It’s another gray, rainy day, which gives me an excuse to wander the interwebs, checking on the names and habits of the little plants I found while wandering in the yard last month. OK, some are not so little.
With the right kind of encouragement, this Whitethorn Acacia (Acacia constricta) could probably be convinced to be a real tree-like tree. At this time of year, they’re covered with little yellow flower balls.
They’re a member of the pea family of plants (Fabaceae), and produce a narrow, reddish-brown pod-like fruit. And they really do have long white thorns that somehow don’t show up in these pictures. (Sneaky!) Before i noticed them in the yard (those spiny trees with tiny compound leaves all look alike, y’know), I used to see them around town and thought that if I didn’t have any, I should get some. I’m glad they’re here.
This next plant was a surprise, somehow. Maybe it’s the shape, or the color — it was just weirdly unexpected. This is Pima rhatany (Krameria grayi) or White rhatany.
And look at how pretty the flowers are:
See the spiky seed pods at the left of the picture. Those spikes are not as stiff as they look.
I’m also seeing this called ‘Rose and Painter’. The references say that it’s partially parasitic on the roots of creosote bushes, but not in my yard. I was hoping I’d have creosote bushes, but I’ve searched every corner of my property and found not a one. In fact, I know of only two in my whole neighborhood — which is odd, since they’re quite common in this part of Arizona. And they smell so good! I’m going to have to go buy a few…
In any case, there is rhatany in my yard, creosote-less, but healthy enough all the same.
While the summer monsoon drags on (it runs to the end of September), I let the yard go a bit in terms of “weeds”, just trying to pull off seed tops when I find them, but leaving the rest go. No sense trying to keep up — while there’s free water falling right out of the sky, there will be new weeds. And there comes a point when the red-rock surface of the yard gets overwhelmed.
I had trouble identifying this. That was my own fault, really, just a bit of a blind spot. Take a look at this close-up:
This flower looks so much like the scarlet spiderling I saw in March — that sticky, annoying weed. But that weed has dark, wine-colored flowers that grope along the ground, while this is light pink and stands upright. Finally, it occurred to me to look around at other members of the Boerhavia genus, and I found this one: Erect spiderling (Boerhavia erecta). Of course! Still sticky, tho. Yuck!
This last one is also growing where it was not invited, but I can’t call it a “weed” because it’s much too nice for that.
Guess what it is!
This was the hardest yet to identify, because this doesn’t look much like the ones in the reference pictures. It was so difficult that I eventually had to ask a human what it was! You have no idea how difficult it was for me to do that. Anyway, in the end, even they needed pictures of both the plant and the flowers — just one or the other picture wasn’t enough. Here are the flowers:
It’s Eastern Mojave Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). Did you guess?
Hurricane Odile just sent me my first squall, so there won’t be any garden action for a couple of days. In the meantime, let me show you what’s been going on out there.
So here you see wax beans at the lower right, green beans in the middle, a pepper plant at the very bottom, three caged tomatoes at the left, then sunflowers and cucumbers just outside the tomato cages.
July was not a big month for flowers this year, but I suspect that’s normal since July starts with intense light and heat and then proceeds directly to lightning, rain and high winds alternating with intense light and heat. Baby plants that pop up at the first sign of moisture are regularly beaten down and/or washed away every three days or so.
Vines do a little better, because they have some other plant to hold on to. In the shelter of the mesquites grows this little gem: Slender Janusia.
It doesn’t take long for the summer monsoon weather to get to me. It’s hot, it’s muggy, and a million weeds have taken over the front yard. It’s the “muggy” part that I hate most; I really prefer early June, when it’s hotter but the humidity is almost non-existent.
Out the back windows, where last month I saw a river of rainwater sluicing through the yard, there are now tall grasses — like an instant prairie. Where did all that come from? The white-tailed bucks have moved on, and now I have a single doe who grazes through the yard once or twice a day. I haven’t seen any javalinas for months, but the other ruminants are having a fine feast. Cottontails that, earlier this year, managed to squeeze themselves under the garden fence won’t fit through anymore, and that’s a fine thing. They hadn’t managed to get through the hardware cloth around the garden bed, and the buried chicken wire prevented them going under it (although they tried), so that much was a success.
Here’s a hare that would never have fit in or under the fence:
The summer monsoon started on schedule the first week of July, and it’s been a pretty good monsoon this year. The NWS has my neighborhood marked at 4.88″ of rain over the last two months, and although it’s slowing down some, there may be a couple more storms before it’s finished.
Between showers, the sage bushes put on another good show.
Many, if not most, inland cities grew up around some kind of water feature — a lake, a river, maybe a spring or even an ancient well. And in many of those cities, especially in the north, the local water feature freezes up in winter, temporarily disrupting water-bourne transport but providing some ice-related entertainments too. Then after the winter has passed, the city might have a nice local celebration when the ice finally breaks up for the season.
Here in Southern Arizona, our local water features work differently, in that we don’t generally keep water in them.