Author Archives: Frank

A GOLDEN MOMENT FROM LONG AGO

What a wonderful flower season we have had, with good summer rains. Gradually the flowers are coming to the end of their blooming season, and the fields are alive with the sounds of insects. Ed and I saw a pair of them when we were returning from a trip to the Chiricahua mountains a few weeks ago. We had turned down a side road, and stopped for a break. There on the pavement were two of the largest grasshoppers in the West. The one on the left was dead. The other went over to check it out and eventually walked off again. It is called the Horse lubber. When it flies you can see that its wings are bright red. I have tried to capture the redness in a photograph, but they are much too quick. Horsed lubber

 

 

A Horse lubber grasshopper, almost three inches long

 

 

 

 

 

Horse lubbers

A live Horse lubber walking away from a squashed on

 

 

 

 

 

hibiscus coulteriFL2

 

Coulter’s hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hibiscus coulteri fruit

 

After flowering, the petals drop off and the fruit begins to form

 

 

On a recent nature hike we came across the beautiful Coulter’s hibiscus. I went back a few days later, hoping to see the flower again. Instead I saw something I had never seen before: the fruit forming in the middle surrounded by bright red bracts.

My wife, Louise, was going through some old boxes of precious memories, and came across a letter I wrote sixty-one years ago. I was living in England at the time, as was my cousin, Muriel. The two of us went to London the night before the coronation of the present Queen of England, slept on the sidewalk, and in the morning watched something of the procession. This is part of a letter I wrote to Muriel’s mother, my Aunt Olive, and her sister Aunt Vera, both of them born in England but now living in the United States.

“June 3, 1953
“On my little walk I skipped through St. James’ Place, from the Mall to Pall Mall. There I saw many guards with their busby’s holding their lonely vigil. The shops along the Pall Mall were all covered by a row of boards, apparently erected to protect the shop-fronts from being smashed. Inside, and above the level of the boards, there were all kinds of stands erected. There was a lot of last minute construction going on. Iron railings were being put up at Trafalgar Square. White lines were being painted along the Mall. Flowers were distributed everywhere, mostly geraniums and rhododendrons.

“At 3:15 am the police arrived by the bus-load. This was the first thing that had happened for a long while, and so they were cheered lustily by the crowd.

“Frankly, one of my pre-coronation concerns was about bath-room facilities. I soon discovered that the Lavatories in the under-ground were being used. At 2 am Muriel went off, presumably to take advantage of the convenience. She did not return for almost an hour. She explained that there was a terrific queue. Later I saw a young girl come up to a man near us and offer him a penny. With it she said something like this: I’ve given up, Dad, the queue extends all the way to the Clock tower.

“The most thrilling moment of the whole day, was when we first saw the Queen on the way to the Abbey. . . . We could see the top of the coach, and I could see her and the Duke fairly well. But the general feeling of the crowd was overwhelming. This was what they had waited for. They were so excited that they could hardly yell. They simply waved frantically. The coach glided past and the band played God save the Queen. It was unbelievably beautiful with its shining gold, and the wild gestures of all the people.

“The return precession was magnificent. This you will see for yourselves in the movies, no doubt but the overall effect of one hour and fifteen minutes of marching groups of all kinds of people, in the most unusual and beautiful uniforms was something. We were near exhaustion, but persisted just the same. Just as the Queen’s coach passed, a touch of light from the rainy sky hit it, and it shone like some great jewel. It was a great thrill and it was so much fun to see it with Muriel.”

LIVING IN THE PRESENT

Ed and I were walking along the Oracle Ridge Trail, talking about ways of achieving peace of mind. I mentioned how one of the simplest ways to do that is to live in the present. If we can do that we avoid much of the negativity associated with regret of the past, and dread of the future. He mentioned that our nature hikes help to keep us in the present, since we are constantly tuned in to the things in our environment. It was a good thought, and helped to explain why I am mostly in bliss when I am on the trail. I have been on about 120 nature walks in the last nine months, and have found that there is always something to fascinate and please.

