Category Archives: Human stories

THE DESERT IN BLOOM

Green desertThe forest floor in Saguaro National Park East is carpeted in green, like a well tended
golf course. But what looks like grass is really thousands and thousands of small plants with tiny white flowers in the Borage family, possibly Bearded Cryptantha ( Cryptantha barbigera. )

 

 

 

Cryptantha barbigeraPLBearded Cryptantha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three ladies

Three of the women admiring a Saguaro

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday a group of women accompanied me in search of an interesting plant there: Texas Desert Rue, (Thamnosa [Greek – Smelly Shrub] Texana). It grows only a foot or two high, and has very small dark red flowers and a distinctive and pleasant (to my taste) odor. It is also called Dutchman’s Breeches, because of the shape of the fruit. It is harmful to livestock because it causes them to be oversensitive to light. The plant we were looking for was in a wash (dry river bed). This involved a fairly long walk in sand, which I found a little tiring. After we located and photographed it, we continued along the wash until we joined a trail to head back to our vehicles. After a short distance we came across several Thamnosa plants right along the side of the path. Thamnosa texana 3c

 

Kathleen’s hand giving an idea of scale of the Texas Desert Rue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thamnosa texana 5

 

Getting a closer look

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thamnosa texana 5b

 

A close-up of a flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thamnosa texana 8

 

The fruit, like Dutchmen’s breeches

 

 

 

 

There were many plants to entertain us on our three and a half mile loop. Altogether we saw about fifty different species in bloom, and many more about to flower.

Earlier this week Val and I took a ride to Ajo – about 150 miles west of here, to give a talk to the Ajo Garden Club. We expected to see lots of wildflowers along the roadsides, since we have had some good winter rains. The showing was not up to our expectations, though there were many Lupines and Desert Marigold along the road. Half way to Ajo it started to rain, and continued all the way to the Ajo Public Library where I spoke about “Nature’s Small Wonders”. The talk was well received. On the return journey we stopped at a town called “Why” (possibly so named because there is a Y-shaped intersection in the middle of the town), population under 200 . I had driven through this part of Arizona before, and knew that it was just a little collection of homes and a gas station. Just for fun I asked the attendant at the gas station how far to go until we got to Why. He tilted back his head, and began to roar with laughter. “You are in it!” he said. As I left I looked up at the name of the Gas station. It read: “Why Not?”

Stenocerues thurberi 1We went through Why to the Organ Pipe National Monument with its wonderful visitor’s center, and lots of fascinating plant and animal life, resolving to go back again when the Organ Pipe Cactus and the Ajo Lily are in bloom (April or May).

 

Organ Pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) on a cloudy day at Organ Pipe National Monument

WILDFLOWERS GALORE

Ed and I were hiking up the trail and had stopped to look at some flowers. A couple came down the trail towards us, evidently having gone over five miles of rough terrain. They asked us if we knew any of the flowers. This led to a pleasant botany lesson. The man looked at me and asked how old I was. I said: “Eighty-seven”. We then talked a little more and finally I couldn’t stand the suspense any more. “And how old are you?”

“We are both ninety” he said with a great smile. The two of them looked to be in their sixties. I felt a little ashamed. Ed, who is younger than I am, did not even admit to his age. After some awkwardness I asked him the secret of his longevity. “I haven’t died yet” was his full explanation.

Six times in the last eleven days we have explored this trail (Babat Do’ag in the Catalina Mountains) and every time we have seen new flowers in bloom. On the first trip, February 18, we saw about 30 species. Today we saw over 50.  Perhaps the most interesting was the Broom rape (Orobanche), a plant that lives by drawing nourishment from the roots of other plants. It is not green at all, does not have chlorophyll, and is incapable of making food from the energy of the sun. On one trip we saw one fully grown one, with four near by just beginning to pop their heads through the soil. The next trip we found another near by. Today Jim and I saw all of those, and more than a dozen more on the Soldier Trail, just a couple of miles further down the mountain.

Orobanche

 

 

The Orobanche – the penny gives an idea of size

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orobanche white

 

 

 

 

Another smaller Orobanche

 

 

 

 

Orobanche FL

 

 

Orobanches
A close-up of one of its flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of the many we saw on Soldier Trail

 

 

 

Among the most spectacular plants now is the “Indigo Bush”, Dalea pulchra. This time of year the plant is covered with deep blue or even purple flowers. And the bees and other insects love it.
Dalea pulchra 3

 

Indigo Bush

 

 

 

 

There is a fairly common low growing plant imported from Europe called “Filaree” or “Heron’s Bill”, (Erodium cicutarium). It has the ability to drill its own seeds into the ground. Long ago I learned of a  native Erodium, called “Texas Geranium” or “Stork’s Bill” (Erodium Texanum) and for years I have been trying to find it. This was my lucky month. I found quite a few on the Babat Do’ag trail, and then noticed it growing in our church parking lot!

