Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Trails with Dora


New blog author here.  Kady will be back but I have been given the task of reporting on our hikes and nature trails.   Kady prefers to watch life go by from the comfort of the dashboard.  I am the one who gets out and seizes the day!

Last August I heard mom and dad discuss putting me up for adoption.   But then they had to admit:

I am the youngest.
I am the cutest.
I am the best hiker.
I am the best varmint hunter.
I am the best singer.
I am the only one who likes to swim.
In short: I am the funnest!



So a few months ago I had a small surgical procedure.  I guess all of the girls who stay in the family must have one.  Now personally, I think it would have saved a lot of time and money if Huxley was the one who had a little operation.  But whatever.

This is my initial report as the official family naturalist.

The last two weeks we have spent at parks in the Mesa/Apache junction area of Arizona: first at Usery Mountain Regional Park and now back at Lost Dutchman State Park.  We had the very best campsite at Usery: number 37 which is right at the entrance to the Nature Walk Trail.  How great was that?   Mom and I walked that half-mile trail backwards and forwards at least two times every day for the entire week.

One time when we were walking it I met a full-time family with two twins. They have a cool blog too: unpredictableperrys.  Sometimes I'm a little scared of human-puppies but these were big enough that they knew how to behave and were very polite.  The boy was interested to learn about Cardigans and corgis so Mom told him all about us.  We kept seeing them all week and we waved.

Another really great thing about Usery is that there were lots of tasty-looking bunnies and squirrels.  I didn't get to go hunting though.  Maybe next time.

This is a beautiful time of year here in the desert.   It's so lush and green that hardly seems like a desert at all.   I have put the two nature/native plant trails together so that we could get the most representative pictures of both.   I'm going to post them in the order of the "Buckhorn Campground Nature Trail" at Usery and then add some additional plants from Lost Dutchman.  The words in italics are copied from the Buckhorn/Usery brochure.


So come along for a guided tour.

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1) Barrel Cactus - Ferocactus wislizeni

One of the largest cacti in the Sonoran Desert, the Barrel Cactus has yellow-green or red flowers the blook between Aprin and June.  It can grow to be eleven feet tall, but contrary to common folklore, it is not filled with water.


We saw several barrel cacti that had fallen over and had their roots sticking up.  Do they roll like a barrel when that happens?

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2) Creosote Bush - Larrea tridentata

Used by Native American tribes as a medicine plant, the Creosote Bush produces a smell much like creosote tar after rain.  Although the leaves are only 1/2 inch long the bush can grown to be 6-10 feet tall and 6-10 feet wide.  It is one of the oldest living plants in the Sonoran Desert.



It blooms with little yellow flowers and then makes puffballs that we have seen little birdies eating.   It was already blooming in Anza-Borrego in January but didn't bloom until late February here in Arizona.

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3) Desert Mistletoe - Phoradendron californicum

The Desert Mistletoe is a parasite with narrow, green or brown stems.  It can grow big enough to kill the major branches of its host or even kill the entire plant.  The Desrt Mistletoe produces yellow-green flowers and pink-orange berries.


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4) Desert Christmas Cholla - Opuntia leptocaulis

Named for its bright red fruit that grows during winter, the Christmas Cholla can grow up to 3 feet tall alone and up to 6 feet tall when protected by other desrt trees.  The pale yellow flowers appear in the late afternoon throughout the months of May and June.



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5) Hedgehog Cactus - Echinocereus engelmannii

The red flowers found on this cactus are large and the fruit is edible.  It blooms April through June and prefers to live under full sun.


We used to have a stuffed hedgehog that we played with until someone ate it.  It was not prickly like these.

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6) Saguaro Cactus - Carnegiea gigantea

This cactus blooms in April and May and fruits in June.  Its average lifespan is 200 years and it can grow to be 50 feet tall with many "arms" branching from it.  The saguaro Cactus is protected by the U.S. Government.  The bloom of the desert giant is the state flower of Arizona.




Big.  Very big.  So tall that a corgi can't see to the top.

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7) Triangle-leaf Bursage - Ambrosia deltoidea

This member of the sunflower family can grow up to 2 feet tall and wide.  Its leaves are 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide, and are triangle shaped.  Once it is established, it becomes a nurse plant, providing shade and protection for other growing plants.




We have lots and lots of this in our campsite at Lost Dutchman.  Huxley pees on it.  At least the burrs are too soft to get stuck in our coats.

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8) Canyon Ragweed - Ambrosia ambrosioides

Cousin to the Triangle-leaf Bursage, this plant's flowers are yellow-green, 3/8 inch wide, and barely noticeable.  Its leaves are green, hairy, triangle shaped, saw-toothed, 5 inches long and 1 inch wide.

