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.
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.
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.
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.