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We moved to Tucson in June of 1982 and the skies were not cloudy at all. My wife even commented that she was going to find it difficult to live in an area without clouds. By August that had all changed, and now one of our great joys is seeing the seemingly endless shapes that clouds can take. On a recent trip up the mountains I saw one formation where the clouds ran almost from horizon to horizon in a straight line.

That same day we saw one that at first looked like an embryo, but on closer inspection was a human face looking to the left, with a huge shock of hair curling over its ear.

We have seen clouds that were almost square, as well as one with streaks radiating out from a center. When we see things like this my wife is glad she stayed.

Lately I have been completing a set of paintings for my next watercolor show. It will open at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson (110 E. 6th Street), Saturday March 7 from 6 to 9pm. Our son, Owen, will also have paintings in the show which will continue most of the month.

Fall in Turkey Run

A week after the opening Owen and I will share a booth at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 14 and 15, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. I will have my books and cards on sale, and Owen will have books published by his publishing company, Hardy Perennial Press. We would love to see you at Booth 265.


I have been thinking a lot lately of my brother Jack (John Wells Rose), who died January 18 at the age of 95). We were in a family of 12 children. Jack was number 7 and I was number 9. My other five brothers have all passed on, and three of my five sisters have died. This causes me to stop and think about life, and how precious every moment is.

Jack married and moved to Pittsburgh, so I did not see much of him until 1971 when he was a key person in helping me start a church summer camp, which we called “Laurel” (Since it was held in Laurel Hill State Park, Pennsylvania.) When my wife, Louise, and I moved to Tucson we had to hand over leadership of the camp to other people, and brother Jack kept the whole thing going. It is going to this day!

There were other connections between us, notably singing together in a barbershop quartet.
I was a student in Bryn Athyn, PA when Jack, invited me to join. He did all the organizing. Jack sang top tenor. I sang lead. Our friend, Hilary Simons, sang baritone, and our brother-in-law, Larry Soneson, sang bass. We called ourselves the “Campus Quarter” since we were all university students at the time. Thanks to Jack’s initiative , we had many gigs, including being contestants in the New Jersey State Championship (which we won), and being on television on the amateur hour.

Larry, Hilary, Frank, Jack and our father, Don Rose

The amateur hour was started by Major Bowes (Edward Bowes – 1874-1946) as a competitive show. When he died, his assistant, Ted Mack (William Edward Maguiness – 1904-1976) took over and they moved the show to Television. Brother Jack got us on the show as contestants, (there were 8 skits per show), and on that show we won the popular vote. When we came back the next week, Ted said that we were shoe-ins to win again. If we won three times in a row, we would get $2,000 (the equivalent of at least $20,000 in today’s money). That was not to be. One of the contestants was an elderly woman who played the fiddle, and kept time by clacking her false teeth. People wrote or phoned in, and she was an easy winner that week. Perhaps it is just as well. Frank Sinatra was the shows most successful contestant.

So I am thinking fondly of Jack and how he enriched my life and the life of so many other people.


It has been some time since I posted a blog. This is partly because this is the time of year with the fewest plants in bloom. And then there were all those other distractions. Anyway, I was glad when Dave suggested we make a trip up the Catalina Mountains.

It was too cool to go the higher elevations, so we went to Molino Canyon Vista, just over 4 miles up the Catalina Highway. It was a beautiful day, with mostly blue sky. We found a spot overlooking the stream, listening to the sounds of water tumbling over rocks.

We have had over an inch of rain since the year began, and the water was flowing past at a good pace. We noticed how bubbles form at the base of tiny waterfalls. This meant that there was a continuous trail of bubbles in the part of the stream closest to us. Then we noticed a white patch of fine bubbles, where an eddy had formed just down stream from some large boulders.

For some reason, possibly because, inside, we are still young boys, we wondered what would happen if we tossed a pebble into the midst of the eddy. What would happen to this white island of tiny bubbles in its middle? We were about 40 or 50 feet away from the stream, but still Dave was able to make a few direct hits. It took under two seconds for the raft of tiny bubbles to reform. Then they looked as if nothing had happened. More pebbles at the edges and middle all had similar results. This little patch, looking for all the world like whipped cream, though changing constantly was still remarkably stable, and no matter how many times it was shattered, it easily and quickly regrouped.

Finally Dave walked down to the edge of the stream and dropped a ten-inch wide rock in the middle of the spot, shattering it into a thousand little islands of bubbles. This time it took a little longer for the island to reform, maybe as many as eight seconds.

