Posts Tagged ‘Plant of the Month’

  • Plant of the Month: Arizona Cypress

    Dec 1, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Trushell Cupressus arizonica (Arizona cypress) is the only native species of cypress in the United States and is an indicator of past environmental conditions. This relatively fast-growing, large tree is a common addition to urban landscapes (as wind breaks, erosion control, and landscape ornamentals) and can be spotted throughout the Southwest. Native populations, however, are sparse within Arizona. For example, there is a beautiful and dense population on the south side of Arizona 260 as you travel through the canyons between Payson and Pine. Stemming from the interior of Mexico, native Cupressus arizonica populations are scattered through the sky islands of southern Arizona and continue throughout the Prescott, Tonto, and Coconino National forests. These populations are tucked in drainages and sheltered mountain slopes from 3,000-7,500 feet with varying growth-forms influenced by the immediate environment. Cupressus arizonica has been documented to grow anywhere from 15 to 90 feet tall. Their form begins as conical but diverges to broad and variable with age. Fragrant (when crushed), scale-like needles that are gray to blue-green spread across dense branches. This monecious species (males and female reproductive parts occur on separate individuals) have been recorded with male and/or female cone development from November to March. The female cones are relatively large (10-25 mm) and resin-covered, each consisting of four to eight scales that hold and protect seeds until dispersed. Male cones are inconspicuous

  • Plant of the Month: Wright’s Silktassel

    Nov 3, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By David Moll People seem to really like Wright’s Silktassel. They seem to like it primarily because it’s an evergreen shrub, its broad, leathery leaves lending rich green color to winter landscapes. It also happens to be a useful illustration of botanical phenomena. That attractive foliage is a clear example of plants that have leaves paired opposite one another on the branch. Other plants have an alternating or a whorled leaf arrangement. Furthermore, Wright’s Silktassel’s opposite leaves are set at horizontal right angles from the leaves at the preceding and following nodes. The fancy name for this phenomenon is decussation and leaf arrangements exhibiting it are called decussate. This is the most common formation among vascular plants. Leaf arrangement is a good thing to notice in our botanical explorations. Wright’s Silktassel is also an example of plants that have boy flowers and girl flowers on separate plants. This opens the topic of plant sexuality and can help us understand what we’re seeing when we investigate the plants we find in the field. We may be most familiar with flowers that have boys (stamens) and girls (pistils) on the same flower, but boys and girls can be on separate flowers, separate plants, or some mix. Let’s not forget vegetative reproduction which begs the evolutionary question of why sex at all. If fertilized, those girl flowers will mature into a dark blue,

  • Plant(s & friends) of the Month

    Oct 6, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    Photos by Mara Trushell

  • Plant of the Month: Spotted Knapweed

    Sep 1, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Trushell Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii, synonym Centaurea maculosa) commonly grows as a biennial forb, beginning its cycle merely as a basal rosette. During the second year, the plant develops into a widely branching forb topped with vibrant purple flowers. Spotted Knapweed is a composite, meaning each seemingly single flower is actually a cluster of multiple flowers. The cluster is held by unique bracts that are each lined with narrow, teeth-like projections and come to darkened points. The points arrange into a visually stimulating, checkered pattern that circulate the visual pathway around the flower cluster. These intricate knapweed flowers attract a variety of pollinators from June through October and occur within the majority of Arizona’s plant communities. Spotted Knapweed is native to Eastern Europe and, along with several additional species, have become well established in a wide range of plant and biotic communities, not only in Arizona but across the United States. In several biotic communities, including grassland and prairie, knapweed species have taken over large swaths of land, diminishing species diversity and even generating monocultures. Centaurea species are on many state’s Noxious Weed Lists and Invasive Species Management Lists. In Arizona, seven species are listed, including Centaurea biebersteinii. Research shows that a key component to the success of the species are the chemicals they release from their roots. This chemical not only assists the plants in absorbing nutrients,

  • Plant of the Month: Birdbill Dayflower

    Jul 25, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Trushell The Birdbill Dayflower (Commelina dianthifolia) remains underground living as tuberous roots for much of the year. The beauty of this dayflower may only be enjoyed after the monsoon thunderstorms saturate grassy openings and meadows within woodlands and conifer forests from 4,000-9,000 feet. By late July, relatively long, linear leaves grow alternately up thin stems that are topped with a large spathe (folded sheathing bract); this is the “bird bill.” Beginning in August, during the cool morning hours, a single flower at a time emerges from the spathe. These flowers are comprised of three unique petals: two equal petals sit above a slightly smaller petal. Each is thin at its base, but then fans into delicate but wide vibrant blue petals; these just barely touch. In the center of the trio the stigma extends just beyond the vibrant yellow stamens which are set on filaments that are a deeper blue than the petals themselves. The display is complete when light catches the purple edges or stripes of the vibrant green spathe from which the flower emerged. By the hot afternoon, this single flower often wilts, hopefully only after successful pollination, and the next day a new flower opens. This display continues through September. Then, once again, the Birdbill Dayflower reduces to its underground tubers until the next summer. [Author’s Note: Birdbill Dayflower is one of two common representatives

