Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two by two

Photos by Ned Harris 2/20/2012
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - male

Ladder-backed Woodpecker - female

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Know your Caliche (Globemallow)!

Caliche Globe Mallow, Photo by Ned Harris
The Caliche Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea laxa) has dark anthers (top of stamen); the other common Globe Mallow, Desert Globe Mallow (Spaeralcea ambigua var. rosecea), doesn't.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's galling!

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

Even on that ragweed of the gods, Ambrosia ambrosioides or Canyon Ragweed, you can find loads of galls. According to this site:
"Plants are often found that have numerous pale green warts on the leaf surface. These are caused by nearly microscopic gall mites (Eriophyidae). The mites feed on the plant tissue from the inside of the hollow blisters that are formed by the plant in response to secretions and irritations of the mites. Breaking open the galls will reveal the mites visible with a 20x magnifier."
Now you know!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A rose by any other name...

Foto by Fred Fisher
I learned this one as Desert Rose Mallow; it is in the Mallow Family (Malvacea), but if you call it Coulter('s) Hibiscus, you'll easily remember the scientific name, namely Hibiscus coulteri. Sure is a beauty, whatever you call it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Strutting their stuff!

Photo by Ned Harris 2/20/2012

Photo by Ned Harris 2/20/2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Remember when? Dam Danger Defused

Text and Photos from Mark Hengesbaugh
"Only a few years ago Giant Reed (Arundo donax) posed a serious wildfire hazard to the native trees and plants on Sabino Creek. The 25-ft. stalks burn hot without damaging their roots, which then sprout and re-grow quickly before native vegetation can recover. On Aug. 10, 2009 the Arundo removal project got a big lift from 20 members of the Yuma Wildlands Fire Crew who cut into the Arundo infestation behind Sabino Dam."
"Crew member in the foreground said when he was in grade school his class visited the dam during a field trip by Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists."
Anne says: Let's keep the kids coming back to the canyon, but not the Giant Reed. Keep an eye out for sprouts. It's not over until a lot more birdies sing!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cedar Waxwing!

Photo by Ned Harris 2/20/2012
Cedar Waxwings by the hundreds have been seen in Sabino Canyon. Looks like they're made of silk, not wax!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A study in blue

Photo by Ned Harris
Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. pauciflora) is the most commonly used name for this very delicate flower, now in the Asparagus Family. Really. It's the only wildflower in Sabino Canyon in the family that contains all of the agaves. How about that?

Photo by Ned Harris 2/20/2012
A male Western Bluebird. As beautiful as a flower! (Not in the asparagus family.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Golden Smoke and White Bladderpod

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012
This is in the Poppy Family (Papaveraceae), like the Mexican Gold Poppy. It's called Golden Smoke - or Scrambled Eggs (Corydalis aurea) (Don't eat it, though.) We found this one in the sand below the dam. Find the rock with the faucet coming out of it, face it, then walk to the right. Look under the bushes and trees.

Photo by Ned Harris
This is in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae), White Bladderpod (Physaria purpurea) and can be seen on Bear Bridge. Look under the trees and bushes that have Wild Cucumber growing on them. (North side, before you get to any water.) There are only a few of these plants, but they are well worth looking for.
A quick reminder to those new to this blog; blue and bold means there's a link - so click on it for more info.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Not a mustard

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

It's called Mustard Evening Primrose (Camissonia californica), but it's not a mustard. (It is an evening primrose, though.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

These mustards pass muster!

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

Lots of plants in the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) blooming now. Many are subtle, all are interesting. (Especially to me, as I continue to learn a thing or two about plants.) The top photo shows Tansy Mustard (Descurainia pinnata). Tiny yellow flowers, intricate leaves. The 2nd is my favorite mustard, namely Lace Pod Mustard (Thysanocarpus curvipes). Take a closer look at the seed pods. They are really beautiful. 

Many thanks to Ned for continuing to work with me on the point and shoot. (I point, he shoots.) 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another Wild Thing!

Photo by Carol Tornow 2/13/2012

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

This vine is growing in the bushes and trees along the north side of the Bear Canyon Bridge and all along the creek-side road. It has several common names:  Big Root, Gila Manroot, and Wild Cucumber. Let's go with the latter. (It's always Marah gilensis.) Look at those fruits!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pollination signal

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012

Photo by Ned Harris 2/15/2012

These are both Desert Lupines (Lupinus sparsiflorus) (not the same plant, though). Note the pink/magenta on the flowers in the lower photo. That color indicates the flower has been pollinated. Insects can see they need not bother with that particular flower. Great strategy for producing more seeds; which is what life is all about, when you get right down to it. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Photo by Ned Harris 2/15/2012

Flowers are blooming and that means insects are out and about. This little beauty is a female Sara Orangetip butterfly.

Photo by Ned Harris 2/15/2012
If you like butterflies - and who doesn't? - and want to be able to amaze and impress your family and friends by identifying them, their caterpillars and host plants, head to the visitor center and pick up this new fold-out butterfly field guide by Butterfly Guy Jim Brock. It's even waterproof.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Poppy Art

Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholzia californica ssp mexicana) blooming now!

Photos by Matt Ball 2/10/2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Native and non-native

All Photos by Matt Ball 2/10/2012

The non-native (above, from Europe) is Filaree (Erodium cicutarium).  Note the bill-shaped seeds. Read the link to find out more about them.

