Saturday, January 28, 2023

1/26 Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

I met some old friends at this museum today.  They are visiting in the area, but have never been here, so I hoped they would enjoy it.  We spent most of the day looking at cactus and catching up on news.

But before I post photos, I want to let you know that this place has terrific parking for big vehicles like my motorhome.  When you drive up the hill, there are signs directing you to the bus and RV lot.  Only problem on this day was that a lot of cars were parked here, taking up many of the spaces.  This made no sense whatsoever because there were lots of spots closer to the garden entrances!!  Why are they parking here?   Luckily, one of the security people saw me pull in and followed me to the lot.  She had previously blocked off several sites with orange cones, so she removed several and directed me in!  And unlike a lot of other bus and RV parking places, this one is to the side of the entrance, not several hundred feet away in a dirt lot somewhere!  Very nice to have a paved, dedicated parking area.  (If you are driving a car someplace, PLEASE do not park in the only places that big vehicles like mine can park.  😁)

Anyway, back to the botanical gardens.  This is one of my must-visit sites whenever I am in the area.  Today was chilly, but there is no better place on a cool, but not hot, day to just walk around and relax on a bench!  Also, they have a very nice garden shop that sells plants and other souvenirs, and there is a casual outdoor cafe and an indoor/outdoor fancier restaurant and wine bar.  

These are some glass sculptures left here at the entrance after an exhibition by glass artist Dale Chihuly, several years ago.  I was able to visit during that exhibit and posted some photos here.

Immediately after the entrance, you will find rental powered and non-powered wheelchairs for people who cannot walk long distances.  The garden is surprisingly big, and while the walking is easy and there are places to rest, for some people a powered chair can be very helpful.

The next few photos are just random photos of the garden and walkways.

One of the sculptures on exhibit in the garden.  Most did not look like anything specific, so we assumed you were supposed to imagine them as being whatever you chose.

A map of the main and the many smaller paths around the garden.

This big saguaro has a lot of holes in it from cactus wrens who use these for homes. See the explanation below.  Cactus wrens are small spotted birds, and their nests do not damage the cactus.  Living in a cactus means your eggs and chicks are protected from nasty snakes.

This is a crested saguaro.  No one knows for sure what causes this strange formation on the top, but these are extremely rare and prized by museums and botanical gardens.  Here is an article that describes them in more detail:

Part of the gardens include an exhibit of Native American life.  On weekends and busy days, there are often demonstrations of food preparation and crafts in these native shade structures.

This is one of the very few plants in bloom right now.  It is still early in the season and a bit chilly, but in a month or two, more cacti and wildflowers will be in bloom--and it will get even better in March!!

It took a lot of bad photos to get one good one of this little ground squirrel because he kept moving! 

And the last of my photos for this trip.  Will be back in about a month to see what is in bloom then because I will be hanging around Phoenix for the next few weeks. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

1/19 Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

 Last time I visited this place was about five years ago.  It was April and VERY hot, like in the 90s.  Unfortunately, this campground does not have electrical hookups, and at that time, the generator hours were very limited during that month, with the result that I was very uncomfortable sitting in my "tin can" home, so went for what was supposed to be an easy hike.  Turned out not to be so easy, so I complained to the rangers that generator hours should be adjusted according to the weather, not according to the month.  

This trip was much better because it is January and temperatures were in the upper 50s and lower 60s during the day, and down to the lower 40s at night.  Also, they had increased their generator hours substantially, so I was able to keep everything charged.  

Anyway, some photos I took of the campground and a couple of short walks around the perimeter trail.  What is nice about this campground is that all the roads and campsites are paved.  I like paved roads because it keeps the dust down, and I can leave windows open.  


Campsites are also very long, with lots of greenery between them for privacy.  


 Also, the back of the campground is dedicated to tenters and people who do not want to use or hear the noise of generators, which can be used from 8-11 am and 3-6 pm.


 Typical view down one of the campground roadways.


Surrounding this large campground is a hiking trail that is easy to walk and easy to get to. Parts of it are paved to make it handicap accessible.


OK, here we go with my identifying plants.  This is a creosote bush.  When you rub a leaf between your fingers or pour water on it, it smell strongly of burning rubber.

And this is a clock-face prickly pear.  I had to look this one up, but it is distinguished from regular prickly pear cactus by the very round pads.

And this is a palo verde tree.  It has extremely tiny leaves, but it gets it name because of the chlorophyll on the branches and trunk.  Having tiny leaves means the plant can retain water in hot weather, making it drought resistant.  During the spring it will be covered in yellow flowers. 

The organ pipe cactus was named such because it looks like the rows of pipes in an organ.  Mostly, this cactus lives in warmer Mexico, but this national park borders Mexico and includes a small part of this plant's range.  Both of these photos show organ pipe cactus, even though the second one is slightly laying down.

I think this 6" high cactus is a baby organ pipe cactus.  
A mesquite tree????

This is a cholla tree.  It is actually a cactus, and there are quite a few varieties.  Some people call this a jumping cholla because the cactus segments seem to jump onto your clothing.

This one is a bit early but it is beginning to bloom. 

Don't pet this "teddy bear" cholla because you will get a lot of spines in your hand!


Who says the desert is empty???

This is an ocotillo.  Like the palo verde, it has very tiny leaves and often looks dead.  However, when the rains come in spring, it will grow more leaves and have dazzling red flowers at the tips of its branches.

This one is starting to get its spring foliage.  One interesting thing about this plant is that you can cut off the branches and plant them as a living fence.  The flowers are also edible.

Not sure what this shrub is. 

This tree has an air plant living in it--mistletoe!!

Just another beautiful view.

This is a young Saguaro cactus.   These plants grow very slowly, so it may be 10 years old or older.

A saguaro that is beginning to grow arms is probably about 70 years old. 
Saguaro take many shapes.  This one is very tall but with just a few branches, but it is almost certainly over 125 years old.
This one is not quite so tall, but its age can be seen in how many branches it has.   Saguaro that are this big often act like apartment houses for birds because of the many holes that make cozy homes for them.
????  It is low and has pointed leaves.  Will try to look this one up.

 This is a barrel cactus with fruit from last year. 

Often several desert plants will grow in a clump.  This is because the larger plant provides a sheltering nursery for young plants.
This brittle bush is in full bloom!

Hard to see, but this whole hillside is covered with organ pipe cacti. 

 And to end with this tiny hedgehog cactus.  They grow in clumps but are only about 5-6" tall.