturbance and fragmentation of the fragile desert ecosystem. A by-product of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee’s desert tortoise habitat acquisition work is that safe harbors are being afforded to many other rare and often poorly known species. One of the more significant plants is the rare but remarkable Desert Cymopterus. The Desert Cymopterus reaches its most northerly occurrence on the Pilot Knob grazing allotment.
The Desert Cymopterus, Cymopterus deserticola Brandegee is a perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae). It is also known as the desert springparsley. The desert cymopterus a very distinctive spherical flower, with the appearance of a dark purple drumstick. The “ball” is composed of hundreds of tiny florets.
Endemic to the western Mojave Desert, the Desert Cymopterus ranges from the Cuddeback Lake basin south to the Rogers and Buckhorn lake basins on Edwards Air Force Base.
It occurs between 2,060 and 3060 feet elevation. Typical habitat in the Cuddeback basin is deep, loose, well drained, fine to coarse sandy soils of alluvial fans and basins.
It occurs in Mojave creosote bush scrub, desert saltbush scrub, and Joshua tree woodland where it shares the habitat with the desert tortoise and the Mohave ground squirrel.
The plant has a patchy, restricted distribution and most of the known plants occur on Edward’s Air Force base. The occurrence at Pilot Knob is one of the few populations of the plant that can be viewed by the public.
The Desert Cymopterus is a Federal Species of concern. It is ranked by California Native Plant Society as extremely rare. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has been petitioned to list the Desert Cymopterus under the Endangered Species Act.