Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Grow where you land

Photo copyright Gene Spesard 4/27/2016

A small prickly pear cactus growing in the crook of a branch of an old Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) (yes, it's a pea) in the riparian area above the dam reminds us to make the best of our circumstances. And to be thankful for prepositional phrases!

Monday, May 30, 2016


Photo copyright Gene Spesard 4/27/2016

Female Anna's Hummingbird attempting to nectar on Fendler Globemallow (Sphaeralcea fendleri).

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ned Harris's Hawks

On his way to Sabino, Ned caught these Harris's Hawks in action.
All photos copyright Ned Harris, 5/5/2016

Spend a happy hour at Ned's flickr site with more great photos!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Now for some lizards!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/27/2016

Photo by Ned Harris 4/27/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/20/2016

Photo by Dan Weisz 4/13/2016

Photo by Marty Horowitz 4/28/2016
Gila Monster with healthy fat tail. Looks pretty healthy all over, actually!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Now for some plants!

Photo (c) Gene Spesard 3/30/2016

When we took the Esperero Trail on one of the Ned-less Nature Walks, we encountered this new (for me) plant. Thanks to Jim for the i.d.! Linear-leaved Cambess (Oligomeris linifolia). Note the square opening on the fruits.

Photo (c) Tom Trebisky 

Photo (c) Tom Trebisky

Range Ratany (Krameria erecta) is often overlooked. Fruit (on the left) is a spiky little ball.

Photo by Marty Horowitz 5/1/2016

Rough Menodora (Menodora scabra) is in the Olive Family (Oleaceae). Note the little balls on the lower left. Those are the fruits.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Damsels and Dragons

All photos copyright Marty Horowitz

If you're interested in dragon- and damselflies, Fred recommends this newish guide:





Flameskimmer, female



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Family Portrait

Photo (c) Gene Spesard 4/27/2016

On the last Ned's Nature Walk of the season, we again inspected the growing Paper Wasps and their nest. The adults (have wings ; -) are tending the larvae. (Click on the photo for a better look.) In the top row of the nest, there are eggs in both chambers on the left and right. In the middle two chambers are relatively newly hatched larvae. In the row below, there are larvae of various sizes. In the dome-covered chambers are the pupae. When they emerge, they'll be adults - with wings!
Be sure to check out this artists' nest, link courtesy of Lyn Hart.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Family Feud: Mallow vs. Nightshade

Is it a Mallow or is it a Nightshade? (Review the 3 Fs for the Mallow Family here.) Answers in tomorrow's post!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Two Tobaccos

There are two species of tobacco (Nicotiana) in Sabino, one native and one non-native invasive. Yes, we're trying to get rid of that one. 

Photos © Ned Harris

Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia) is the native one. It's got typical Nightshade foliage and flowers, but the fruits are those brown things on the far left. When they are ripe, you can shake the tiny dark brown seeds right out. Do not eat, smoke, or otherwise ingest.

Photos Flowers © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey
Fruits, Seeds © Ned Harris

Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) has the same Nightshade features as Desert Tobacco, but is a non-native and invasive plant. We're removing it whenever we see it in Sabino. It likes - and takes - more water than desert plants. When left to its own devices, it really can grow tree sized. Note the fruit and seeds in the hand of your favorite highly trained naturalist. Again, do not eat, smoke, snort, or otherwise take internally.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


There are several species of Wolfberry (Lycium) in Sabino. They look similar enough - and we're grouping by family, anyway, so we won't quibble about the species. The Wolfberry plant is somewhat atypical for the Nightshade family. It's more of a bush, almost a tree sometimes. The foliage is very different; the flowers are tiny, but still have 5 fused petals. The fruit looks like a mini-tomato and is edible. As always, though, don't eat anything in Sabino.

Photo credits: clockwise from top left: © Fred Heath, Ned Harris, Matt Ball, Tohono Chul

Friday, May 20, 2016

Two called Nightshade

Photos © Carol Tornow; © Gene Spesard

Douglas Nightshade has very tomato-like flowers with - you guessed it - 5 fused petals. Don't eat the fruits, though.

