Archive for Photography

Ocotillo Flower Buds

Ocotillo Flower BudsOcotillo flower buds have started appearing on the ocotillo that we planted in the rock and cactus garden a couple of years ago. This ocotillo and another were rescued from a construction site by our neighbor who gave them to us to put in the garden.

The plants were dormant for quite a while until leaves and flower buds started appearing on this one a few weeks ago. The flower buds should start opening soon as many of the other ocotillos in town are already showing the crimson flowers atop the individual “canes” or stalks of the ocotillo. Note the spines on the canes.

image: flower buds and leaves near the end of one cane. Click on the image to enlarge.

From Wikipedia:

Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo American Spanish: [oko?ti?o], but also referred to as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus) is a plant indigenous to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in the Southwestern United States (southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas), and northern Mexico (as far south as Hidalgo and Guerrero).

Ocotillo is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2–4 cm), ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months.

Individual stems may reach a diameter of 5 cm at the base, and the plant may grow to a height of 10 m (33 ft). The plant branches very heavily at its base, but above that, the branches are pole-like and rarely divide further, and specimens in cultivation may not exhibit any secondary branches. The leaf stalks harden into blunt spines, and new leaves sprout from the base of the spine.

The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminately at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.

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More Cactus Flowers

Argentine Giant Cholla Flowers Beavertail Cactus Flowers

We have had a couple of new varieties of open flowers the last week. Left to right are Argentine Giant, Cholla Flowers and Beavertail Cactus flowers. All beautiful and more to come. Click on any image to enlarge.

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Hedgehog Cactus Flowers

Hedgehog Cactus Flowers

This hedgehog cactus has been with us since we landscaped our place six years ago. The cactus was transplanted to its current location in front of the house from a spot on the other side of the driveway. It is now almost completely populated with these beautiful spring flowers.

Wikipedia has this item about Echinocereus Englemannii which I believe this cactus is:

The strawberry hedgehog cactus or Engelmann’s hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) is commonly found in desert areas of the southwestern United States and the adjacent areas of Mexico, including the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Baja California and Sonora. It usually grows in clusters, sometimes up to 20 and more stems. Its bright magenta flowers bloom in April in its southern extremes to late May at northern locations. The flowers are borne at the upper half to one third of the stem. They are funnelform in shape, up to 3.5 inches long with dark-green stigmas. The fruit is very spiny. At first it is green, becoming pink and drying when ripe. The ripe fruit has spines which are easily detached. The seeds are black, and around a tenth of an inch in size.

The stems are initially cylindrical and erect in young plants, but later with the stem base lying on the ground. The stems are usually 1.5 to 3.5 inches in diameter and up to 25 inches high, and obscured by heavy spines. The plants have around 10 ribs, which are somewhat flattened and tuberculate.

Spines variable in color and size. Radial spines are shorter and needlelike, up to 0.8 inch long, white and arranged in a neat rosette. Central spines number 2 to 7 and are stout, usually twisted or angular, up to 3 inches long and variable in color: bright yellow, dark brown, grey, and white.

Echinocereus engelmannii is commonly used as a landscape plant in its native areas. In pot culture it requires well aerated gritty substrate, and a hot and sunny location in the summer. In the winter the plant easily tolerates light frost and wet (if well-drained) soil. In cultivation it usually does not bloom until it develops 2-3 branches.

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Curve Billed Thrasher

Curve Billed Thrasher

I was up on the hill behind the house looking at some of the vegetation up there when a Curve Billed Thrasher lit atop the bird block feeder. I had my camera and 300mm lens with me so I took several shots of the bird before it flew away.

Wikipedia has this information on this interesting species:

The curve-billed thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) is a medium-sized mimid that is a member of the genus Toxostoma, native to the southwestern United States and much of Mexico. Referred to as the default desert bird, it is a non-migratory species. Several subspecies have been classified since 1827, though there is no consensus on the number. Allopatric speciation is believed to have played a major role in the variations of the curve-billed. It shares striking similarities in appearance with another Toxostoma member, Bendire’s thrasher. Nevertheless, it is recognized for its grey color and sickle-shaped bill. It generally resides in desert regions of the United States and Mexico, but can inhabit areas predominately populated by humans.

The demeanor of the curve-billed has been described as “shy and rather wild”, but it allows humans to view it closely. It is very aggressive in driving out potential threats, whether competitors for food or predators of its chicks. The curve-billed thrasher sometimes mimics several other species, though not to the extent of other mimids. It has a variety of distinctive songs, and this extensive repertoire of melodies has led it to be known as cuitiacoache (songbird) in Mexico.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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Hassayampa River Flowing

Hassayampa River Flowing

I cropped this panoramic image of the Hassayampa River from a shot that Verna took from the bridge on Friday. Normally, the river is dry above the surface at this time of year, but a couple of weeks ago we had some rainfall and snow in the mountains which is, apparently, still melting off.

Shortly after the rainstorms, this part of the river was full bank to bank with whitecaps and rapids. The water flow is diminished now and will eventually dry up until the summer monsoon season.

Click on the panoramic image to view full size.

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Spring Flowers Around Our House

Spring Flowers Around Our House

I love it here in the desert all year around, but the spring flowers blooming might be my favorite time. This is some of the flower activity now showing in our garden.

At the top, a bright pink beavertail cactus flower opened up today. Below from left to right are golden barrel cactus flower, a lemon blossom in the “orchard” and an ocotillo flower bud just sprouting from the top of one of the canes. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Desert Wildflowers

Desert Wildflowers

One of the best things about spring is the desert wildflowers. We had just barely passed out of town limits on our way to California today when I saw this patch of poppies and other wildflowers along the roadside.

There were wildflowers all along the route to Palm Desert today and a brief point when passing between Chiriaco and Cactus City where we saw lots of beavertail cactus bright pink flowers. We didn’t get any sharp images of those, but we will eventually, since there are plenty of beavertails with flower buds at home.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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