Stork's Bill

The native is Stork's Bill (Erodium texanum). Both are in the Geranium Family (Geraniacea) and are blooming now. Look low.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Photo by Ned Harris, 2/8/2012

I was hoping this was Green's Lotus (Lotus greenei); but it's more likely Common Lotus (Lotus plebeius) (pg. 101 in Frank Rose's wildflower book). We found this on the rocky 'bank' of the creek behind the dam.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red is pink

Photos by Matt Ball 2/10/2012
Red Maids (Calandrinia ciliata) are blooming now! Cross the Bear Canyon Bridge, go left, and look on both sides of the 'road'. (They are blooming elsewhere, of course, but this is where we found them.) These grow low and the pale pink flowers are smaller than a dime.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jewel Flower

Buds from above

Flowers are about 1/2 the size of a dime

All Photos by Matt Ball, 2/10/2012

This is another one in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) that I only learned recently. Jewel Flower or Silverbells (Streptanthus carinatus). A very delicate-looking plant. We found quite a few on the east side of the creek. Cross the Bear Canyon Bridge and take a left. Look right under cacti, shrubs, and trees. (And then make your husband climb in for photos.) Note how the stem seems to push through the leaves.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Native Beauty

Photo by Ned Harris 2/8/2012
This beautiful (quarter-sized) blossom is called Ragged Rock Flower (Crossosoma bigelovii). (Even the buds are stunning.) We've seen loads of these plants in the rocky slopes along the road, and there are several plants tucked into the rocks on the Bluff trail (where this photo was taken. Thanks, Ned!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Even More Blooming Now!

Photo by Matt Ball
Like the yellow-orange Fiddleneck, this is another reliable bloomer in the Borage Family (Boraginaceae). It's probably Chryptantha barbigera (Bearded Cryptantha), but the Chryptantha species are hard to tell apart. If you'd like, call these tiny white ones Popcorn Flowers. Look along the road, on the Bluff trail, on the Esperero trail.

Photo by Matt Ball
Many plants in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) are blooming now, including the Lace Pod Mustard (Thysanocarpus curvipes). The white flowers (see link) and the seedpods (pictured above) are VERY tiny, but the seedpods are definitely worth a closer look. If you see a tiny white flower, stop and inspect.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More Blooming Now!

Okay, these photos are from 2010. Ned took photos on the nature walk today that I'll get later. The same plants are blooming, though. Look for them.

Photo by Matt Ball

This is another primrose, specifically: Mustard Evening Primrose (aka California Sun Cup) Camissonia californica. It's in the Evening Primrose Family (Onagraceae) (and is NOT a mustard). Buds look orange, flower is smaller than a dime on a very slender stem. We saw several on the Bluff Trail this morning. Look carefully, though, as they are often hidden under other plants.

Photo by Matt Ball

Two plants here: The purple is Desert Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus). It's in the Pea Family (Fabaceae) and is only starting to bloom. You'll find this all along the road from the entrance to the Esperero Trail to the entrance to the Bluff Trail and beyond. This year's plants aren't very tall.
The yellow-orange is Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia). Borage Family (Boraginaceae) Also very low growing this year. We saw a number of these on the Bluff Trail.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's "Even More Blooming Now!"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blooming now!

Photo by Carol Tornow 2/6/2012
Yellow Desert Primroses (Oenothera primaveris) are blooming now in Sabino Canyon. Get out early to see these beauties and look low.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cinderella was here?

Photo by Carol Tornow, 2/6/2012
Yes, Carol and I found this at-least-4-inch-stiletto-healed 'shoe' (using the term rather generously) in the canyon. At the risk of being redundant to my very rational readership, I'll make this public service announcement:
Under no circumstances should you or anyone you care about wear anything remotely like this.
In the canyon or otherwise. (Mating season or not.)
Cinderella, your shoe is now in its rightful place. You're welcome.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Not from last year!

Photo by Matt Ball 2/3/2012
Last year, this was the time of the big freeze. On Friday, I saw this Desert Spiny Lizard sunning in my neighborhood. A small one, I'll grant you, but very neat!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A winter visitor

Photo by Bob Wenrick
This beautiful blue bird is, in fact, a bluebird; specifically, a Western Bluebird. Small flocks have been seen in Sabino Canyon. If you are interested in birds, check out 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Abert's Towhee

Photo by Bob Wenrick
Abert's Towhee  is a year-round resident.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's a bird on a branch worth?

Photo by Ned Harris
One of the blogs I read is called "A Phrase a Week" and this week's phrase is "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." This bird on a branch is an American Kestrel.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Today in Kingdoms

Photo by Ned Harris 1/21/2012
On the Wednesday nature walk, we talked about mosses, algae, and fungi (among other living things). I needed to refresh my memory about algae, so I found this site. It provides a quick overview of the 6 Kingdoms of life. Basically, there are:

  • 1. Weird Bacteria (that live at the bottom of the ocean, say)
  • 2. Not-so-weird Bacteria (that live in your mouth, say)
  • 3. Algae (but not the stuff fka blue-green algae. That's cyanobacteria. See 2.)
  • 4. Fungi (mushrooms, etc.)
  • 5. Plants (mosses, cacti, etc.)
  • 6. Animals (horse and rider above)
Keep in mind: Today, there are 6 Kingdoms. As we learn more about life, the universe, and everything, though, the number of Kingdoms may change (or things may be switched into a different Kingdom or Phylum, etc.). Because DNA sequencing has become relatively inexpensive, it's much easier to see what is related to what and who to whom. Bottom line: All living things share a common ancestor. Very cool!