Here are some recent gifts:

A brief and pleasant encounter with a rattle snake in the Bug Spring Trail parking lot. The snake even moved out of the vegetation and posed on the paved surface. A real beauty. Just nearby I saw a lizard, and felt like giving it a warning about the snake. Then I rethought my plan, and considered alerting the rattlesnake that there was a meal near by. This reminded me of the time when I was a young boy, and a bunch of us were walking along the tracks by the Penepac Creek in Eastern Pennsylvania. We noticed a snake just starting to swallow a frog. We were indignant, and pulled the frog from its mouth just in time. We thought we were doing good. But who were we to take sides? I realized that this new situation was similar, and I just had to step back and let nature take its course  Black tailed rattlesnake

Black-tailed rattlesnake  Crotalus molossus

 

 

 

 

 

On a nature walk south of the Santa Rita mountains we came across an especially spectacular caterpillar. There were three of them on the stem of an Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) which seems to be its favorite food plant. Calleta silkmoth larva

 

 

Silk worm larva
Eupackardia calleta

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fouquieria splendensPL

Ocotillo – Fouquieria splendens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more recent walk took us to see the rare (at least in this part of Arizona) and beautiful Pigeon berry. Many in our group had never seen it before. I was able to photograph the plant, and close in on its soft pink flowers. rivina humilis PL

 

 

 

 

Pigeon berry or rouge plant – Rivina humilis

 

 

 

 

Rivina humilis 6

 

Part of the flowering head

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rivina humilis 7

 

 

A close-up of an individual flower

 

 

 

 

Jim and I spent the best part of a day exploring grasses. I added sixteen to my list of ones that I have photographed, including this little beauty, Fluff-grass, another gift of nature.

Erioneuron pulchellum 3

 

 

 

Erioneuron pulchellum 6Erioneuron pulchellum 9mFluff grass – Erioneuron pulchellum

 

 

 

 

 

A close up of one of the heads

 

 

 

 

 

The tiny anther

Chiricahua adventure

    Instead of doing one of our local trips that last only a few hours, Ed and I decided to make the longer trip to the Chiricahua Mountains, southeast of Tucson. We left early in the morning, arriving at Portal, on the east of the range, at about ten o’clock. A brief visit to the General Store, and then to the Audubon gift shop at the Research station, set us up for our drive up the East flank of the mountain range. Clouds

It was a beautiful day, highly complex cloud formations from horizon to horizon. We traveled along Cave Creek, with fast running water and lush vegetation. Then the road took us up to places where we could see for miles. We stopped several times, fascinated with the vegetation that is similar to plants that we know, yet very different. I commented to Ed that this road, on the East side of the mountains, was in much better shape than I remember the West side road to be.

Ed by the road

 Ed introduced me to Salvia lemmoni, a plant or shrub with beautiful red flowers. We saw another plant that we suspected was in the Bidens genus, but we did not know the species. The same was true for a Hedeoma, Ceanothus, Asclepias, Ipomopsis and Geranium. Another fairly large plant with thin leaves, tiny yellow flowers with red bracts around the base fascinated us. I also photographed one of the grasses, Bouteloua hirsuta, Hairy GrammaChiricahua mtns.

As we made our way toward Rustler Park, Ed noticed a lot of smoke in the air. Arriving at the camp site we could see that the Forest Service was burning off piles of brush, a good thing to do, but it discouraged us from getting out of the car and exploring the plant life in the area. A few drops of rain on the windshield suggested we might want to begin the long descent into the valley.
We came to Onion Saddle and saw the sign that said “12 miles to Route 181”. That seemed near enough, but before we had gone many miles, the road condition began to deteriorate. Just after two miles we came to a stream crossing, with flowing water. It was not very wide, but deep enough for me to wonder how our little Honda was going to get to the other side. Foolishly I drove into the gully and immediately got stuck. The car would not go forward or backward. The wheels just spun helplessly in the loose gravel.  On getting out, I lost my balance and would have sat unceremoniously in the water, but Ed caught me just in time.

Stuck
We stood, looking at the situation, and realized that we would never get home without some help. Within a few minutes we saw a Forest Service vehicle approaching from behind us. The driver, face blackened from tending the fires in Rustler Park, got out of the vehicle, surveyed the situation, and very calmly and efficiently pulled us out of the stream. He was wonderful. We talked about the condition of the road and he said that there was another crossing ahead that was even worse.
With that we turned around, retraced our way to Onion Saddle and back down the East side of the mountain, electing to go through Paradise instead of Portal, and with minor tension at some of the crossings, found ourselves on I 10, heading for Tucson. What a trip!

We got home after about 12 hours.
Thanks to a wonderful Chiricahua Plant list produced by US Geological Survey, and one done for the Chiricahua National Monument, I was able to look up most of the plants that I had not been able to identify in the field. Here they are with my tentative identification.

