There is more than one artist in our family. My wife, Louise, is not a painter but she is a musician, a talented writer and creates beautiful flower arrangements. On September 19 Anne Volz Fuller died. She was married to my wife’s first cousin, William Fuller. Bill and Louise grew up together in Glenview, Illinois. About twenty years ago Bill and Anne moved to Tucson and we renewed our friendship. To celebrate Anne, Louise created this beautiful arrangement for her memorial service at Sunrise Chapel. The rock behind the flowers is the altar of this church, where I was pastor for 21 years.
Today was a good day to hike. Ed and I decided to go up to Turkey Run in the Catalina Mountains even though we knew that many of the flowering species have completed their blooming season. The mountain air was fresh and cool. We soon came across old friends, lemmon hawkweed, Richardson’s geranium, Western sneezeweed and others. We stopped to look at the gentian flower stalk – 7 feet tall, but bent over and drying up. There we met a couple. They were walking with their adorable Italian greyhound and had stopped to look down a pipe where they had seen animals get trapped. Once it was a mouse. Today it was a baby skunk with beautiful white and black markings,curled up at the bottom of the pipe. The pipe is more than a foot in diameter and at least three feet deep. The little skunk showed no signs of life. The couple placed a branch in the pipe so that any other animal that fell in might have a means of escape.
After we left them we found a group of bog orchids, many still in full and glorious bloom.
Ed and I continued up the trail and sat to snack on a log at the edge of a clearing. We then continued a short distance up the Aspen Draw trail. As we walked my mind went back four months to a time when I was hiking this trail alone. Our spiritual growth group had the task of being still, so part of the reason for going alone was to practice stillness in the beauty of the forest. I looked to my left, and just about 20 feet below me was a deer. I held still and looked at it. The deer looked back. We held eye contact for several minutes. The deer then turned to graze, and I continued on my way up the trail. I did not go very far and turned around only to see the deer crossing the trail going up the steep hill. In a few minutes the deer was about 20 feet above me. Again I stopped and we made eye contact. I was very content to stay in stillness with the deer indefinitely. Several times the deer looked away from me, and grazed a little. Then she turned to look at me again. We continued in communion for about ten minutes and then the deer slowly made her way up the slope and out of my sight.
I told Ed about this encounter (which happened back in May), and soon we turned around to retrace our steps back to the car. We have a tradition that we must find at least one plant in bloom on the return trip that we did not see on the outward trip. It wasn’t long before I noticed two strawberry plants in bloom. Later we saw another shown in this picture. Just then I looked ahead and saw two deer, one crossing the trail in front of us. We held still and watched as the the second deer crossed the trail and they made their way toward us, apparently unaware of us or unconcerned about our presence. This picture shows how the deer were mostly in the shade. They passed us walking in the woods about three yards away from us on our right. One went on ahead and disappeared into the forest. The other, evidently a young male, started rubbing his six inch antlers against a tree. After several minutes he finally turned to follow his friend up the hill. It was one of those special moments on the trail.
Today I had the pleasure of doing a nature walk in Sabino Canyon. There were five of us. We took the tram to the last stop (number 9), and then slowly walked down the road to the 7th stop, looking at plants, insects, birds, trees, shrubs, etc., on the way. It was absolutely delightful. After an hour and a half of exploring we took the return tram and had a pleasant lunch.
I found many of the “invisible” flowers I have been looking for and met a few I had not yet known. Here are some of the close up pictures of the flowers. Keep in mind that most of them are less than a quarter of an inch wide.
Fringed amaranth – Amaranthus fimbriatus
Ayenia – Ayenia filiformis
Bush spiderling – Commicarpus scandens
Pringle prairie clover – Dalea pringlei
Santa Cruz island tick clover – Desmodium psilocarpum
Female flowerHop bush – Dodonea viscosa
Hop bush – Dodonea viscosa
Chiricahua mountain sandmat – Euphoriba florida
Arizona blue eyes – Evolvulus alsinoides
Odora – Porophyllum gracile
September 23, 2013
On Saturday, September 21, I had the pleasure of speaking at the beautiful Western National Parks Association facility in Oro Valley. I gave the lecture twice – at noon and again at 2 pm. I estimate the total attendance at the two talks was close to a hundred people.
In the lecture I mentioned the young scientist, William Gambel. My facts were not all correct, so I decided to get better information. This is what I learned about this remarkable young man.