I got out my binoculars to see what was going on. The constant flow of bubbles from tiny waterfalls upstream, meant that some were captured by the eddy. On touching the edge of the island, large bubbles broke down into smaller ones, until they formed part of a white carpet of them. When we left, the patch of white was still there, and we were glad we had spent time fascinated by its ability to survive pebbles tossed by men who are still boys at heart.


It was a cool day with rain in the forecast, but Ed and I drove up the mountain anyway. We parked at the Sunset Trail head, and walked a very short distance on the Bear Wallow trail. . Soon Ed spotted a dandelion in bloom. Admittedly it was small and looked as of its short life had been hard, but it was in bloom on November 19 at about 8000 feet. Soon after we saw another bloom. Like the dandelion this plant had flower and fruit both in evidence. I think it was Wootons Groundsel, even though that is really a spring and summer bloomer.

But our eyes were captured more by the trees than the flowers. The leaves of the New Mexico Locust had turned into a lovely brownish gray color, and had curled a little. The ones remaining on the trees were quite lovely, as were those lying on the ground or decorating a fir tree for Christmas. Then there were the willows along the creek. The little wooden bridge had enchanting patterns of golden willow and maple leaves.

We went a short distance up the trail, and I found a rock covered with moss to use as a park bench, as Ed explored a little more of the area. He snapped this picture of me. We both agreed that nature, on that gray November day, was beautiful and enchanting in a very special way.

Days are shorter and evenings cooler as we enter the Fall season. It is a beautiful time in Arizona. There are not many flowers blooming high in the mountains, but in the valley there is a lot of color. For color a drive up the Catalina highway you can see the golden Aspens, and Maple trees in yellow, orange, red and yellow. If I could only get myself organized, now would be a good time to paint them.

Ebook versions of my two books, Catalina Mountains: A Guide Book with Original Watercolors, and Small Wonders are available now. The Ebook version of the Catalina Mountains is $9.99, and the Small Wonders is $12.99. The only catch is that you have to have an iPhone or an iPad to enjoy them. To find them, just open the Books application on your iPad or iPhone and search for the titles. Because the books have so many illustrations they are not compatible with Amazon’s ebook guidelines, so you can only get them on Apple Books.

Hard copies of all my books are available on Just type Frank S. Rose under “author” and you will see them.


On the first day of October, my friend. Ed, and I drove the 9-mile loop road in Saguaro National Park East. The air was clean, with blue skies and puffy white clouds. This late in the season we did not expect to see many flowers. At first we saw a few patches of Desert Senna. The Ocotillos were in full leaf, but had only the remnants of dried-up flowers.

Desert Senna

A car in front of us stopped to watch a tarantula cross the road. After they passed, we were able to see it wriggling in the gutter just near us. Later we slowed down for a road runner.

About half way around the loop, our eyes caught the sight of a mass of bluish white flowers, and we parked at the next pull-off to see what it was. It was one of our favorites – Jacquemontia (Jacquemontia pringlei).


Having driven over four miles with only one wildflower species to feast our eyes on, we now saw about eight in a very short space. I recognized the genera of some of them, but the species were new to me. A very pretty tiny red flower looked something like Red Spiderling (Boerhavia coccinea), but the plant was much too small. Checking with a list of the plants in this national park, the closest I could find was Slimstalk Spiderling (Boerhavia gracillima). Later we saw another plant with similar leaves and I think it might have been Purple Spiderling (Boerhavia purpurascens). Other flowers included Trailing Four O’clock, Fishhook Barrel Cactus, Rough Menodora, Spiny Aster and Janusia.

Slimstalk Spiderling
Trailing Four O’clock

I was especially looking for the spurges (Euphorbiaceae) that I know bloom this late in the season. Many of them lie flat on the ground, like oversized pancakes. Their flowers are very small.

Spurge plant
Spurge up close

Some years I have seen hundreds of spurge plants spread out over the desert floor. Today we saw nothing until we came to another parking area, where a dozen of them lined the road. We loved seeing the flowers, and were fascinated to note how much it lifted our spirits to see them.


My friend, Dave, and I walked up the Turkey Run trail in the Catalina Mountains. We found a spot by Sabino Creek in an area that used to have a cabin.

