Friday, September 30, 2011

More from the Nightshade Family

Photo by Carol Tornow, 9/26/11
This is Douglas Nightshade (Solanum douglasii). Carol and I saw this along the road, around bridge 6, if memory serves. (And if it doesn't, perhaps I've been smoking too much nightshade.) The other Solanum species in the canyon is Solanum elaeagnifolium or Silverleaf Nightshade.

Photo by Carol Tornow, 9/26/11
This is the other Datura species in the canyon. Desert Thorn Apple (Datura discolor). Look closely into the flower and you'll see the distinctive purple streaks. Those purple streaks are not found in the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii). This lone plant was found about 1/4 into the canyon along the left side of the road.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Look at Legumes

The Fabaceae Family is fabulous. It includes some of our favorite desert plants. Six of the 7 on Derek's list in this family are found in Sabino Canyon, including:

Fortunately, the new scientific names for the two Acacias in Sabino Canyon (and elsewhere, of course) were not accepted at the most recent taxonomy conference (yes, they have big conferences), so we can still call them Acacia. Thanks to Joan Tedford for keeping up with these changes and non-changes.

Another neat plant in this family, the Tepary Bean (Phaseolus acutifolius var. tenuifolius)  is blooming now in Sabino Canyon. (I mistakenly referred to it as Slim-Jim Bean last year, before I knew to use Joan's list to verify. Unlearn that, please, as that's a different species, and it's not found in the canyon.) You need to look low to the ground, though; it's a vine and the flowers are small. If you walk along the road, look around bridge six. There are loads of them there. The beans are edible and were eaten by the native peoples. As with the legumes in general, a good source of protein.

Tepary Bean, photo by Matt Ball
If you said 'Desert Marigold' in answer to yesterday's photo quiz, you are a sweet pea.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The canyon's full of the Sunflower Family

In Sabino Canyon, there are more species of plants in the Asteraceae Family than in any other. The Grass (Poaceae) Family is second (but I don't plan on learning those plants for a good long while). Then comes the Pea (Fabaceae), the Borage (Boraginaceae), and the Mallow (Malvaceae); tied for 6th, the Cactus (Cactaceae) Family and the Mustard (Brassicaceae) Family.*
*If you get a different count from Joan Tedford's plant list (Feb 2011), please let me know.
Fortunately for Derek, the four on his list from the Sunflower Family are reasonably easy to distinguish by their leaves alone (via Anne's quick and easy method. Not intended as botanical descriptions).

  • 21. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) Leaves are covered with fine white 'hairs'; edges of the triangular leaves are smooth.
  • 22. Canyon Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosiodes) (an ironic name if ever there was one). Leaves are usually much larger than those of the Brittlebush, plant itself is, too; leaves can be 'bumpy', never have white hairs.
  • 23. Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) Leaves are white-hairy, too, but are located mostly at the base of the plant, and, compared to the Brittlebush leaves, I'd call these 'wavy'.
  • 24. Desert Broom (Baccharus sarothroides) (This is the plant you took out of your back yard, Derek.) Leaves are very thin, stick straight up. No white hairs. There are male and female plants.

And here's the quiz: Which one of the four above is this? Answer in tomorrow's post.

Photo by  Matt Ball

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

3 families, 3 plants

  • Think Santa, think mistletoe. That's right, number 17 on the plant list for Field Studies at CFHS is Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) in the Santalaceae Family. (Okay, it's the Sandalwood Family, but Santa works, too). The berries on this plant are beloved by the Phainopepla (one of the birds from the previous unit in this class). 
  • Think Sap in da bush for the Sapindacea (Soapberry) Family and number 29 Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa). 
  • Number 18 is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), a plant of the Zygophyllaceae Family. (The only other plant in Sabino Canyon in this family is Puncture Vine Tribulus terrestris, which was introduced from Europe.) 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Derek's plant list Number 28

Photo by Ned Harris
Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida), is now in the Cannabaceae (Hemp) Family. (Yes, cannabis is in this family, too. But not, as far as I know, in Sabino Canyon.) The Desert Hackberry fruits are edible.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Solanaceae - Nightshade Family

Family pal Derek is taking 'Field Studies' this year and the next unit is on plants. As good a time as any for us to review/learn some plants and their families. First up (because I have photos at the ready), Family Solanaceae.  All photos by Ned Harris.

Desert Tobacco
Number 26 on Derek's list is Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia). Don't smoke, eat, or snort this one! Like many plants in this family (with the exception of potatoes and tomatoes), it's poisonous. There are a number of these plants growing along the road in Sabino Canyon. They don't get very tall; not nearly as tall as Tree Tobacco.

Tree Tobacco
I've only seen one Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) along the road, near stop 8; but it's not a very impressive example. It is at least 4-feet tall, though, and the flowers are bright yellow. Don't consume this one, either. Stick with potatoes.

