Earth’s Rare Finds

Not far from metro centers are some of the world’s coolest flora and fauna.

Tuff Cones

A tuff cone is the remnant of an ancient volcanic explosion. There’s a perfect example on O’ahu in Diamond Head Crater, which towers above the coast just two miles south of Waikiki Beach. It’s worth the hour-long climb to the top for the view. Look for the only-in-O’ahu “Diamond Head Schiedea,” a flowering plant that’s related to the carnation seen in leis.

Diamond Head (Leahi) at sunset
Diamond Head, Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

California Condor

The largest land bird in North America almost went extinct in the 1970s, but was saved with conservation efforts. Big Sur is one of the reintroduction zones for the birds, whose nine-foot wingspans work the ocean breezes. The two-mile hike to Valley View Overlook is one of the better places to spot them.

California Condor: Photo by Glenn Young via 123 Royalty Free

Queen of the Night

The Sonoran Desert is one of world’s largest ecosystems, spanning 100,000 miles across parts of California, Arizona, and Mexico. Sample a small slice at McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. The arid terrain is home to coyotes, gila monsters, and cool flora, like the rare queen of the night cactus. This fragrant bloom looks like a cross between a magnolia and a protea. 

Queen of the Night: Photo by Marianne Jensen

 Eastern Hemlock

While Rock Creek Park gets its share of acclaim for nature in our nation’s capital, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, along the Potomac, is the place to cool off. This 340-acre park in Fairfax County, Virginia is loved by residents who come here just for the falls. Trails lead into a hardwood forest, where the rare eastern hemlock trees grow.



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