We were fascinated to see a dragon fly (possibly a Blue eyed darner- aeschna multicolor) patrolling the stretch of stream that was in front of us. It flew fairly near the surface of the water, turning around at a little rocky area about six feet to our right, then doubling back to about six feet on our left, where it turned around just before reaching the part of the stream that was in deep shade. We were impressed with its ability to change direction. It seemed to us that it found a mate when it disappeared with another dragonfly for a short time, and then came back to continue patrolling the stream. At one point Dave stood astride the stream to see if that would alter its flight path. Apart from a brief detour, it resumed its course, at times passing right between his legs. When I got home I read that this insect spends years in the water, going through various changes, until the last summer of its life when it grows wings and takes to the air.

We also began noticing plants that are not native to this mountain range. We assumed that they had been introduced by the cabin owners. Years ago there had been 12 cabins along this trail, all of them now removed. Evidently when they were occupied their owners had created their own little gardens.

From where we sat we could see the leaves of Lily of the Valley – Convallaria majalis . a large patch of Day Lily – Hemerocallis fulva, a patch of ornamental grass, with green and white stripes, and Spearmint (mentha spicata). Behind us was a patch of Periwinkle – vinca major. We marveled that the cabins were removed decades ago, which means that all of these non-native species have survived all that time without anyone looking after them. Life is tough, even in the form of these fairly small plants.

Lily of the valley
Day Lily
Spearmint – that spreads by the roots


We love the clear blue skies in Arizona. And we love the rain. Plant lovers also love imagining great bursts of color after a rainy season. And we are often disappointed. We had quite a bit of rain in December 2018, and over 18″ for the year (compared to the usual 10″-12″). At our house there were only three days of rain in early January. There was a lot of rain in February, so we expected a great spring bloom. Some parts of Arizona, and especially southern California got magnificent displays, but around the Tucson area it was ok but not spectacular.


Between the end of the last week of February and the first week of July, we had only four days with measurable rain (a period of 134 days). The monsoon rains were late coming, and, in the Tucson valley we had three good rainstorms in July and another three in August. In between we have had some of the hottest days on record. So even though our total rainfall for the year to date at our house is over 8″, (well above average), the wildflowers are not doing well this year. Today I talked with a friend who keeps bees, who explained that the lack of flowers has meant that one of his four hives is now empty. Evidently the bees have flown off to find a place with more nectar.

The amazing thing to me is how resilient plants are. They manage to survive through the tough times, and flourish in the good times. We, it seems, need to stop anticipating whether it will be a good season for flowers or not, and just enjoy what we get.


August 17, 2019
When the sun sets over the ocean, you can see a shaft of light in the water reflecting its glow. Some time ago I read about moments when the reflection goes upward, into the sky. In this case I suppose it is reflecting off of water particles in the air. Recently I was thrilled to catch this phenomenon in a photograph, taken from our back porch.

Reflections can have quite a charm. Now that I am less than a month away from my 92 birthday, I am reflecting quite a bit. I am especially bringing to mind some of the wonderful trails my wife, Louise, and I have taken in the 37 years we have lived in Arizona.

The most spectacular of these was a rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon, about 18 years ago. Louise’s sister, Ann, had the idea. In the end eight of us did the hike, including Ann’s family, Zuber cousins and our son, Owen. The actual hike was on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2001. There was a full moon that night. The steep walls of the canyon meant that we did not see the moon rise at all, and even much later could only see it shining on the distant cliffs. We arrived at the end of our journey at 11:30 pm. By then we were bathed in moonlight, and feeling remarkably good given the fact that we had hiked 24 miles in 17 hours. It was not exactly a break-neck pace, but we did it. The next day we noticed that we had no sore muscles or blisters. We felt fine.

How did my wife, who was 72 at the time, and I (just turned 74) manage such a feat? The simple answer was “training.” For months we tackled all kinds of trails in various times of day, gradually building up our endurance. In addition to getting us in condition for the long hike, it took us deeper on familiar trails than we had been before, and allowed us to further extend our knowledge of the scenic beauty in this magnificent state.

All this is coming back into my memory because my health now does not allow me to take long hikes. For the last twenty years, every week I have taken part in summer plant walks. Originally they were led by Dr. Bob Porter, and Joan Tedford. For the last eight years I have been the leader. And the hikes have grown. About forty people were on the last one on August 1. We ended the hike in Marshall Gulch, where more people joined us for a wonderful picnic and celebration. I was very touched. These walks have meant so much to me and I know I will miss them, and the wonderful people who share them.

I will continue to go to the mountains, enjoying the beauty of the landscape and its flora and fauna. And I will have more time for reflection.


Looking ahead to a summer vacation Louise and I decided to visit Greer – a small town in the White Mountains of Arizona. The Little Colorado River runs through Greer, eventually ending up at the Grand Canyon. There it is just a stream, bordered with a wealth of flowers, many of them new to me.