Asclepias lemmonii 1
Asclepias lemmonii – Lemmon’s milkweed

Asclepias lemmoni FL7A close up of a single Milkweed flower

Bidens bigelovii – Bigelow’s beggarticks (no picture)

Ceanothus greggii 6

Ceanothus greggii – Desert ceanothus

Geranium wislizenii FL
Geranium wislizeni – Huachuca mountain geranium

Ipomopsis macombii 5
Ipomopsis macombii – Macomb’s ipomopsis

Ipomopsis macombii 7

Close-up of a single flower

Oxytropis lambertii 5

Oxotropis lambertii – Purple locoweed

Salvia lemmonii 7
Salvia lemmonii – Lemmon’s sage

Schkuria pinnata 5Schkuria pinnata 7

A branch, and an individual flower

All in all it was a great adventure.

 

THE ORCHID LIVES!

Two weeks ago I reported finding the rare orchid, Malaxis abieticola. We went back to find it again, and could not find it. We assumed it was eaten, and mourned its lost. About a week later I met the orchid expert, Ron Coleman, with his wife and a couple from England. It turns out that they found it! Ron led me to the very spot, and there it was, a little the worse for wear (the flower stalk was bent), but still very much alive. This time I had my close up lens and could photograph an individual flower.
Malaxis abieticola FL

 

 

A close up of one flower

 

 

 

 
We have just had a reunion with all of our five children. All were born in England. For a time while we lived there we owned an Austin mini (or was it a Morris minor?)  My niece, Dorothy, was staying with us and helping out. All eight of us (Frank, Louise, Dorothy and children ages to 4 to 11, and our luggage for a vacation, piled into our tiny car and drove clear across the southern part of England. (This was before seat-belt laws.)  We made it and had a great little vacation.

At our recent family reunion on the top of Mt. Lemmon, we noticed that our neighbor in a nearby cabin, has a Mini-Cooper, with essentially the same body as the car we owned over forty-six  years ago. She kindly allowed us to pose with her car, showing clearly that the present group would need two or three of them to travel anywhere.

Morris cram

 

Our youngest, Owen, is partly covered by the hatch

AMAZING INVISIBLE FLOWERS

Ed and I were walking along the dirt road at the top of the Ski area in the Catalina Mountains. We found over 40 species of flowers in bloom, including a few mysteries. At the spot where we saw some unusual plants last year, we found a California poppy in bloom, and Bachelor’s button, plus a beautiful, tiny blue flower, at the top of about a four inch stem.

mystery blue

Our mystery blue flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had more or less ignored the Dock plants that covered large sections of the ground (Rumex species), thinking they were the usual Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) or Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius), but then I stopped to look more closely. This was the rarer Pale Dock (Rumex altissimus). “Altissimus” means very high and we were about 9000 feet above sea level. We thought, too bad it is not in bloom. We sat down, the plants now higher than our heads. The flower stalks were a rusty red color. After a few minutes we decided to get out our trusty magnifying lenses, and soon found that the plants had flowers and fruit! These certainly qualified as “invisible” flowers, invisible to us until we took a closer look.

Rumex altissimusPL

 

Pale dock with its red inflorescence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumex altissimus5Rumex altissimus9f

A closer look at part of the flower stalk showing male and female flowers and fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this is a female flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumex altissimus9m

 

 

And this seems to be a male flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumex altissimus8

 

 

The beautiful red fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day Andrea in our group, came across an orchid that I had known existed on the mountain but had never seen. I just got this one photograph. It is called Slender-flowered malaxis (Malaxis abieticola). The plant itself is about six inches tall. Two days later Patrick and Tori looked for the orchid but it was gone, possibly eaten. I am glad I got at least one good picture.
Malaxis abieticolaPL

The rare Slender-flowered malaxis

 

AND THE RAINS CAME

The rains have come, and the mountains are springing back to life. For some plants the rains came too late, as you can see in this Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). We saw a patch of them that had already turned brown as if calling it quits for the year. Fortunately most of the ferns have survived.
fern

 

The fern with its fall colors

 

 

 

 

 
And there are wild flowers everywhere!

On a recent hike we found ourselves studying the fallen trees and noticing that the logs had yellow highlights. It seems as if there is a fungus, also responding to the rain, that attacks only certain parts of the fallen trees. The yellow spots are knot holes, remnants of branches when the tree was very much younger.

Stump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Log

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The horned lizards (often called horned toads, but they are really lizards)  are much in evidence, posing for quite a long time.

horned lizard 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my recent trip Ellen told me about a grass in bloom, Squirreltail grass (Elymus elymoides). I took some photographs, then noticed in my grass books that the awns on the head of the grass splay out. I took a piece home with me. Within a few hours it had opened up into this wonderful form.

