Posts Tagged ‘Mara Kack’

  • Plant of the Month: Pineywoods Geranium

    Aug 5, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack The simple leaves of the Pineywoods Geranium (Geranium caespitosum) begin to add small splashes of green to our Ponderosa Forest floor during late spring. The five finger-like extensions of each deeply lobed leaf also adds soft texture as each emerges from the duff of pine needles and oak leaves. Through the dry summer months, this perennial forb continues to mature, sending up delicate stems with scattered leaves that can reach up past your knees. As moisture settles on the landscape, the pineywoods geranium responds by putting forth small but intricate pinkish-purple flowers. Each half-inch flower is composed of a central stand of stamens  that enclose the base of the pistol and then protrude off the top like a miniature fireworks display. This display is accentuated by streaks of dark purple veins that extend from the base to the tip of each petal. When you stop to smell these flowers you may be slightly disappointed, but if you take the time to reach out and investigate the leaves your senses will be stimulated. Similar to other members of the geranium family leaves are scented with a robust, earthy fragrance with a hit of lemon and spice when crushed. The delicacy of the Pineywoods Geranium can also be enjoyed along Riparian systems and up through Montaine Conifer Forests. As monsoons soak the landscape, white flowers of Western Yarrow, White

  • Plant of the Month: Pinyon Pines

    Jul 1, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Bill Perry One of the pricier ingredients in the foodie universe, but essential to a good pesto, is a handful of pine nuts (pignolias). They usually arrive in little plastic bags from China or the Mediterranean. But if you grew up around here, you may know that, with work, you can also get them from our two local Pinyon pines (Pinus edulis and P. monophylla). And we aren’t the only species that eats pine nuts. Many animals rely on them for actual survival. Even more interesting, the pine trees themselves, to thrive in this environment, rely not only on the hunger of the Western Scrub-jay, but its forgetfulness as well. To prevent competition between parents and offspring, nature creates the imperative to spread new progeny as widely as possible. This is a relatively easy task for animals, which have legs, fins and wings to take them away from their origins. For plants, which are mainly rooted and sedentary, though, scattering is a more challenging problem. Still, it’s been solved in a wide variety of ways called “dispersal mechanisms.” Wind is an efficient dispersal mechanism, wafting specialized seeds like cottonwoods and dandelions often miles from home. Other species rely on furry mammals to encounter clinging seeds which, like Velcro, stick to the animal and ride to some new distant turf. Still other seeds get the less scenic route of passing

  • Plant of the Month: Fleabane Daisy

    May 6, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack The small, herbaceous sprouts of fuzzy leaves of the Fleabane Daisy (Erigeron flagellaris) endure the winter by lying patiently beneath frost and snow. As the ground warms with longer days, these small sprouts seemingly multiply as additional new leaves break through the winter earth. Each plant develops long leafy runners; these specialized stems spread across the surface of the soil, depositing new individuals along the way, amassing them into a matted community that softens the soil with green. Next come flower stalks that shoot skyward and are topped with purplish pink buds that bob like pompoms at the slightest breeze. The buds open into a vividly white daisy with a vibrant yellow center. These intricate flowers develop from each plant transforming the soft green mat into a lovely display. Fleabane Daisy is in the sunflower or “composite” family, and like their relatives each daisy-like flower is actually a conglomerates of two types of very tiny flowers. What appears as one daisy is actually an inflorescence that is composed of the disc corollas (collectively making up the yellow center) and ray florets (making up the “petals”). Each Daisy has hundreds of yellow disc corollas and 40 to 125 narrow white ray florets. In this arrangement, the ray florets act as guides for insects to the central disc corollas, where pollination and seed development occur. The relatively broad disc