Photo credits: Flower, top fruit: © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey;
fruits: © 1966 - Present, Audrey, Eve, & George DeLange

Silverleaf Nightshade is more commonly seen. Purple flowers are pretty, fruits look like mini-tomatoes. Again, though, keep kids, pets, tourists, pet-tourists away from these plants. The fruits are particularly tempting to young children, as they are within reach.
Note the 3 Fs for Nightshades: relatively large foliage, 5-fused petaled flowers, tomato-like fruits.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Two Daturas

All photos copyright Ned Harris

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) is a very common plant in Sabino Canyon. It likes a little more water than your average desert plant; it's particularly prevalent along the creek. The flowers are very much like trumpets - large and loud! I've caught visitors picking these in Sabino (alas, I didn't have my guillotine at the ready) and have informed them that the entire plant is toxic, touching it can cause a rash in susceptible people. Fruits are spiky and golf ball sized (sometimes larger). The seeds inside are particularly nasty. Do not eat. (But do give to visitors who pick the flowers.) (Just kidding.)
Do not hold, fold, smoke rolled, or give to tourists bold.

Photo credits: Flower © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey
fruits: Marty Horowitz, Ned Harris

Desert Thorn Apple (Datura discolor) flowers are generally smaller that those of Sacred Datura; they always have purple in the throat. (See the flower above.) Note also the five fused petals. Equally toxic, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Photo credit: Native Plant Society of Texas

This poor plant also has the common name Dingy Nightshade. Note the relatively large leaves (for a desert plant) and the five fused petals. I couldn't find a good photo of the fruit (the thing with the seeds); if you have one, though, please send it to me. Do not eat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Now for some Nightshades!

Tomato, eggplant, potato - all are members of the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Not all Nightshades are edible, though. Some are downright nasty. 
As with anything you find outside, don't eat unless you know for sure what it is, And don't take Paul's word for it; he tries everything!

Although tomatoes aren't normally found in Sabino Canyon, Patricia and I noticed this plant while on the lizard walk of 6/15/2010. My Honey-Matt took the photo on 7/3/2010 (and I used it as part of the first ever post on this blog, 7/4/2010). It was located in a nice picnic spot by the dam. Seed from a slice on a sandwich, perhaps?

You know the drill! Note that the flowers have fused petals, i.e., you can't pluck one individually.
Tomorrow, a plant called Hairy Five Eyes! (Yes, a Nightshade.)

Monday, May 16, 2016


The color of the flowers of individual Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) plants is variable (hence the species name: versicolor : -) Marty Horowitz photographed some beauties on 4/10 and 4/20/2016.

All photos by Marty Horowitz

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Putting some skin in the game

Photo © Dan Weisz 4/13/2016

Zebra-tailed Lizard with flakes

Photo © Dan Weisz 4/13/2016

Click on photo for closer view! Don't try this at home : -)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Blast of Asters Past

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

Narrow-leaf Aster (Dieteria asteroides

This was a new plant for many of us on the nature walk in March. Always exciting!

Photo by Marty Horowitz 3/30/2016

Spiny Goldenweed (Xanthisma spinulosum)

This was a new plant for all of us - and there was only one in the area. (Thanks, Fred, for providing the id.) Unfortunately, when we went back to look at it the next week, some idiot(s) had destroyed the entire plant! Grrr...

Friday, May 13, 2016


Photo © Marty Horowitz 4/10/2016
Cactus Wren calling

Photo © Marty Horowitz 4/10/2016
Cooper's Hawk peering

Photo © Dan Weisz 4/13/2016
Roadrunner strutting

Photo © Dan Weisz 4/13/2016

And bonus birds: Awesome owl photos

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Three Globes

Photo credits: Orange, fruit Ned Harris;
pink, white © 1966 - Present, Audrey, Eve, & George DeLange

Desert Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua var. rosacea) flowers are pink, orange, white, and even red. Same color flowers on individual plants, though.

Photo credits: left © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey
Ned Harris, Marty Horowitz

Caliche Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea laxa) is very common in Tucson. As the name suggests, it grows well in our hard-as-rock caliche soil. Flowers of this species are always orange. You can tell the difference between this and orange Desert Globe Mallow by looking at the stamens (male parts) that stick up in the middle. Dark ones mean Caliche Globe Mallow. Yellow, Desert.

Left © 2016 T. Beth Kinsey; Rt. Marty Horowitz

I've only seen Fendler Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea fendleri) flowers in shades of pink in Sabino, but they can also be orange. You can tell them apart from the other Globe Mallows by looking at the petals. They are generally more heart shaped, and tend to open fully, like the photo on the left.

To conclude our little Mallow lesson, let's review the 3 Fs.
Foliage: slimy when crushed
Flower: 5 separate petals
Fruit: multiple chambers

And, because we always want to know which plants of this family can be eaten, I give you Okra (not found in Sabino).

A big thanks to T. Beth Kinsey of Firefly Forest fame. Her site, Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Plants, inspired me on my plant journey, and I'm eternally grateful.