Monthly Archives: October 2014


Southern Arizona has glorious fall colors. All it takes to find them is a one hour drive up the mountains. In the last week I have made the trip four times, each one a delightful experience. What a treat to be surrounded by these glorious colors, almost all of them from a single tree species, Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum)! The fall leaves range from pale yellow to deep red. You may see all these colors on one tree. Then again you may see a yellow tree being right next to one whose leaves are bright red. Maples





Recently I came across this delightful plant lying flat on the ground, Woolly tidestromia (Tidestromia lanuuginosa). The picture shows one that is about a foot in diameter. I love the growth pattern with its red stems branching out into clusters of seemingly white leaves. In each cluster the leaves range in size: large, medium and small. If you turn a leaf over, you see that it is green underneath, but the top is so covered in hairs that the leaves look bluish white. It was named for an American botanist, Ivar Tidestrom. and the species name, lanuginosa – means woolly, referring to the surface of the leaves. It is in the Amaranth family.
Tidestromia lanuginosa 3



Looking down on the plant from above






Tidestromia lanuginosa 5



A portion of one of the tips with the various leaf sizes, and the tiny flowers nestled in the middle








Tidestromia lanuginosa 9




A close-up of an individual flower









Tidestromia lanuginosa LFportion


A close-up of portions of some leaves covered in white hair





A few days ago my wife and I were walking in the neighborhood and came across a defunct Swallowtail butterfly. I was glad to carry this light-as-a-feather creature home and scan it top and bottom. Using my macro lens, I took a closer look at some of the scales on its wings.
Black yellow butterfly


As soon as I picked up the butterfly I broke off one of its tails, and when I put it on the scanner the head fell off









Black yellow butterfly back

The underside of the same butterfly







Swallow tail 9




A close-up of the wing markings





Many plant embryos have rudimentary structures known as Cotyledons. Monocots, like grasses, lilies and orchids, emerge from the ground with only one (hence the name MONOcot short for Monocotyledon). Most flowering plants, shrubs and trees emerge with two and are called DICOTS (two cotyledons). These structures carry nutrients, and function as primitive leaves. Once the plant gets started, it forms true leaves. Recently I pulled up this baby tree, Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutinas), and at once noticed two things. A) The cotyledons were still intact and above them the true leaves were already starting to form.  B) The root was huge for such a tiny plant, at least half its length. If I had allowed it to grow its roots would have gone deeper than the plant was tall. Indeed, some Mesquites send their roots down 50 feet. The record is something like 175 feet. It was fascinating to see this little seedling already showing its potential. Too bad it was in a place where it was too near other structures to grow to its full glory.


The seedling with a penny for scale


Mesquite seedling


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.”