Flowers at the top

February 13th was a beautiful day on the mountains. Dave and I went looking for some Iris plants I saw last year to see if there might be signs of them this early. Nothing. But then, on the west end of the Butterfly trail, the delightful Red Fuzz Saxifrage plants (Saxifraga eriophora) were starting up. With their mixture of red and green leaves, red flower stalk, and white or pink flowers, they are quite a sight. Some years I have even seen them poking through the snow. I went there again today and caught a picture of a flower cluster, glistening from the recent rain. It was a cool day on the mountain (38 degrees), and the flowers looked like they were doing fine.


Red FuzzLooking down on the Red Fuzz Saxifrage plants

Saxifraga eriophoraFL2A close-up with my thumb giving scale

Saxifraga eriophora 5Another close-up wet with recent rain
We also saw Periwinkle and  Dandelion at 8000 feet. The beautiful Valerian (used as a medicinal plant for sleep problems)  has buds and soon will be in bloom (Valeriana arizonica).

Vinca majorPeriwinkle (Vinca Major) already in bloom

Valeriana arizonicaMy watercolor painting of Valerian

Jim and I were driving along on our way home from botanizing in the desert. Out of the clear blue sky I asked him to tell me about Tackstem (Calycoseris wrightii). He wondered why I asked the question, and I explained that my chief Botanical advisor on the Flower book, Joan,  had come to the conclusion that Tackstem does not occur on the Catalina mountains, and is fairly rare in this part of Arizona. If we see a white flower like this in the Catalina Mountains it is almost certainly Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana). He agreed, and said that sometimes, depending on weather conditions, etc, Tackstem may be found along some road sides. The flowers of the two are nearly identical, but the Tackstem has little tack-shaped glands growing along the stem, and base of the flowers.

Rafinesquia newomexicana FLtop Chicory flower

Calycoseris wrightii FLTackstem flower

Rafinesquia neomexicana base of FLChicory at the base of the flower

Calycoseris wrightii tacks2Base of the Tackstem showing the glands

A few minutes later I noticed some white flowers out of the corner of my eye and I suggested we stop and have a look. When we got out of the car and walked back to the flowers, we found that they were Tackstems! This is the first time I had ever met and photographed the plant.

Every time we go out, we see more flowers in bloom. On a recent hike I counted over 60 different flowering species. What a treat.

One reply

  1. Dan Granger says:

    Frank, thank you for this illustrated explanation of the chicory/tackstem difference. It was great to see you at the Tucson Festival of Books.

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