He was born in June of 1823, over 190 years ago, near Philadelphia. When he was 15, he was taken under the wing of the famous British ornithologist and naturalist, Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), who was thirty-seven years older than he was. Together they traveled the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to Maine. From 1841 to 1843 Gambel traveled to the west, especially New Mexico and California, doing nature research. By 1845 he was back in Philadelphia where he obtained a degree and became a doctor of medicine. He also married. He and his wife left Philadelphia in April of 1849, traveled to California, going over the mountain passes of the Sierras late in the year. This was just after the beginning of the great California gold rush. He caught Typhoid and died on December the 13th, not yet 27 years old. (He did not die in a gambling fight, as I thought I once heard.)
He had made quite a mark in the scientific world, and now has the Gambel oak, Gambel’s quail, the mountain chickadee and a lizard named after him. The oak is the only one in southern Arizona that has a fall color display. Here is a picture of the oak on Incinerator ridge in the Catalina Mountains.
September 20, 2013
About a week ago, I wrote about finding three mystery plants on the top of Mt. Lemmon, and asked for help. My call was answered by my botanical adviser, Joan. Here is what she suggests:
1 – The phlox-like plant is probably Showy baby’s breath, Gypsophila elegans, a plant not listed as growing in Arizona. There is quite a little collection of these at the top of the Aspen trail.
2 – The Amaranth is likely careless weed, amaranthus palmeri. Amaranth seeds are an important food source. This plant is not new to the mountain. The surprising thing is to find it blooming at 9000 feet. Its normal range is 3100′-4800′.
3 – And as for the cosmos, I went back and took a picture of the native cosmos parviflora, against the new one, to give some idea of the relative appearance, size and color. This time I found two more plants near the first one we saw.
And then another mystery was solved. Two years ago, in this same area, we found Livermore stickseed, in the Borage family. Its botanical name is hackelia pinetorum, a shrubby plant with tiny blue flowers. Several times this summer I have gone looking for the plant. It was no longer growing in the area where I originally saw it in 2011. This week we walked a little farther and Ed spotted it along the side of the trail. There was just one plant. As you can see the flowers are scarcely visible.
Ed and I were hiking the Sunset Trail in the Catalina mountains, enjoying the wonderful display of wildflowers, when I noticed a tiny plant growing on top of a rock. It seemed to me that I had never seen it before, so I took photographs and made a special note of where it could be found. Later, with the help of my botanical friends I learned that it was Hedyotis greenei – hedyotis, or Green starviolet. This is a plant I have photographed before, and yet I had not seen it clearly until I did so through my new powerful macro. What a little beauty it is.
In this picture you see it in my hand, and can tell how small the whole plant is.
I have been hiking the Catalina Mountains for fourteen years looking for wildflowers. And today, we came across three I had never seen before! They were all at the top of the Aspen Loop Trail where it ends at all the towers that surround the top of the ski lift. One looked very much like Cosmos parviflora (meaning with “the cosmos with small flowers”), but the flower was at least four times as big as the usual wild cosmos, and it was white rather than pink. We wondered if it escaped from someone’s garden, unlikely here at 9000′, but pollen does get carried on the wind.
The third mystery looked something like the white phlox that grows in Molino Basin (Phlox tenuifolia), but clearly it is not the same species. Maybe it is not even a phlox.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what we found?
At the end of the plant walk I decided to try once more to photograph a little mystery plant that Ed and I saw eight days ago. We were walking along the Kellogg Mountain trail when we spotted first one, then, in the space of about a hundred yards, many more of this small beauty with tiny white flowers. I did not have my macro lens with me, so I made mental note of where the plants lived with the idea of coming back the next day with better equipment.
The following morning I drove to Incinerator Ridge, parked the car, and walked along the trail toward our little mystery friend. It took only about ten minutes to reach the plants, and then it took only a few seconds to realize that their flowers had not yet opened. It was 8:30 in the morning.
That was Thursday. I had to wait until the following Monday afternoon to try again. I got on the trail fairly late, since it had been raining heavily in the morning. This time I arrived at the plants only to find that their flowers had closed for the day.
Today, as I said, I decided to try once more. On the way down the mountain I drove to Incinerator ridge, hiked up the trail and this time found them in full and glorious bloom! Now we have a little more to go on in trying to identify this elusive plant. Here are the pictures. Any help with this one?