Plants of The Desert: A Conversation With Tom

Deserts get a bad rep. Portrayed as barren, unforgiving wastelands devoid of life and water, the Deserts of the American West are always terrifying, monstrous badlands, just waiting to claim their next victims. Even their names are scary: Death Valley, Devil’s Wasteland… We here at Juniper Ridge think a bit differently. To us, the desert is an inspirational, awe-inspiring adventure waiting to happen, and our Mojave scent line is a beautiful reflection of that region we love so much. We sat down with our master of R&D and resident mad scientist, Tom, to get the 411 on what makes this region’s plants so special.

First off, let’s set the stage – name a song you’d put on if you were driving in the desert right now.

Horse With No Name by America….is that too pedestrian? I don’t care! Haha. But mostly I’d have my window down, feel the heat, the air moving, the quiet…

So obviously desert plants are very different than plants from other regions. How do those differences come into play for you?

Well desert plants are the ultimate survivors: they have to do everything ten times more than the plants that live in luxury where water is abundant. The fight for resources is extreme, and they have to be bitter and hardy as all hell in order to not get eaten. With no water, and plenty of predators to fight off, they end up with these super-strong, condensed fragrances. Very different than the Pacific Northwest plants we work with, which are so water-heavy.

Does that make desert plants harder to work with?

I’d say it’s easier to work with these plants in a way, because the scents are so strong! The one drawback though is that, again, because of their desert adaptations they have significantly less biomass, so we have to be careful about what we’re harvesting, and how much we’re harvesting. Scarcity of resource is a big deal down there, so we don’t want to upset any balances that way. So availability is scarce…but concentration sort of makes up for it.

Let’s talk about Creosote. We’re using it in several things now, including our newest R&D Field Lab, Mojave Beard Oil. It’s an incredibly polarizing scent around the Juniper Ridge warehouse – Do you love it or hate it?

I LOVE desert creosote, it’s one of my favorite scents. It reminds me of the smell of fresh rain after a long dry spell, or like butterscotch. At first I wasn’t quite sure! It’s so strong. But then I dreamt about it. Its the one scent I actually dream about, it’s so distinctive.

Any favorite desert spots? Dream desert vacations?

I haven’t been to the desert as much as I want! Hopefully I’ll get out to the Mojave at some point next year….Death Valley really calls to me. I have to see the freak show of Death Valley at some point – the wildlife that can survive down there…The alkaline creeks, the alluvial fans….Devil’s Racetrack! All the flora and fauna of that area.