Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections on Sabino Creek

All Photos by Marty Horowitz  12/29/2013

Sabino Canyon beauty to start the year!

Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. This creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed.
-Robert Green Ingersoll

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Night, Saguaro

Photo by Marty Horowitz  12/15/2013

It's time again for me to take a break from this labor of love.
I'll be back on 1 January 2014.
Some stats:

  • 354 posts in 2013 (13 more than in 2012, no extra charge : -)
  • Hundreds of email subscribers now!! (I'm very happy about the plural!)
  • The most-viewed post in 2013

Thank you, dear readers, for making this another great year! Hundreds of thanks to the fantastic photographers, especially Ned Harris and Marty Horowitz! Without photos, this blog would be nothing but plant rants, and, although I'd probably still read what I wrote, it would be far less popular!

Make it a Super Solstice! Enjoy the great outdoors!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Golden Age

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/18/2013

Fremont Cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) and Goodding Willows (Salix gooddingii) (and other willow species) are bursting with golden goodness. Marty took these photos from the Bluff Trail. Head out soon to see these great colors!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Mallows

Photo by Fred Heath 12/11/2013

Photo by Fred, hand by Anne  12/11/2013

On Ned's Nature Walk, Fred showed us a number of Mallow family plants he had found by using Debbie's detailed notes. First up, Bladder Mallow (Herrisantia crispa) leaves (top photo) and dried fruit. Click on the link for photos of the flower.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 12/11/2013 (again, Anne's hand)

This is one of the four species of Indian Mallow (Abutilon) in the canyon; specifically Abutilon reventum. This plant was broken at the top, but is still growing. The leaves are large and very soft. Note the developing fruit next to the dried fruit I'm holding. This plant is in the riparian area above the dam, upstream, past the hummingbird feeder tree, but on the same side of the creek. Come out on one of Ned's Nature walks and we'll show you!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dances with Ducks

All Photos by Marty "Dances with Ducks" Horowitz 12/10/2013

The End

Thanks to Jean "Stands with Binoculars" Hengesbaugh for the identifying info on these female mallards.

The mallards with the orange bills with black markings are northern mallards, the ones with green-yellow bills are hybrids between northern mallards and mexican mallards. Hybrid birds can be hard to distinguish.

Monday, December 16, 2013

On the rocks

Photo by Rene of Dancing Snake Nature Photography

The Serpent Princess photographed this rushing water on the Bear Canyon Bridge.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blast from the past!

Phil Bentley took all of these gorgeous photos on the morning of December 12, 2007. He was on Sabino Mt Road, above the Sabino Canyon Rd and Snyder intersection. The first photo is looking east. Click all for larger views.

Thank you, Phil, for reminding me of my family's first December in Tucson!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two bears

Photo by Ned Harris 12/4/2013

On one of Ned's Nature Walks, Tucson-newcomer Lynne noticed Smokey Bear (as a cub) in the Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) along the road (heading into the canyon, shortly before the entrance to the Bluff trail, on the left). Click on the photo; look for the nose in the portion on the right. Note the right eye and ear as well.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 12/4/2013

The flat ones are called lenticular clouds. More info here. When you're out, look up! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Making Tracks

Photo by Ned Harris 11/20/2013

Insect tracks on leaves of a Sphaeralcea species. My guess is Caliche Globe Mallow (S. laxa); but please send me a correction. [I looked again on 12/11/2013 and found tracks on Fendler Globe Mallow (S. fendleri).]
I did a search on Margarethe's site and found this info. (Scroll down for the mallow-eating bugs.)

Make your own tracks to the 4th Avenue Street Fair December 13, 14, & 15 to see (and purchase) Margarethe's Art - she's booth 758. She also has works on display at Tohono Chul's main gallery.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Photo by Ned Harris 12/4/2013

Twin saguaros. And some info on how this happens.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Night moves

Big thanks to Alexa for hiking with her family on Blackett's Ridge in the evening - with flashlights - and for submitting these photos taken by her son Christoph. Beautiful colors.
Alexa has some art on display at Tohono Chul's entry gallery until December 15th - so hurry in!

Fotos von Christoph von Bieberstein

Monday, December 9, 2013

Two 'toes

Photos by Ned Harris 12/4/2013

There are two species of mistletoe in Sabino Canyon; both are members of the Sandalwood Family (Santalaceae) and both are hemi-parasites, i.e., they photosynthesize (so they aren't full parasites), but use another plants infrastructure to take in water and nutrients (that's the parasitic part).
Botan-nerd-y note: The genus Phoradendron comes from the Greek "phor" = thief and "dendron" = tree.
The species above is Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) and is most commonly noticed in Velvet Mesquite (Prosopsis velutina) trees.

We call this species Big-leaf Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum ssp. macrophyllum). Lyn spotted this one growing from a dead-looking Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina) in the area below the dam. Look for this species in other riparian trees like Goodding Willow (Salix gooddingii); Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii); and Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Well keeled

Photo by Ned Harris 11/27/2013

Also hanging around the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) above the dam are Keeled Tree Hoppers, both nymphs (mainly red) and adults (yellowish keel on their backs).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pollen gets sacked

Photo by Ned Harris 11/27/2013

A few hardy bees are out and about, especially around the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii). Click on the photo for a larger view that more clearly shows the pollen sacs. Especially prominent on the bee in the upper right, farthest from the flower.
Please spread the word to canyon visitors that this plant is toxic. Don't pick the flowers - any flowers, for that matter - and avoid contact with all parts of this plant.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Spike-Moss and Pincushion cactus
Photo by Ned Harris 11/27/2013

The recent rains are greening the spike-mosses (aka Resurrection Plants) in Sabino Canyon. There are two species: Arizona Spike-Moss (Selaginella arizonica) and Rock-loving Spike-Moss (Selaginella rupincola). Both can be found in abundance on the Bluff Trail.
Great map of the lower canyon trails here!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quarter-sized Lizard with Ants

Photo by Ned Harris 12/4/2013

With high temperatures in the 50s these days, you wouldn't expect to see many lizards. The smaller ones are more likely to be out, though, as they warm up more quickly (more surface area relative to volume).
On Ned's Nature Walk, William, a newcomer to Tucson, noticed the ant hill (bottom right of photo shows opening) and then the "moving stone." We had to get close to pick out this tiny Regal Horned Lizard, patiently waiting for lunch to crawl down from the hill.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our Pal Luke

Photos by Marty Horowitz 12/2/2013

female Phainopepla

Marty writes:

Thanks to Mark H for vectoring me to PAL aka Luke Phainopepla (top 2 photos), who has returned for yet another season. He was about 1/4 mile east of the visitor center in the mesquites between the Bear Canyon path and the corral area, cavorting with a couple of other male, while a female placidly observed.

Anne says: I first blogged this partially albino (also known as leucistic)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

World's smallest butterfly

Photo by Ned Harris 11/20/2013

Fred Heath identified this as a Western Pygmy Blue, the world's smallest butterfly. This flower (Camphor Weed  Heterotheca subaxillaris) was about the size of a dime, so I believe him!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Love Bugs!

Photo by The Serpent Princess

Photo by Ned Harris 11/20/2013

Bugs on Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), flower and top-most fruit, respectively. (The latter is tiny.) Thanks to Bill Kaufman for this article from the NYTimes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Outside is in!

Photo by Ned Harris 11/20/2013

Go out and see the Sabino scenes!