Erodium texanum PL

 

 

Texas Geranium plant

 

 

 

 

Erodium texanum FL2

 

 

A close-up of the flower

 

 

 

 

 

Since I began working on “Invisible Flowers” I have become interested in the Euphorbia family. Many of its genera and species are low growing  plants with small flowers. In particular there are a half a dozen or more euphorbias called “spurges” in this area. I have been trying to learn to how tell them apart. Today Jim told me that while many spurges have single flowers at the end of each stalk, one has flowers growing in a little cluster. It is called Euphorbia capitellata (meaning “having a little head”). I find its tiny flowers quite charming.

Euphorbia capitellata 5

 

The flowering head of this Spurge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euphorbia capitellata 9One of the many flowers in the head

NOVEMBER HIKES

Hiking in November is special. With the sun lower in the sky the light is different, the air is cool, and though most of the flowers have completed their summer blooming, there are enough still around to delight the heart and the eye.

Dave and I hiked up stream in Molino Basin, and came to this little pool of water. The night before the temperature had dropped almost to the freezing point, so we knew the water would be cool. The air was mild, and we both enjoyed standing in the water in our bare feet.

Frank in pool

 

Here am I standing in cool water and loving it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was particularly fascinated with the way in which the leaves that have fallen into the stream distort the normally flat surface of the water. At the right angle the sun reflects off of these depressions creating the effect of having each leaf rimmed with stars. Dave reminded me that the mathematical name for that is a meniscus.

Leaf in h20

 

Notice the ring of light around the shadow. Note too how the shadow of the stem is much fatter than the stem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a week later Ed and I hiked into Milagrosa (miraculous) canyon.

Milagrosa cnyn

 

Milagrosa canyon in the center of the picture

 

 

 

 

Our appreciation of the beauty of the grasses was more than canceled out by the realization that the two shown here are invasive and really do not belong in Arizona (Fountain Grass and Natal Grass – the one that is a deeper pink).

grasses

Mixture of Fountain grass and Natal grass

 

 

 

 

We came to the spot where we saw honeycombs on the cliff the last time we were in this canyon. At a respectful distance we watched with our binoculars as the bees in super slow motion, made their way around the combs.

Ed looking at hive

 

Ed looking at the cliff with the honey comb

 

 

 

Hive

 

 

 

The honeycomb left of the saguaro

 

 

 

 

 

On the way into the canyon we saw a saguaro whose single trunk had split into five. On the way out we saw another one up close, and realized that the central trunk had broken off, and clearly the center was gone.

Saguaro stumped 2

Saguaro stumped

 

 

 

 

 

On the left, a single trunk split into five. Above on split into three.

 

We may have seen as many as twenty flowering species on this little hike, and expect to see plants in bloom even up to Christmas.

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

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.

FROM EARTH TO SKY

Last Saturday my niece, Marjorie and I went to the Mission Gardens in Tucson (at the Base of “A” Mountain) to witness the celebration of Saint Ysidro. The Tucson Herbalist Collective, of which she is a member, had a booth there.

THC booth

Marjorie at the Booth with Pam Nakai

 

 

 

 

It was great fun seeing the young musicians of the Davis Bilingual School with their Mariachi Band, and the procession of people of different ethnic groups. San Ysidro was famous as a Labrador (Farmer) who enriched the plant offerings that helped to support the population.
Mariachi band

 

The Mariachi Band coming around the corner into the Garden

 

 

 

 

Mariachi band2

 

The musicians relaxing before their next song

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the celebration I caught this picture of some women harvesting in the fields of the San Agustin Mission Garden.
Harvest

 

Women harvesting

 

 

 

 
Wednesday Ed and I had a beautiful hike along Turkey Run. It was a cool day, and though there were not many different species in bloom, some of them, like the wild strawberry, carpeted large sections of the forest floor. The botanical name “Fragaria” is related to our word fragrant.  I tried to smell the flowers, but couldn’t detect any particular odor. The references is to the wonderful smell of the strawberries themselves, which we rarely see in the wild since they are snatched up eagerly by the wildlife.

