June « 2011 « verdure
Sunday, June 26th, 2011

It’s been several years since I’ve been in Eastern Washington, and the first time that I’ve gotten to go on several outings with a good camera. Visiting in late May, it was a cool wet spring, with the rivers very high, in some places closing roads. The lilacs were only just starting, but there were so many other flowers already in bloom. Many of them I’d never identified before, although Mom knows many of their names.

First, from Mom’s garden, apple and blueberry:


antique blue

In or near Little Pend Oreille NWR

Serviceberry also make editable fruit.


Solomon’s Seal needs moist soil. It’s more common on the coast than inland.

solomon seal

Arrowleaf Balsamroot. I’ve always thought they were such cheerful flowers. They get fuller flowers and leaves on bright, arid hillsides.

arrowleaf balsamroot

Shooting star in front of a very full waterfall.

shooting star

Wild sweet William, a type of phlox.

sweet william

And in Turnbull NWR

Camas lilies, growing in fields in several places I visited.

camas lily

Douglas’ Brodiaea, another lily.

douglas' brodiaea

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Friday, June 10th, 2011

There are many types of desert. I think of the type of desert around Phoenix as the classic and one of the most beautiful kinds, with lots of sand and spiny cactus, brutally hot summers, and very little water. Aesthetically, it’s a pleasing contrast of stark and smoky, very different than pine, maple or oak forests. It also feels fundamentally inhospitable. That humans have chosen to congregate so numerously in such a place is a little bizarre to me. But, we dig wells, dam the entire Salt River back into a series of reservoirs and canals such that the the riverbed below the Granite Reef Diversion Dam is nearly always completely dry, and lay down a 336 mile/$3.6 billion canal across Arizona and call it an oasis.

It is nothing new that humans mold their environment to their wishes. It’s just sometimes to the detriment of their descendants. The cities in the Phoenix metropolitan area tout their excellent water access, while the reservoirs they depend on hover near drought restriction triggers.

This is all to get to a lovely park, Red Mountain Park, in the middle of Mesa, with an artificial lake, regularly re-stocked with fish, which draws all kinds of wildlife, both desert-adapted and those you can see all across the country.

I believe this is a zebra tailed lizard, one of many darting around.

I’m not sure of the flower, but the butterfly is a Sleepy Orange Sulphur.

Many of the older saguaros, the iconic cactus of the area, were also blooming. Saguaros are slow growing and long lived, taking “up to 75 years to develop a side arm.” However, “the spines on saguaro having a height less than 2 meters grow rapidly, up to a millimeter per day,” which would seem an important investment when you may be the only moisture supply around.

The major pollinators are bats, primarily the lesser long-nosed bat, feeding on the nectar from the night-blooming flowers, which often remain open in the morning. There are a number of floral characteristics geared toward bat pollination: nocturnal opening of the flowers, nocturnal maturation of pollen, very rich nectar, position high above the ground, durable blooms that can withstand a bat’s weight, and fragrance emitted at night. One additional evidence is that the amino acids in the pollen appear to help sustain lactation in bats. The flowers remain open into the daylight hours and continue to produce nectar after sunrise. Doves and bees appear to be the primary daytime pollinators.

The lake attracted domestic and Canadian geese, hummingbirds, pied-billed grebes, mallards, coots, cormorants and an assortment of flitty birds that don’t sit still for pictures.

Most of the wildlife seems pretty indifferent to nearby humans.

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