Among Friends. 28 Feb 2022. Alligator Juniper

One of the most distinctive trees of the Southwest is the Alligator Juniper, well-named for its platy, saurian-like bark. My natural history students had no trouble learning it by appearance, and, with the mnemonic clue, “Johnny Depp,” they quickly caught on to its scientific name, Juniperus deppeana. Of course, an organism is so much more than its name, and the Alligator Juniper is special in so many ways that it earns the limelight in this essay. As you will see, this amazing plant is one of my all-time favorites, very close to my heartwood.

Read More...

Lower San Luis Well Update

The Refuge, Southern Arizona Quail Forever and Altar Valley Conservation Alliance paid to improve an old hand dug 50’ well that was dry. They had it dug to 245’ with the well pipe capped and waiting for further money to complete the well.

Read More...

Among Friends. Goldeneye

Goldeneye! No, not the James Bond movie (though the original James Bond was an ornithologist). I mean the Common Goldeneye, a gorgeous duck very near to my heart (emotionally, not anatomically).

Read More...

Among Friends. Mullein

I’ve been mullein over just how to tell the story of a plant that brings out mixed feelings in people. Mulleins are not native to the United States, but the woolly one, at least, is visually familiar to many people who may not know its back story. Why don’t we take a closer look?

Read More...

Among Friends. 7 January 2022. The Nuthatch Suite

‘Tis the season to feature the Nuthatch Suite (no nutcrackers here, though plenty of nutcases). And what is sweeter than a sturdy little nuthatch, a bird that defies gravity on a tree trunk by often hitching its way downward, thus finding insects in the bark that those upright woodpeckers and creepers miss?

Read More...
Northern Shoveler

Wild Wednesday, 17 November 2021, Shovelers

I’m in a fowl mood today, so I want to feature one of my favorite waterfowl species, the Northern Shoveler. Many a casual observer has mistaken this bird for an odd Mallard with an exaggerated beak, so I want to give the shoveler a little love here, top billing if you prefer.

Read More...

Among Friends, 5 November 2021. Vitaceae

Two members of the Vitaceae (grape family) are widespread in Arizona riparian areas, including Arivaca Creek and Brown Canyon, and offer some of our choicest fall colors: deep red in the Woodbine (a close relative of the eastern Virginia Creeper) and yellow in Canyon Grape. Both are lianas (the proper name for a “woody vine”). Technically, vines are herbaceous, not woody (Tarzan would have had a short life if he had been swinging on vines!). Some beans, cucumbers, and squashes are good examples of vines. However, common usage says “vine” for the grape plant, and since you heard that on the grapevine, I probably cannot convert you to using “liana” for that plant.

Read More...