What is that Grilpnip doing in Arizona?

Spoof science news: Citizen scientists explore adaptability of Dale Creatures world-wide. Chief researcher, Grompus Grilpnip, of Winchett Dale fame, has led the Arizona citizen scientist team conducting the vital viability study of Hortus Complainus in the wilds of the west. See niffsoup.wordpress.com.niffsoup.wordpress.com

 

Abstract:

1. As the highly anticipated publishing date for the last of the Matlock the Hare trilogy, The Trial of the Majickal Elders approaches, Oct 3, 2016,  a state of panic among Grilpnips of the Dale has ensued. They are prized for the delicious tastiness of their most valuable root vegetable feature: the nose. How can this vital nasal feature be preserved going forward?  When the world knows of the tastiness, how will Grilnips survive? image

2. Previous work has failed to address this critical issue, according to Grompus Grilpnip, thus he has travelled to the research fields of wildest Arizona to secretly find a solution.

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3. Grompus theorized that the arid climate of Arizona, combined with the features of the prevailing vegetation, would be key to finding a solution.

imageimageimageimageimageimage4. After exhaustive field research, Grompus and his team of local vegetable citizen scientists retreated to the lab to compile their findings.

imageimage5. After experiments were completed, Grompus was satisfied! Existing in the arid, sometimes hostile environment of desert country has toughened the nose! In addition, the spicy flavor of the nasal appendage has mellowed to a milder, in fact, rather “yechus” one, especially in comparison to local vegetables that grow in Arizona.

6. As a result of the research, Grilpnips world-wide will be able to apply this technique to preserve their noses, reputation and sanity.

Find out the REAL story: http://www.matlockthehare.comwww.matlockthehare.com

Filled with Surprises

Cave Creek area desert wash

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?

Cave Creek Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

Sometimes to really see what’s out there in nature, you have to get in really close.

Cave Creek in April Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

Cave Creek Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

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.

Bursting with Vibrant Color

A bee wallows in the pollen filling this yellow prickly pear bloom.

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.

A bee is making an interesting approach to the flowers on this pricklypear.

This  pricklypear has lovely yellow blossoms and very long spines.

This prickly pear has lovely yellow blossoms and very long spines.

Englemann's Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii) has pink buds but yellow flowers.

Englemann’s Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii) has pink buds but yellow flowers.

This Beavertail Prickly Pear has bright pink flowers.

This Beavertail Prickly Pear has bright pink flowers.

A delicate orange flower on a large opuntia, or Prickly Pear cactus.

A delicate orange flower on a large opuntia, or Prickly Pear cactus.

A Bunny Ears Prickly Pear Cactus. Opuntia microdasys

A Bunny Ears Prickly Pear Cactus. Opuntia microdasys

Brilliant orange flowers cover this large prickly pear.

Brilliant orange flowers cover this large prickly pear.

The Life of an Arizona Hedgehog

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.

Hedgehog closeup New Hedgehog buds Very long Hedgehog spinesMarch 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.

Hedgehog with early buds 1Hedgehog with tall stems Strawberry Hedgehog flower Engelmann's Hedgehog bud opening

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.

Curved bill thrasher

At higher altitudes, the Claret Cup or Crimson Hedgehog, Echinocereus triglochidiatus grows.

Claret cup hedgehog Desert Botanical Garden Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus Claret Cup  Claret Cup

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.

Elderberry wine? Elderberry pie? Elderberry jelly?

Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea

The blue elderberries of northern Arizona are ripening! There are various names for this plant, including elder, Arizona elderberry, American elder, sweet elder, blueberry elder and more. It also has various taxonomic names and changes have recently occurred.  Southwest Biodiversity (swbiodiversity.org) lists it as Sambucus cerulea. All parts of the Elderberry plant are valuable as healing plants in many folk remedies. Flowers are even used medicinally and can be prepared as a tea.

Blue Elderberries are edible

Only blue or purple elderberries are edible. Red elderberry fruits of other species are toxic.