  • Plant of the Month: Palmer’s Penstemon

    Apr 1, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack Palmer’s Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is delightful. The white to pink flowers are in clusters on tall, upright flower stalks. The individual flowers are large-mouthed with two upper lobes and three magenta-lined lower lobes that curve downward. Flower spikes can be 4-5 feet in height and bear many flowers. Have you noticed tall spikes of white to pink flowers in April or May along roadsides? Most likely, you saw Palmer’s Penstemon. If you sniff a flower, you’ll be rewarded with an exquisite rose-like fragrance. This explains another common name, scented penstemon. Flowers of Palmer’s Penstemon attract hummingbirds, bumblebees, carpenter bees, and digger bees. Flower visitors like hummingbirds who collect nectar are usually better for a flower’s health, because no pollen is consumed. Hummingbirds forage for nectar and inadvertently transfer pollen from one flower to another on their foreheads. Some floral visitors, like bumblebees, actively collect pollen to feed to their developing young. Balls of pollen are often visible on the legs of foraging bumblebees. This pollen is a loss to the flowers Penstemons generally have four stamens but some have a fifth, sterile stamen, called the staminode. The staminode is larger than the fertile stamens and frequently bears bristles on the upper surface of its distal end, therefore another common name, beardtongue. The staminode is thought to play a role in pollination. Palmer’s Penstemon is a drought-tolerant plant

  • Plant of the Month: Three-leaf Sumac

    Mar 4, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack With longer days and increasing temperatures comes the anticipation of spring flowers. There are many factors affecting the emergence of flowers including day-length, but temperature and moisture play critical roles as well. In some years, spring starts as early as January, while in others, a long, cold spell pushes many plants’ response to late April. However, there are some early bloomers that are less affected by harsh winds and freezing nights. Rhus trilobata is one of many plants adapted with an early emerging flower. These common deciduous shrubs, also known as “Lemonade Berry Bush” or “Three-leaf Sumac,” among other names, can be found in the Prescott area, specifically the Chaparral and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland ecosystems. These shrubs start the spring as inconspicuous deciduous plants — only the most attentive eye catches the start of the Rhus’ yearly display. First, the newly grown branch tips become coated in fine yellowish trichomes (hairs); but it is best not to touch it. Those trichomes’ function as a deterrent, and you might find yourself with a bit of an itch. At the tip of each of these stems, deep-red flower buds form prior to the development of any leaves. Slowly, the fragrant yellow flowers emerge in small clusters. With the right conditions, wet and warm, the Lemonade Berry Bush doesn’t stay inconspicuous for long, and flowers continue to develop until each stem

  • Plant of the Month: Manzanitas

    Feb 5, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Nichole Trushell Arguably, some of the most beautiful shrubs in our Central Arizona Highlands are the Manzanitas. The name refers to the tiny apple-like fruit of these plants; in Spanish “Manzanita” translates to “little apple.” Our two lovely species are unique to the southwest’s Central Highlands region. Manzanitas are members of the interior chaparral plant community and are also found as understory in our woodlands and forests. “Chaparral” refers to the thick short-statured community of plants found on warm, sunny hillsides. Plants often grow so dense it is impenetrable for us, but this species rich community provides excellent cover and food for wildlife. Pointleaf and the Pringle Manzanita are our local species. An easy way to tell them apart is that Pointleaf has leathery, shiny leavers and Pringle have fine hairs, making the color gray-green. Pringle Manzanita also grows to a greater stature with a sturdy trunk. Large, dramatic specimens can be found in the hills around Prescott. Pointleaf Manzanitas give us the first glimpse of spring. They may flower as early as January. Why flower in winter? Early winter brings warm days in the Highlands, warm enough for small pollinators to emerge. The closed, pendulous, bell-shaped flowers encourage some insect pollinators and discourage others. If you stay and watch carefully, you may see some tiny visitors coming and going. Pollination studies have shown that more than 40 different

  • Plant of the Month: Moss

    Jan 1, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack Walk in the forest after a rain, and you’ll find the emerald green of mosses. They may seem out of place here in our dry southwest, but mosses are widely distributed from pole to pole and can be found in a variety of habitats. They are members of the most primitive group of plants, the Bryophytes (one of the two divisions of the plant kingdom). Bryophytes, unlike other members of their kingdom, don’t have vascular systems for carrying water and nutrients. They don’t have true leaves, true stems, or true roots. Mosses are composed of hair-thin, substrate-hugging structures that grow in large masses. Locally our most common mosses form soft clusters found hidden on the north slopes, among branches of trees, and tucked in fallen leaves. Lacking a vascular system, mosses cannot absorb water from the soil or air when moisture concentration is lower than their own structure. As such, mosses are only active when their surrounding environment provides proper moisture. In any season, when the moisture is right, mosses come out of dormancy to grow or complete their unique reproductive cycle. Moss life cycles are also unlike “higher” vascular plants. The hair-thin individuals that group to form the vibrant green beds are actually haploid organisms. In all other organisms, including vascular plants and mammals, only sex cells are haploid — these join to generate the diploid

