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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Don't Look for Ocotillo Here Today

A friend back in Michigan asked me what is blooming right now in Arizona. Soon there will be some big, fantastic flowers along the highway, but prickly poppy seems to be taking its time this year, and I don't have a new photograph of the showy Western wallflower, so I thought we could just tour scruffy mesquite country and take a closer look at what there is to see.

There are so many yellow composite blooms in the Southwest that some people call them all, in exasperation, DYCs -- for damned yellow composites. I will never learn them all, but they are as cheery as Michigan dandelions when they first appear.

in sun

The image above shows a globemallow blossom. Globemallow was one of the first Western blooms I learned to identify, drawn to it by its spectacular color, but I don't know which species this one is. Even the field guide (Audubon) admits that members of the Sphaeralcea genus can be "difficult to identify," and before the flowers appear, the plant is weedy and somewhat unattractive. But then comes that salmon-orange blossom, and I forgive completely! Here is a second photo of globemallow, just to show that I hold no grudges and do, really, appreciate having it around. 

in shade
While we're on the subject of weedy plants, we might as well address also the question of Western peppergrass, Lepidium montanum, a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Like so many of the mustards, peppergrass lacks large, showy blossom size, but it makes up for that in abundance.

And a closer looks shows that the flower is attractive, in its own quiet way.

Another small, inconspicuous but abundant plant flowering now in mid-April has sweet, tiny faces that remind me of little flowers I saw dotting the grass in the parks of Paris, France, in the month of May (on my first, long-ago visit). See how they look pink when closed and then open to show white rays around a yellow center, like miniature daisies?

My field guide tells me this plant is spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens), not the most appealing name for such a darling little flower, while the pâquerette I came to know and love in Paris is Bellis perennis. Oh, the mystery of botanical nomenclature, how two plants can look so similar and be only distantly related! Another mystery to me was why the translation given for pâquerette is 'daisy,' while I always new daisy as 'marguerite.' Anyone interested in the difference between large daisies and the little Easter daisy (hint: latter grows in the grass) can find information -- in French -- here

Here is one more easily overlooked high desert April bloom. Phacelia doesn't even have a common name, which tells you how much attention is paid to it, but when the dusty, lavender-grey blooms are at their fullest, the air around this ground-hugging plant buzzes with active pollinators. 

I said this post would not have very showy flowers, but my last one for today is showy indeed. Here in Dos Cabezas we don't have it carpeting entire acres, but a little patch of Mexican poppies shouts with joy, and anyone seeing it has to smile in response. 

And there you have it -- another lesson in looking carefully at the world, so as not to miss any of the gifts, however small, that are all around us.

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