Elymus elymoides 3

 

 

Squirreltail grass

The penny is there to give scale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elymus elymoides 5

Elymus elymoides 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The had of the grass closed   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and open

Today I went looking for more grasses but got distracted by coming across Desert spoon plants (Dasylirion wheeleri or Sotol), with the flowers within reach. We have one in our front yard. The flower stalk is over 10 feet tall, and half of that is covered with male flowers. This is one of those plants that has separate male and female plants (dioecious). I have been wanting to use my close up lens to see what the actual flowers looked like, and today was my day. I found many plants in Molino Basin. some of each sex with flowers near enough to the ground to be reached. After blooming the stalks stay on the plant for over a year.
Dasylirion 3fDasylirion 3m

 

 

The left picture is the female and the right is the male plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dasylirion 7fDasylirion 7m2

 

On the left, the female flowers, and the males on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dasylirion 9f

 

 

A close up of the female flowers

 

 

 

 

 

From now on every trip up the mountain will bring new pleasures.

THE RAINS ARE COMING

The Santa Catalina mountains, like the whole of South Eastern Arizona, are very dry. It has been months since we had significant rain. A group of us hiked on the Oracle Ridge Trail. I did not expect to see any plants in flower, but there were at least seventeen species in bloom, though not in great numbers. Many plants were shriveled up. In a few weeks we should see two or three times as many.

One of our group noticed the twisted branches of a long-dead tree. He had been on the trail recently, and said that he had seen a nest on one of the dead branches a few days ago. We stopped to look, and, with the help of our binoculars, were able to make out a tiny clump of matter which was the nest. We were told that it was a broad-tailed humming bird’s nest. As we studied it, the hummingbird appeared, flew around, and settled in. In the photograph you can make out her silhouette.  Hummingbird on branch

 

 

Broad-tailed hummingbird on her nest

 

 

 

 

We were also told that the magnificent Parry’s agave were in bloom. The ridge is known for being buffeted with high winds. One year I found that almost all of the flower stalks had been broken off. This year there were a number of magnificent blooms. In the picture below you see Amy admiring it. I also include a picture of one of the broken stalks. In it the flowers, which are normally at the top of the stalk, are growing out of the sides. In the bud stage they are bright red, opening to reveal beautiful yellow flowers.

Agave

 

 

The beautiful Parry’s agave

 

 

 

 

Amy and agave

 

 

Amy looking up to the agave blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agave inflorescence

The inflorescence – note the red forms at the top

are the flower buds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agave stump

An agave broken off by the wind, with new flower buds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the return journey Amy noticed what seemed to be a large butterfly, in the middle of a plant. It turned out to be a silk moth, possibly Glover’s.

Silk moth

 

Silk moth

 

 

 

 

 

 
As I drove down the mountains I noticed the storm clouds moving in. By evening time, safe at home, we could hear the thunder and rain. To our great relief, it seems that the drought will soon be broken.

MOUNTAIN MAMMALS

On our mountain hikes we have come across some animals that I have rarely seen. One was a little black mouse, scurrying along so fast that I only managed to catch a picture of the rear department. His head was tucked under a fallen leaf.Mountain  mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days later we came across this pocket gopher at 9000 feet, almost the very top of the mountain. The gopher was just inches away from the parking lot (it was a Saturday and the mountain was very crowded.) We watched as he poked his head out, moved a little stone, then withdrew, only to emerge later in a burst of soil, always coming out of the hole head first. He even ventured a few feet away from the hole, and held still as if posing for my camera.
Gopher

 

 

 

 

The name “pocket gopher” refers to the pouches in their cheeks where they hold food

 

 

 

 

Gopher2Pocket gopher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They back into their holes, using their tails to feel their way

 

 

 

 

We are still waiting for rain. There was a quarter of an inch on the mountain last week, much of it in the form of hail, but nothing in the valley. The day time temperatures often rise above 100 degrees. About an inch of water evaporates from a bird bath in a 24 period this time of the year. Since our bird bath is an inch and a quarter deep, I need to fill it almost every day.

We managed to find some grasses, including Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula), a non-native species. It is an elegant looking grass. The flower parts are very small. I was pleased with this picture showing the anthers (in yellow) and the white fern-like stigmas.