  • Plant of the Month: Oaks

    Oct 2, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the Month1,938 CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack Think of a tree. What comes to mind? A simple image of a tall plant with a trunk and branches? Maybe one that you climbed as a kid, or one that you look at on your morning walk each day? Now think of an oak tree. Does your image change? Maybe now the branches of your tree are twisted … and bumpy … and there are acorns peaking from beneath the leaves. At least 400 species of oaks have been named in North America, and more than 20 species within Arizona (not including subspecies or varieties). Depending on where you call home, oaks take many different forms. Some landscapes are decorated with impressive oaks that dominate the horizon and others with oaks that take a more patient eye to appreciate, not growing past one’s waist. All forms occur within the Central Highlands of Arizona, with the most common around the Prescott area being Emory Oak (Quercus emoryi), Arizona White Oak (Q. arizonica), Scrub Oak (Quercus turbinella), and Gambel Oak (Q. gambelii). The leaves and bark are the initial structures to look at when trying to identify an oak (though for true identification the growth habit, flowers, fruits, elevation, and community are also crucial). For example, the Arizona White Oak has soft margined, fuzzy white leaves spreading off the light gray, rough bark, while the Emory Oak has

  • Plant of the Month: Bouteloua

    Sep 4, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the Month2,279 CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Kack After some blistering heat and mystifying thunderstorms, new variety and color has sprung up in our ecosystem. Within the calming blue of the Birdbill Dayflower (Commelina dianthifolia) and the brilliant yellow of the Common Sunflower (Helianthus annus) there is a hidden gem, Bouteloua. Like most grasses, Boutelouas are an abundant species, and within the Prescott area they are easily overlooked. Commonly known are Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis), Sideoats Grama Grass (Bouteloua curtipendula), and Black Grama Grass (Bouteloua eriopoda). Starting in spring, these perennial grasses cover our hillsides in a display of soft purple and green. As the spring heats up into summer, the leaves dry a bit and cover the landscape with a yellow tone. Through August and September rain brings color to the leaves again along with intricate flowers. Sideoats Grama sends up long flowering stalks with many spikelets (the flower structure of a grass which consists of many little flowers called florets) lined up all to one side. Blue Grama displays spikelets in an interesting way reminiscent of delicate eyelashes fluttering for attention. The magnificence comes when each floret ripens, displaying spikelets with linings of silver hairs surrounding gold, purple, and green. The florets then open to display a light yellow anther, fresh with pollen to give to the wind. The next time you’re packing for a hike, grab a hand lens or a

  • Pink Perezia

    Jul 3, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the Month1 CommentRead More »

    By Mara Kack Imagine hiking through the open grassy meadows that line Arizona’s glorious canyons and diverse Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands. It’s early, but the July heat is imminent. The temperatures rise as time passes and the warm air carries tantalizing aromas. Pause and find a particular scent to follow. It’s pungent but honey sweet, and it’ll lead you to the Pink Perezia. Pink Perezia, Brownfoot, Wright’s desertpeony, Acourtia wrightii — this plant, by any name, hides its beauty from those who quickly pass by. This bushy, forbaceous perennial grows a little over a foot tall. In the spring, bright green stems develop large wavy leaves that have finely toothed edges. Then summer brings massed clusters of light purplish-pink complex flowers. From afar the fragrant flowers may get lost in the landscape but step close and one will find that these massed clusters are actually clusters of flowers. Pink Perezia is in the sunflower (Asteraceae) family, and like Thistles, Sunflowers, and Dasies, has composite flowers (i.e. each flower head holds multiple florets which are individual flowers within the composite). As time passes, bees and butterflies and pollinators drink their fill of nectar, each floret develops pappi (fine hairs) on the tips of each seed. The clusters of colorful composite flowers transforms into a glittery display. The hot winds that once carried the flowers’ sugary smell disperses the seeds across the landscape. *****

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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