The False Solomon’s Seal and Star Solomon’s Seal were just coming into bloom. Their botanical genus, Maianthemum, means “May flower”, so this is their month.,
Star solomon seal

 

 

Star Solomon’s Seal

 

 

 

 

 

On the way down the mountain Ed and I were intrigued by the cloud formations. The first was pretty well shaped like a box. The cloud itself stayed very much in the same place for a long time, but its shape was constantly changing. On getting home I found that it was a Lenticular Cloud  (Altocumulus lenticularis), one of the Altocumulus cloud formations. As we drove down the mountain, looking toward the East we saw banks of cumulus clouds (about 3 kilometer altitude). To the right were many examples of lenticular clouds, about twice as high off the ground. These clouds form in areas where the wind currents are in standing waves, so they are held in the same place for a long time. At times we had trouble keeping our eyes on the road because of the fascination of these amazing clouds.

rectangular cloud

 

At first this lenticular cloud was a rectangle but soon it lost one of its corners

 

 

Oval cloud

 

 

 

In a few minutes the same cloud became an oval

 

 

Regular clouds

 

 

Regular cumulus clouds

 

Lenticular clouds

 

 

 

 

A group of lenticular clouds

GETTING CLOSER

Last week a group of us were having lunch after a nature walk. Many of the people in the group were keen bird watchers, so you can imagine their astonishment when they heard the call of an owl in the middle of the day. One woman wanted to see the owl, so she went to investigate. Minutes later she returned, a little bit deflated. “It wasn’t an owl” she explained, “just another bird watcher making owl sounds.” I found out later that some little birds will gang up on an owl to drive it away. By making owl sounds the person was trying to trick some of these little fellows into emerging from the shrubs. I don’t know if he (or she) fooled the little birds. It fooled us.

Today we saw a few birds but I was more interested in getting a close up view of two plants I have known for some time – Bear Grass and False Indigo.
Nolina microcarpa
Bear Grass (Nolina microcarpa) is not a grass at all, but a very large plant in the Asparagus family. In May the plants send up a flowering shoot, four feet or more tall. The species is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on separate plants. Whereas the flowering stalk is huge, the flowers are quite small, and we were having some difficulty telling which was the male and which the female. Eventually we found some with tiny little flowers clustered on the long stalk. I was able to get a close up of the flowers, and finally can tell the two apart.

This is a watercolor portrait I did of Bear Grass

 

Nolina microcarpa male and female

 

 

 

The stalk on the left has the male flowers, not yet opened

On the right is the female, with some flowers open and many closed

The penny gives an idea of scale

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa7b male closed

 

 

The male flowers before they open

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa5 male

 

 

Here is a cluster of male flowers, with just one of them open

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa9 male

 

The male flower close up. Note the golden anthers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa9 female

 

 

This is a close-up of a female flower of the Bear Grass

 

 

 

 

 
Later we came across a clusters of False Indigo plants – Amorpha fruticosa. From a distance it is hard to tell if the plant is in bloom or not. Up close, you can see the flower stalks, with the bright yellow anthers emerging from a deep purple base. I had never been able to photograph the individual flowers before today. I was thrilled to see what they look like. The genus name, amorphous, means “deformed” referring to the fact that each flower doesn’t have the usual form with a number of petals. It just has a single one curled around, with the anthers protruding from it.

Amorpha fruticosa1

 

 

A general view of False Indigo plants in a stream bed

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosaPL

 

 

This shows a part of a False Indigo plant with the flower spikes

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa5b

 

Here is a flower spike with the flowers on the top portion not yet open

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa7

Here we see the individual flowers packed in. The yellow balls are the pollen bearing anthers. The flower petals are purple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa9b

 

A close up of two False Indigo flowers

 

 

 

 

 

On the home front, I have been watching the golden barrel cactus in our front yard. A few months ago I noticed that one of them was looking a little sickly. On closer inspection I found that I could see right through it in places. Our property is home to many ground squirrels, and I think they found a way of getting to the fleshy interior of the cactus. On the outside, the plants are well defended. Coming from underground, the ground squirrels found the soft underbelly, and have almost completely hollowed the plant out. They did the same to one of the other two. And yet all three cactus plants are still alive! They are gutted, but not totally defeated.

Golden barrell

 

Our Golden Barrel cactus with holes in the middle where you can see right through the plant. Looking at the plant and moving your head around, you can see that it is almost completely hollow, and yet is still alive