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.
Hedgehog cacti grow from seeds found within their fruit and spread by the birds and desert animals that eat them. A clump of columnar stems four to twelve inches tall makes up a single cactus. A cactus might have sixty stems in a clump. There are many varieties of Hedgehog cacti.
At low altitudes in the Sonoran desert, the most common Hedgehog is the Saint’s Cactus, or Strawberry Cactus, Engelmann’s Hedgehog, a member of the Cactaceae, Echinocereus engelmannii.
March is a good month to look for Hedgehogs in the desert, as they begin blooming at this time of year. The Engelmann’s Hedgehog produces purple to magenta blooms that are two to three and a half inches wide. This cactus blooms during the daytime and closes at night. The red fruit will mature in late Spring or early Summer.
They are said to taste like strawberries and are a favorite of small animals and birds like the curve-bill Thrasher, which can easily reach the fruit with its long bill.
At higher altitudes, the Claret Cup or Crimson Hedgehog, Echinocereus triglochidiatus grows.
Claret Cup or Crimson Hedgehog is shorter and more densely arranged than the Engelmann’s Hedgehog. They also differ in that the Claret Cup typically blooms at night and closes during the day. They are the only Hedgehog cacti with red flowers.
Smoke filling the Flagstaff sky today from the Slide fire. Photo by Amy Dryden
Two weeks ago we camped with our tent trailer at beautiful Cave Springs Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. We have lived for decades in the area, but never actually camped in the canyon previously.
Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon
View from our campsite
Crossing Oak Creek at the entrance to Cave Springs Campground.
Home sweet tent trailer
Cliffs above Cave Springs Campground
Seep Monkeyflowers at the creek
Take it easy driving through the camping area
Hillside red rocks
New Oak leaves
Cave Springs ferns
Ponderosas on the western slope
Cliffs above Cave Springs
Yesterday, Tuesday, May 20, a devastating wildfire started in the canyon south of the Cave Springs Campground, and has been whipped along by high winds. Twenty-four hours later it is estimated at 4500 acres and has topped out of the canyon and approaches Flagstaff, Arizona. ABC News 15, reports at this time the fire is zero percent contained. (Air15 fire photos at the link)
Construction on the current San Xavier del Bac began in 1783. More than 200 hundred years of harsh desert climate, use, abandonment and attempts at restorations have taken a toll on the interior and exterior of this incredible structure. Finding funding for proper conservation has been an ongoing challenge.This year, 2014, conservation and preservation efforts are underway. Photos here.