Wild Flowers and Wild Greens

The weather has been unseasonably warm the last few days, and although we’re supposed to get some more rain soon, I enjoyed a hike though Catalina State Park last weekend. Because we’ve had such a wet winter, the desert is really springing into life!

There are still many reminders of winter, like these dried out coralbean pods.

5-Coralbean(Click to see larger view)

I showed you coralbean flowers last year, and after they go to seed these plants produce bright red seeds, which can be used in jewelry. However, the seeds are quite poisonous, so it’s important to keep them away from children.

There was also an old praying mantis egg case stuck to a twig.

6-Mantis(Click to see larger view)

These all hatched last year, since the seam in the center has opened. A few of the eggs were parasitized by wasps. You can see little round holes in the side of the case where the tiny wasps emerged.

We have gotten so much rain recently that the arroyo (dry riverbed or wash) is actually a flowing river right now.

1-River(Click to see larger view)

Most of the year, this is just a dry sandy wash with no plants. The grey mesquite trees grow in the floodplain of the wash, where they get lots of moisture. Just a few yards higher grow saguaro cacti, which do not like getting their feet wet.

Almost as striking as the flowing water is how green the desert has become.

2-Landscape(Click to see larger view)

This is just a taste of the landscape I got to enjoy. Normally, the shrubbery would be a grey-olive colour. In the low sun, the stark rock formations stand out even more clearly from the green slopes.

Several early flowers are starting to bloom!

3-Flower(Click to see larger view)

This is brittlebrush, one of the most common wildflowers on the dry hills. Its leaves shrivel when the weather turns dry, but it immediately puts out new growth when the rains come. In the spring, they turn the hills yellow.

Where there are flowers, there are bees as well.

4-Bee(Click to see larger view)

This one is visiting a member of the pea family, although I don’t know what species.

In a sheltered area, I found this odd-looking specimen, which I know quite well from California.

7-MinersLettuce(Click to see larger view)

It is called Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, and is an unmistakable edible. The leaves make good salad greens. The flower stalk grows from the center of the leaf, and even this early you can see the little buds forming.

Springtime in Tucson also means the coming of the Gem and Mineral Show. I found a beautiful piece at one of the vendors. Due to language barrier, I couldn’t catch what mineral this was, but I do know that the specimen came from Sonora, Mexico. I’m thinking that it’s Pyrite in Calcite, but please correct me if you have other ideas.

IMG_1854(Click to see larger view)

‘Till next time!

~The Homesteading Hippy

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