Sacred Datura (aka Jimson Weed)
Number 27 on his list is Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii). There are some very big plants in the riparian area above the dam. According to my emergency room connection, there is at least one poisoning every year from this plant. 'Kids' think they'll have revealing visions if they smoke it. The only vision the smoker is going to have is one of the inside of an ambulance, if that. Smokers of this plant fall under the rubric 'stupid beyond redemption'.  


Another plant in this family whose fruits are NOT poisonous is Wolfberry. I'm not going to guess which of the four species found in Sabino Canyon this one is, but the genus is Lycium. (And, since Derek doesn't need to learn this one, we'll hold off on the species i.d.!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Birds in Sabino Canyon

SCVN and Tucson Audubon invite you to participate in birding walks in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area on the first Saturdays of the next three months: Oct. 1, Nov. 5 and Dec. 3.
Where: Meet at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center ramada
When: 7-11 a.m., Sat., Oct. 1; 7:30-11 a.m., Nov. 5; and 8 a.m.-12 noon, Dec. 3, 2011
What: We’ll bird a 4-mile loop in Sabino Canyon including bajada and riparian habitats
Bring: Binoculars, water, sun hat and wear walking shoes suitable for uneven paths
Leaders: Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh
If you will be joining us, please send an email to: jhhenge (at) yahoo (dot) com
If you go on Saturday, Oct 1, you'll catch the tail end of what will likely be the last hummingbird banding session this year. 
And here's a bonus amazing photo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A heart for prickly pear

Photo by Angie Perryman, 9/9/11
If you said: 1 - Ivyleaf Morning Glory (Ipomoea hederacea); 2 - Canyon (aka Bearded)  Morning Glory (Ipomoea barbatisepala); and 3 - Bird's Foot (aka Triple Leaf) Morning Glory (Ipomoea ternifolia var. leptotoma) you win a glorious morning!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Morning Glory Quiz

1 -  Photo by Carol Tornow
2 -  Photo by Ned Harris
3 - Photo by Carol Tornow
These (and other) Morning Glories are blooming now in the canyon, and are often in the same space. (Look especially around the creek at bridge 8.) These three are similar in color (despite how the photos above appear), but you can (usually) tell them apart by their leaves (most reliably if they are all near each other : -)
See if you can match them up! 1, 2, 3! (Answer in tomorrow's post.)
Bird's Foot (aka Triple Leaf) Morning Glory (Ipomoea ternifolia var. leptotoma)
Canyon (aka Bearded)  Morning Glory (Ipomoea barbatisepala)
Ivyleaf Morning Glory (Ipomoea hederacea)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Angie's Acro-bugs!

Well, they aren't bats now, are they? All photos by Angie Perryman.

Tightrope Hopper
Pole Dancer
(Too many green caterpillars. If you can identify, please let me know.)
Giant Pyramid
Twelve-spotted Tightrope Skimmer

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Walk on the water side

On the Bluff Trail
Two Cooper's Hawks
Close up of  one on right
Water still flowing over the dam
Looking down 
Must have been a male 
All photos by Matt Ball, 9/16/11. Thanks, Honey-Matt!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Between a rock and a hard place

Photo by Matt Ball 9/16/11
When life puts rocks in your path, grow anyway! This Saguaro is making its way on the Esperero Trail. (The other Palo Verde is Parkinsonia florida or Blue Palo Verde.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Snout to Snout

Photo by Ned Harris
Two American Snouts on a Palo Verde. I think it's a Foothill(s) Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla); what's the other native Palo Verde in Sabino Canyon? Answer in tomorrow's post.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another Spiderling

Photo by Ned Harris, 9/8/11
A bumper crop of Bush Spiderlings (Commicarpus scandens) this year! The greenish-white flowers are tiny and easily overlooked. Get as close as this bee for the best view.
A note about plant names: I use Joan Tedford's latest list of the plants of Sabino Canyon for the scientific as well as the common names. Occasionally, I add a common name that is not on her list (because I like it better). You may encounter a different Latin name in books or on other sites; if so, you can be sure that Joan's is the most current.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Photo by Ned Harris, 9/8/11
This plant is all over in the canyon these days and looks more like a ground cover than a wildflower. Flowers are yellow and rather inconspicuous. Leaves are 'furry'. One of its common names is Honeymat (Tidestomia lanuginosa); the other Woolly Tidestromia:  think 'woolly tide'. Bonus bee fly (thanks, Fred, for this correction) in the photo above.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going for the gold in snake eating

All photos by Bob Wenrick
Don't be deceived by the heart-shaped pose of the Gophersnake. S/he's in serious trouble from the Kingsnake. Neither is venomous, but both can wrap and hold tight.

The Kingsnake has all the moves! The head is pointing downward; you can see one eye 'dead' center of this photo.

The Gophersnake had recently eaten what appeared to be another Sonoran Desert Elephant (but was actually a rather imposing looking pack rat. I'll spare you the photo evidence of that here. Look on Bob's website). That's probably why s/he lost this round. But the Kingsnake didn't finish this meal. S/he backed out of the Gophersnake after reaching the rat-impasse. (See Bob's site for more. If you dare.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Acrobatic Caterpillar

Photo by Angie Perryman, 9/11/11
This White-lined Sphinx caterpillar will pupate and transform into a  White-lined Sphinx MothMetamorphosis is truly amazing. Angie suggests that you not attempt the move above (or metamorphosis, for that matter,) without supervision. Thanks, Angie!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I shriek, you shriek...

