I enjoy finding things about Arizona that are new to me after living here for a lifetime. I grew up hiking with my father and scouring the ground ahead and around me for rocks that he would help me identify. I find myself doing the same thing now with plants. Sometimes the new ones are minuscule, as this morning’s find.
I took a quick hike in the Cave Creek area, and deep in a wash were these amazingly tiny specimens. Can you spot them?
Sometimes to really see what’s out there in nature, you have to get in really close.
Yes, crawling about on hands and knees can be dirty and awkward, and I do have to watch out for spines and biting things, but the interesting things are there to be found. These tiny flowers bloom in the desert in April and are called Miniature Wool Star, Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae) I don’t recall seeing them before, but they actually are very common. Often they might be larger than these, up to 8 inches in height. These were barely 2 inches off the ground.
Naturally, once all the desert plants begin producing bright flowers, the first to be aware of them are the various types of pollinators. This is a small sample of the many beautiful butterflies housed in the spacious Butterfly Pavilion within the Desert Botanical Garden.
Agraulis vanillae, Gulf Fritillary
Anartia jatrophae, White Peacock
Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Buckeye, Vanessa cardui_
Male Papillio troilus, Spicebush Swallowtail
Zebra Longwing, Heliconius charitonius
A Zebra Longwing, Heliconius charitonius
A bee wallows in the pollen filling this yellow prickly pear bloom.
At this time of year the Sonoran desert is filled with flowering cacti. These samples of prickly pear flowers are all from the Desert Botanical Garden, but you can encounter them throughout the Arizona desert. These hardy plants adapt to suit their location and are found throughout the state, from lowland deserts to high elevations.
A bee is making an interesting approach to the flowers on this pricklypear.
This prickly pear has lovely yellow blossoms and very long spines.
Englemann’s Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii) has pink buds but yellow flowers.
This Beavertail Prickly Pear has bright pink flowers.
A delicate orange flower on a large opuntia, or Prickly Pear cactus.
A Bunny Ears Prickly Pear Cactus. Opuntia microdasys
Brilliant orange flowers cover this large prickly pear.