Eragrostis curvula3Eragrostis curvula 7b

WAITING FOR RAIN

Lately I have been going up the Santa Catalina Mountains overlooking Tucson several times a week, often visiting the same trail two or three days in a row. This week it was the Palisades Trail, a trail that goes down to Sabino Canyon, a distance of about 14 miles.  We walked just the first mile or so of trail. The lack of rain has also resulted in a lack of wildflowers. Walking along the trail we saw a few plants blooming here and there. Of greater interest was the magnificent views. These views have opened up quite a bit since the Bullock fire in 2002 and the even worse Aspen fire of 2003. At the time some people said it would take twenty years to restore the forest. Well, after 11 years there are some areas with saplings up to about six feet high and large patches without trees without any saplings at all. The land is dry and the trees are seriously stressed as can be seen from this photograph.

dry hillside

 

The dry slopes

The spires are at the top of the mountain

 

 

 

 

 

On our walk we came to a beautiful overlook point, enjoying the view and the cloud patterns. We sat beneath the largest silver leaf Oak I have ever seen. Nearby was a huge log of a fallen Ponderosa Pine, with a lizard scurrying up and down the now vertical roots. It seemed quite content to keep us company for quite a while.

Palisades trail view

 

 

The view looking West

 

Lizard

 

Our lizard friend holding perfectly still

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quercus hypoleucoides large tree

 

 

 

 

The Silverleaf Oak we sat under (Quercus hypoleucoides)

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back we came across the rarely seen Blue Lettuce. The botanical name tell us that it is a  plant with milky sap (Lactuca) and grass-like leaves (graminifolia). In fact the leaves look so much like grass that it is virtually impossible to identify without the flowers. And the beautiful blue flowers open for a short time in the middle of the day. On our hikes we might miss seeing it on the outward journey, and then notice it on our return, probably because it was not open before. Lactuca graminifolia

 

Blue lettuce flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving down the mountain the Madrone trees were very noticeable. June is their fall. They are an evergreen species, but a large portion of their leaves turn bright red in June before letting go. You can see the difference in these two pictures.
Madrone green

 

 

 

Madrone (Arbutus arizonica) in its normal green foliage

 

 

 

Madrone red

 

 

Arbutus with many of its leaves turned red in June

 

 

 

 

 

The monsoon season is due to start later this month. I am looking forward to seeing how the plants respond to our summer rains.

SUMMER SIGHTINGS

The June issue of TUCSON LIFESTYLE HOME & GARDEN has an article called: “Blood is thicker than watercolor” by Megan Guthrie. It is a fine write up of the father/son duo, Frank and Owen Rose. This is one of the paintings featured.

-thundering falls

“Thundering Falls” by Frank S Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is a link to the article (pp. 10, 11).
http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=210119&p=10#%7B%22page%22:10,%22issue_id%22:210119%7D

It has been a long time since we have had significant rain here in Southern Arizona, but there are many flowers in bloom in the mountains. There is a field of Lupine (Lupinus palmeri), the only Lupine species growing high in the mountain (4500 feet and above). The flowers are normally blue, but in one patch we saw three albinos.

Lupine white

 

 

An albino lupine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far away was a rare example of Green gentian, or Deer’s ears blooming (Swertia radiata). These plants have large leaves, (like deer’s ears) and year after year store energy underground until they finally send up a flowering stalk. These can be as tall as eight feet.
Swertia stalk

 

A portion of a five-foot tall stalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swertia radiata7

 

 

An individual flower

 

 

 

 

 

 
Another large plant is Cow Parsnip (related to Hemlock), whose name Heracleum lanatum, means woolly Hercules, referring to the Greek muscle man. The leaves can be larger than dinner plates. The flowering heads have many groups of flowers, and each group has many flowers. These tend to be irregular, with larger petals at the edges of the inflorescence.
Heracleum lanatum3

 

 

 

This plant is about five feet tall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heracleum lanatumFL

 

 

Looking down at the flower head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heracleum lanatum9

 

Two flowers – note how the petal size varies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed and I were hiking along the Mint Spring trail. We came to the site of the old spring, now dried up. Looking up we saw a hillside that used to be covered with Ponderosa pine. As you can see in this photograph, they all burnt in the fire 11 years ago. On one slope I did not see any new trees. About a quarter of a mile north there were many young pines. But the most successful trees after a fire are the Quaking Aspen. These trees regenerate from the roots, and a patch that seems to contain hundreds of trees may be just have one root system underground with many trunks rising out of the ground as if they were separate trees.
snags and sky

 

Looking up at the burnt forest. Note the interesting cloud patterns

 

 

 

 

 

snags and new growth

 

 

A portion of the hillside with new pine trees

 

 

 

snags and aspen

 

A portion of the hillside with new aspens

 

 

 

 
These days the temperature goes above 100 degrees in the valley, but the mountains are cool and beautiful. And the plant life on the mountain is slowly coming back after the fire of 2003, a fascinating process to watch.