Saguaro Cactus – Slow Growing Giants

Plant Profile
Common Name: Saguaro Cactus
Scientific Name: Carnegiea gigantea
Native to: Sonoran desert – limited to southern Arizona
Growth: all growth occurs at the tip of the cactus. The rate of growth is very slow.
Under natural conditions it may take 20 years to attain one foot in height. By age 50 it could be seven feet tall. By age 100 it could be 25 feet tall. It usually starts to grow arms between 50 to 100 years of age (average 70), and it may live for 200 years or more
Blooms: first blooms between 40 and 75 (average 55) years old.
Comment: Some saguaros have dozens of arms, while others never produce arms. Growth rate, size and number of arms are likely affected by the amount of moisture.

2 ft (61 cm) tall
Saguaro Cactus – 2 ft (61 cm) tall
Saguaro Cactus – low, mid and upper arms
Saguaro Cactus – more arms than you can count!
blooms
Saguaro Cactus buds and bloom

Superstition Mountains
Saguaro Cactus near the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

Greenery of Arizona

You might not think of the word ‘green’ when you think of Arizona – but the State is more than just desert with a few cactus!

Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens is a showcase of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. This Dale Chihuly Glass Sculpture– Desert Towers welcomes visitors. It was installed as the entry-point to Chihuly’s first Desert Botanical exhibition in 2008. The installation was purchased by the Garden as a legacy to the exhibition.

Greater Phoenix ArizonaEast of Phoenix are the Superstition Mountains. In the spring, they sport a coat of green, sprinkled with bursts of color when the desert plants bloom. The mountains rise steeply to an elevation of 5,024 feet, and are characterized by sheer-sided, jagged, volcanic peaks and ridges.
Tonto National ForestNorth and east of Phoenix is the Water Users Recreation Site on the Salt River in Tonto National Forest. The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres, is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States.
green water St. Patrick's DayNorth of Phoenix is the community of Fountain Hills. At noon on St. Patrick’s Day, the water of the Fountain Hills Fountain is tinted green, and when it is turned on, it shoots to the maximum height of 560 feet. Normally the height of the fountain  is limited to 330 feet. It runs for 15 minutes at the top of each hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week!
green water St. Patrick's Day

Winter in ‘Zona is springtime
Spring is summer askew
Summer is torturous hellfire
Autumn is summer part II
– Terri Guillemets, “Spring sun,” 1993 –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is It IS Easy Being Green!

Ocotillo – Prickly but I Wish Mine Would Grow Leaves

Arizona

There are plants on the Arizona hillsides that look like bunches of spiny crooked dead sticks. They are the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). The photo above is of my plants. They are leafless.
ArizonaSmall 2 inch leaves will grow from the stems when there is enough moisture. They may lose these leaves, and then sprout new ones, five to eight times a year. Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the stems from March through June. Here in our Arizona neighbourhood, most of the Ocotillos have leafed out, and many have started to bloom.

Arizona

I wish my ocotillo would grow leaves and bloom too!  Maybe those tiny reddish brown buds are the first signs of life…

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Wish.

Great Horned Owl in Arizona

For the past few weeks we have been serenaded by several Great Horned Owls. Their calls, a series of deep hoots (who-who-ah-whoo, who-ah-whoo) break the silence of the late evening or early morning. It is always too dark to see it, or take pictures.

Today, however, owl starting hooting before sundown. It sounded very close. I scanned the nearby tree, and finally spotted it. Unfortunately, owl was mostly hidden by a veil of willowy leaves. I didn’t want to scare ‘my’ owl away, so I slowly worked my way along the back of our house, well away from the tree. I tried to be quiet, but it is almost impossible to walk quietly on gravel – crunch, crunch, crunch.

89-great-horned-owl-1

Owl didn’t budge. When I had reached the optimum location, I was able to take a few good photos.

89-great-horned-owl-2

Then I crunch, crunch, crunched my way back across the yard and into the house. Hope this is the first of many more owl encounters, and the last of the rodents who burrow under the prickly pear cactus patch.