We all shriek for water in the creek!! 

all photos from Beryl Varno, 9/11/11

Monday, September 12, 2011

The very hungry caterpillar

Both photos by Beryl Varno, 9/11/11
Click for larger view. I mean it. 
Gayle and I saw Beryl and two friends inspecting a Desert Cotton plant along the road in Sabino Canyon on Sunday morning - and we sure are glad we stopped. Beryl - a member of the SCVN class of 2011 - was photographing this magnificent creepy crawly. I'd say a good 4 inches long, at least, and thicker than a pencil. Beryl graciously agreed to share these photos (and others she took today. Stay tuned.) Googling 'caterpillar' and 'cotton' brought me to the ever helpful bug guide, specifically:  this page. Hope you'll agree that we're looking at a Splendid Royal Moth caterpillar. This was confirmed by Carl Olson, too. Thanks, Beryl.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Metamorphosis in action

All Photos by Ned Harris, hands by Anne Green, 9/8/11
Click on the photo for a larger view - and look in my left hand for the tadpole. (see the water streaming out of my hand?) These little critters are probably in the Sea of Cortez after last night's big rain. Swim on!

Not a tadpole, not quite a frog
Frogs undergo metamorphosis basically by disassembling the tadpole tail and using it to grow legs. This little one isn't quite a frog but not still a tadpole.

Finally froggy
I think these are little Red-spotted Toads. (I am [usually] grateful for enlightenment or confirmation.) There were thousands upon thousands in various stages in the creek above the dam when Carol T, Ned, and I went out on a photo shoot on Thursday, 9/8/11. As always, no critters were eaten or otherwise harmed for these photos. Thanks to Ned for super shutter speed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Desert Vine is very fine!

Photo by Ned Harris, 9/8/11
Another photo by Ned Harris, 9/9/11
Photo by Angie Perryman, 9/9/11
This plant is blooming all over in Sabino Canyon. Desert Vine aka Janusia (Janusia gracilis) has yellow, 5-petaled flowers followed by 3-winged seed pods that look (to me) a bit like Mickey Mouse ears (if you ignore the third ear).

Friday, September 9, 2011

A merry Robber

Photo by Ned Harris, 9/8/11
Regardless of how you feel about flies, you have to click on this photo for a larger view. This Robber Fly (with breakfast) is spectacular!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Hooker's and the Unicorn

Photo by Carol Tornow, 9/2/11
Hooker's Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata subspecies hirsutissima) flowers have 4 heart-shaped petals and can be reliably found along reliable water after monsoon rains. Look for them along the creek.

Photo by Carol Tornow, 9/2/11
These plants are now in their own family (of 2) Martyniaceae (Unicorn Plant Family). Both Proboscidea altheaefolia (yellow, above) and Proboscidea parviflora (white) are commonly known as Devil's Claw, but the yellow one is also called Desert Unicorn Plant and, perhaps more conveniently, Golden Devil's Claw. Using the very cool 'Botanary' gives the meaning 'like an elephant's trunk' for Proboscidea. (Same root as your favorite word 'proboscis'.) Seems to me that both the flower and the seed pod fit that description. Carol and I have seen many more of these plants this summer than we did last year. (Might be because we recognize them now, though.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New lizard for you

Photo by Ned Harris
Another photo by Ned Harris. 
Not unusual to see a Madrean Alligator Lizard on Mt Lemmon, where the one above was photographed. But Peggy and Bob Wenrick saw one last year (I think) in Sabino Canyon (I know).

Photo by Bob Wenrick
Note the regrown tail. This little guy doesn't look too healthy either, compared to the Mt Lemmon example. Or maybe s/he's just tired of all the attention.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A dwarf by any other name...

 Photo by Carol Tornow, 9/2/11
You can see these beauties in force along the road. Dwarf White Honeysuckle is the common name I prefer for Justicia longii, but they are also known as Longflower Tube Tongue. (Yeah, right.) Only found in AZ and TX (in the U.S.), according to the USDA.
Not found in Riga.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Out in droves

All caterpillar photos by Debbie Bird, 9/4/11. Debbie and her husband Jerry are members of the SCVN class of 2011. 

These are the larvae (caterpillars) of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. (Talk about metamorphosis!) These little critters have totally denuded the Pipevine (Aristolocia watsonii) plant, their food source at this stage (see a whole one below).

Photo by Carol Tornow, who, along with her husband Walt, is mentoring Debbie and Jerry.
Thanks to Debbie and Carol for these great photos! A hearty thanks as well to Beth of the Firefly Forest for the indispensable links! And to my reader in Latvia - be sure to contact me if you find yourself in Tucson. Quiz of the day: Capitol of Latvia. No googling.