  • Plant of the Month: Scarlet Beeblossom

    Jun 30, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By David Moll I have a personal connection with Scarlet Beeblossom. Long ago, I received instruction in botany. Afterward, I was on my own. One day, I noticed a wildly unfamiliar-looking flowering plant around the driveway. From a distance, the flowers of this plant were so unrecognizable that I had no idea where my investigation would take me. I took a closer look and was surprised, not by novel discovery, but by familiar recognition. We may recognize a willow tree just by looking at its general appearance — though there are look-a- likes. When it come to the more numerous herbs (and sometimes shrubs), the presence of a flower is going to get us further down the road of identification than using the vegetational clues. Flowers, the number and arrangement of their parts, are the pivotal characteristic for identifying flowering plants in the field. Scarlet Beebossom is a nice example of variation within a plant family (and now even within a genus). One of the categories of flower part arrangement is symmetry. The most common types of flower symmetry are radial and bilateral. If a flower can be bisected through its center by two or more planes and show symmetry, it’s called radially symmetrical; imagine a thistle flower. If a flower shows symmetry with one and only one bisection, it’s called bilaterally symmetrical; think Penstemon. The mystery flower along the

  • Plant of the Month: Cacti

    Jun 2, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Nichole Trushell Ah, June. As a child of the Southwest, I love the warm, sunny weather, and yet each year I also brace for this month of extremes. In June, the warmest temperatures and the least precipitation meet, leaving life around us struggling to persevere until the humidity and precipitation of our summer monsoons arrive. However, one family of plants do not share my concerns — the Cactaceae, or cactus family. Some of their survival stories are well known, some of their stories are misrepresented. In any case, cacti are fascinating. The stems of cacti do indeed store water. However, there is no cactus which you can cut open and find a drink. Water is held within plant tissues, and cacti are packed with bitter alkaloids. These have a value to the plant, the bitterness helps protect them from herbivores. However, in times of great need, cacti are a survival food for many animals including deer, peccary, packrats and even cattle. The fruits are delicious, but cultures who have used them as food know temperance is a good idea with these as well. Look closely at the stems (the pads or joints) of any cactus. Notice the spots where spines originate. These “areoles” are remarkable. The tiny ephemeral leaves and the flowers are also produced here. Areoles can be thought of as a collapsed stem; minute buds that create

  • Plant of the Month: Juneberry

    Apr 28, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Trushell Spring migrant calls and local breeding birds’ song fill the air this time of year. Birds are only one of many organisms who are responding to spring in a way that can overwhelm our senses, and many are just as enjoyable as their songs. When hiking along scrubby slopes or ridges, woodland stream banks, or canyons, keep out a close eye for Amelanchier utahensis (Utah Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadbush, or Utah Shadberry). This is when it’s at its formal best. This relatively large but sparsely branching bush is often found hiding under the dappled shade of oaks or ashes or concealed among vibrant yellow New Mexico olive flowers, a beautiful and fragrant hop tree, or delicate clusters of the black cherry flowers. Amelanchier utahensis produces clusters of three to six flowers which transform this bush into a dappled array of fresh vibrant green leaves among white flowers during April and May. The five narrow, widely spread petals don’t overlap and the anthers appear within a crown-like formation. The fragrance it emits has been described as unpleasant, so you can stick to enjoying these flowers visually. Amelanchier utahensis is a common shrub found between 2,000-7,000 feet across the country. The bush is an important resource for wildlife because it provides supple leaves for deer and other browsing ungulates to enjoy throughout the year. In addition, as spring transitions into

  • Plant of the Month: The four o’clocks

    Mar 31, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By David Moll Nowadays, classification of organisms is definitively established through genetic analysis. Before this technology, there were many morphological and biochemical traits used to sort organisms into related groups. Within the flowering plants, it was the flowers themselves that were used as a pivotal characteristic. The number and arrangement of floral parts were like a beacon leading botanists through an overwhelming forest of malleable growth forms and secondary attributes. The four o’clocks provide a brief but interesting floral stumbling block. That large, often colorful, structure that seems to be a corolla, is actually a calyx formed of united sepals. Commonly aiding in this illusion is a united group of bracts below the flowers that resembles a more typical calyx. Contrary to outer appearances, these attractive plants have no flower petals. Flower parts come and go throughout evolutionary time, but botanists can tell the difference between these various structures by examining vascular traces in the flower. Once this was sorted out, the four o’clock family (Nyctaginaceae, which includes Bougainvillea), unlike many others, has so far remained intact through all the technological scrutiny. We don’t need to be so technical. Once learned, mostly in the field, unifying characteristics of plant families can lead us to identifications, understandings, and greater appreciation. The four o’clock name may also be misleading. It comes from the habit of flowers opening in the late afternoon and

  • Plant of the Month: March multitudes

    Feb 27, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Plant of the MonthNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mara Trushell Spring brings many wonderful things. Warm weather, longer days, budding leaves, baby animals, and of course, flowers. In Prescott, an abundance of our spring flowers come from native shrubs, some that even go unnoticed until they blossom in a wide array of fragrance and shapes. Displayed are only a few species that will begin to speckle color across the landscape this March. **** Visit the Highlands Center for Natural History at 1375 Walker Road, 928-776-9550, or HighlandsCenter.Org. Mara Trushell, education director at the Highlands Center for Natural History, grew up in Prescott surrounded by its natural wonder and now teaches through science and nature to inspire new wonder in current and future generations

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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