The Feather Files
Name: Great Horned Owl
Species: Bubo virginianus
Native to and Migration: Found all across North America up to the northern tree line; no regular migration – individuals may wander long distances in fall and winter, sometimes moving southward.
Date Seen: February, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Against the Odds.

Monarch Butterfly – a Magic Migration

We’ve had Monarch butterflies in our Arizona yard recently. They may be migrating south to Mexico, north-west to California or they may overwinter here if the conditions are favourable.

67-monarch2

The Monarch’s Southern fall migration is made by a single butterfly that will live for 6 to 8 months. The Northern spring migration will take multiple generations of butterflies. These butterflies live only 2 to 6 weeks – a lot of their energy goes into producing the next generation of butterflies and migrating north.

Scientists believe that the Monarch butterflies navigate by using an internal Sun compass. They use the time of day and the sun’s position on the horizon to find their way.

I think that is wonderfully magical, because I sometimes have trouble navigating out of the parking lot of the big mall…

The Flutter Files
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Common Name: Monarch Butterfly
Migration: In Summer from as far north as Southern Canada to wintering grounds in Southern California or Mexico.
Date Seen: November 14, 2016
Location: Central Arizona

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Magic.

Northern Cardinal – Dancing in the Sprinkler

This past spring, my Blue Potato Bush needed a good watering, so I turned on the sprinkler.

21-cardinal-female4

This piqued the interest of a female Northern Cardinal that was lunching on the seeds of a nearby Gopher Plant.

21-cardinal-female1

It didn’t take her long to decide this source of H2O was perfect for showering. She flew into the Potato bush, sat on a branch under the spray and was soon thoroughly drenched.

Then she flew up to the fence for a few moments of sunny warmth…

… then back down into the spray again!

A male Northern Cardinal is also a frequent visitor to our yard, though he hasn’t shown any interest when I turn on the ‘shower’!

The Feather Files
Name: Northern Cardinal
Species: Cardinalis cardinalis
Native to and Migration: Cardinals don’t migrate. They can be found in eastern and central North America from southern Canada into parts of Mexico and Central America. They have been introduced into California, Hawaii and Bermuda.
Date Seen: April 3, 2016
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona, USA

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is H2O.

Great Blue Heron – At the Edge of the Water in Arizona

The Feather Files
Alias: Great Blue Heron
Name: Ardea herodias
Native to and Migration: Partial – birds leave the northern edge of their breeding range to fly as far south as the Caribbean. Birds in the Pacific Northwest and south Florida are present year-round.
Date Seen: April 14, 2014
Location: Sun Lakes, Chandler, Arizona, USA

19-great-blue-heron1

19-great-blue-heron2

19-great-blue-heron3

19-great-blue-heron4

Great Blue Herons are regular visitors to the man made lakes of Sun Lakes in Chandler, Arizona.

I’ve chosen these four photos to submit to the WordPress Photo Challenge of Frame

Picket Post Mansion, Arizona

548-picket-post-mansion

Picket Post Mansion, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona, USA

– Picket Post Mansion, also known as the ‘Castle on the Rocks,’ was built by Colonel William B. Thompson
– Construction began in 1923, it took 14 months to complete and the estimated cost was $20,000
– The Colonel founded the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and donated his house and the surrounding property to the Arboretum in 1928. The Colonel passed away in 1930.
– When it became a financial burden to the Arboretum, the Mansion was sold in 1946 to Walter and Ida Franklin of Globe for $40,000. They operated it as a bed and breakfast.
– The Building changed hands again and was eventually acquired by Rick and Tina Rose who gave tours.
– On July 15, 2008, Arizona State Parks purchased the property to make the Arboretum whole again.

Bobcats and Cottontail Rabbits in Arizona

Arizona
In my Arizona back yard – a Cottontail Rabbit

Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”
― A.A. Milne –

Also in Arizona, in a neighbour’s front yard – a Bobcat

Please tell me you did not just say, “Here Kitty Kitty…”

Any wildlife visitors in your yard lately?