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9) Ocotillo - Fonquieria splendens

This woody shrub can reach 25 feet tall with a diameter of 10 feet.  Its 1 inch long flowers attract hummingbirds.  The Ocotillo has adapted to its environment by shedding its leaves during dry spells.



Sometimes they look like a bunch of dead sticks, but now they are all green and happy from the rain.

Did I mention the rain?


It really rained hard on our Monday walk.  But now it's beautiful and sunny again.


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10) Buckhorn Cholla - Opuntia acanthocarpa

Named for its stems, which look like deer antlers, the Buckhorn Cholla's flowers can be orange, yellow, pink, or red.  The 2 inch long and wide flowers bloom in May.  The cholla can grow up to 6 feet tall.



May?  But some of them are blooming now.  In March.

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11) Foothill Palo Verde - Cercidium microphyllum

This tree is a primary nurse plant for the Saguaro cactus.  It uses its canopy to protect plants from the sun  It can also grow to be 20 feet tall with greenish yellow bark and green leaves.  Palo Verde means "green wood" in Spanish.



This tree is labeled "Little-Leaf Palo Verde" at Lost Dutchman.


You can see how very small the leaflets are.



And this is a "blue palo verde".  Wouldn't that make at a palo azul?

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12) Prickly Pear - Opuntia engelmannii

This cactus is 2-3 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.  It contains soft green pads with short golden bristles.  It can have yellow, red, or purple flowers, which bloom in the spring and summer.

And you can make jam and syrup and other stuff out of the fruit.  They sell it in the tourist-stores here.

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13) Mormon Tea - Ephedra trifurca
Used to make herbal tea, which can be used to heal urinary tract infections, respiratory illnesses, colds, and nasal decongetion.  This 4 foot tall shrub has no leaves, but has many green branches.




It doesn't smell much like tea to me. I wonder how you brew it to cure colds?  Mom and Dad could have used that.

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14) Chain Fruit Cholla - Opuntia fulgida

The central trunk sprouts many spiny branches.  This happens to be the largest cholla, and can grow up to 15 feet high and 6 feet across.  It houses pink and white flowers that bloom from June to August.  Every year, the chain fruit of the cholla grows 2 feet in length.




On the path at Lost Dutchman there is some fruit that has fallen or blown off.  Kady and I both tasted them and them spit them out.  Not so good for dogs.

These are as big as trees.  The next cactus is at the other extreme.

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15) Fishhook Pincushion Cactus - Mammillaria microcarpa

This cactus is less than 6 inches tall, with short, dense, grey spines.  It grows under bushes or ledger, which protect it from the sun.  Pin and lavender flowers form a crown around the top of the cactus and bloom April through May.

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16) Chuparosa - Justicia californica

Spanish for "sucking rose," Chuparosas attract hummingbirds with their abundant supply of nectar.  Red flowers bloom in the spring and after summer rains, but can occaisionally be found throughout the entire year.


At Anza-Borrego they called this "Cat Claw".  I like "Chuparosa" better.  Pretty things shouldn't get named after c*ts.

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17) Jojoba - Simmondsia chinensis

Grows to be 2-6 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide.  Edible nuts grow from it and were used as a coffee substitute by Native Americans and early settlers.  The Jojoba is a doecious plant, meaning that the plant holds only male or female flowers.


So how cool is that?  We have both in our campsite.  Above is the female with the little baby nuts, and below is the male.


When we first saw them, the bushes reminded us of manzanita.

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There is a profusion of these flowers.  We saw a lot of the bushes in Anza-Borrego, but they weren't blooming yet.


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The trees here are velvet mesquite.  Mesquite pods are very tasty for dogs.  We ate lots and lots of them when we were at Two Springs.

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I don't know why there has to be so many kinds of cholla.  They are a pain when pieces of them fall off and get on the path. Yesterday Mom tried to kick one off the path for me and then got it stuck in the toe of her shoe.  She had to use tweezers to pull it all out.  Kady had a piece stuck on her chin once and it took Mom and Dad both to get it.  And Huxley will only walk on the path now and refuses to go off of it after he stepped on the stickers a bunch of times.


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I'm not sure if this little cactus on the bottom is a fishhook.  We found it at Usery and it wasn't labeled.  It's very pretty.  For a cactus.

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Fairy Duster is Mom's favorite flower here.  There was lots of it along the road when we were in Tucson.  It makes puffs kind of like Dandelions that blow away in the wind.


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I thought that they put this here just for me as a snack on the trail.  But when I sniffed it and sniffed it I couldn't find any rat.  I think it was a fake.  Or the rat moved out long ago.  Or some other dog already got to eat it.




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These sure have been some pretty places.  Very good dog-walking places.  Arizona is friendlier about letting dogs on the trails than places we have been in California.



Until next time: Happy Trails!





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