As we were leaving Greer Louise and I decided to walk the Butler Nature Trail. It is a short walk, just about a mile long. For the first half mile it climbs up to a spring where we were able to fill our water bottles. I noticed on the walk that even though I walked slowly, finding the up-hill slope a bit of a challenge, Louise was walking even more slowly behind me. From time to time I would stop to rest as she caught up with me. When we were at the Spring she made a watershed statement. “This is my last hike. I am almost 87 years old and it is just getting too hard for me.” I admit to being a little stunned, but also pleased to have her make what must have been a difficult decision.

When we moved to Arizona in 1982, we were not hikers. This is something we came to do and love over the many years since then. We have walked hundreds of miles together, enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It has been one of the most satisfying and worthwhile forms of exercise we have ever had. For me it has also been a great opportunity to take pictures of scenery for painting watercolors, and of plants for my nature books.

In 2000, Louise and her sister Ann, decided they would like to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim in one day! I thought it was a daunting challenge and one I was willing to support. Louise and I began training for the big walk, including climbing Mount Wrightson, walking down to Tucson from Mt. Lemmon (about 15 miles), taking long hikes in the Rincon Mountains, and generally doing all we could do to condition ourselves for the big event. Louise bought new boots three months before, to make sure they were well worn in before the big hike.

On October 2, 2001, when Louise was 72 and I had just turned 74, we accomplished the dream. There were 8 people in our party, plus Louise’s brother Jim and sister Fran who provided transportation. Our youngest son, Owen, was also with us. We began the hike at 6 am in the ice at the North Rim of the Grand canyon, and Louise and I were the last to arrived at the South Rim 17 hours later. We had no sore muscles or blisters after that twenty-four mile walk.

In the years since then we have enjoyed many more hikes. But this one-mile hike in Greer was to be the last one. We paused to reflect on this change in our lives, and then continued the walk down hill back to the car. Somewhere along the way Louise called to me – “Look at this!” I turned around and saw her pointing to her left hiking boot, with the sole flapping down like some prehistoric jaw. I reassured her that she could still walk on the boot, since it was ruined anyway. In only about 15 minutes we were back at the car. When she took off her boots she noticed that the right boot was also losing its sole, but this one was peeling off from the back, not the front.

We could not help remarking on the proximity of the two events – the announcement that this was her last hike, and the boots giving out. “They must have heard me” was all she said. They had given her fifteen years of amazing and faithful service. As she put them in the trunk she felt a mixture of relief and sadness. A truly wonderful era in our life was coming to an end. .

Louise will continue to walk in the neighborhood for exercise, and I will continue to hike in the mountains, though I must admit that I am slowing down.

Hiking boots die


It was cold and blustery today. Ed and I tried hiking high in the mountains but it was too cold for comfort. As we drove down to a lower (and therefore warmer) place, we noticed a Cliff rose (Purshia stansburiana) blooming along the side of the road. We parked and went to get a closer look. That is when we noticed this Silverleaf oak (Quercus hypoleucoides). The male catkins on Oak trees are yellowish brown, and usually not particularly visible. This tree was festooned with them.

Silver lf oak

The brown spots on this Silverleaf oak consist of clusters of pollen-bearing catkins






Quercus hypoleucoides FLm



A close up look at the Silverleaf oak catkins







In a fairly short walk in Molino Basin we saw about three dozen flowering plants. We were particularly interested in a little succulent known as Graptopetalum (Graptopetalum rusbyi). It has been very dry, and we wondered if it would be in bloom. When we arrived at the stream bed where we have seen them before we noticed that there seemed to be fewer plants than usual, and the leaves were shriveled up. But the blooms were perfect, such a treat to see.


Three Graptopetalum flowers on one plant in the cleft of a rock







Graptopetalum rusbyiFL


Close up of a single flower (the flowers are about one half inch wide)








For years I have been wanting to see the Ironwood tree (Olneya tesota)  in bloom. It normally grows in lower elevations than Tucson since it is highly susceptible to cold. Recently I was told of a group of four trees less than a mile from our home. Today I walked there, and found all of the trees in full and glorious bloom. This remarkable tree has some of the heaviest wood known. The flowers look something like sweet peas, white tinged with pink. I was delighted to get pictures at last.

Ironwood in flower



A large Ironwood tree in full bloom








Ironwood cluster

A cluster of Ironwood flowers









Ironwood FL close

An individual flower