Arizona: Life in the Desert

White Winged Dove on Saguaro Flowers

Cluster of Saguaro Flowers

Young Saguaro (100 years old)

Multiple Saguaro Arms

Mature Saguaro (200 years old)

Barrel Cactus Group

Barrel Cactus Flower Smile

Purple Prickly Pear Pad

Reg Manning – Cartoon Cactus Postcard

Reg Manning – Cartoon Elf Owl Nest in Saguaro

Horny Toad on Opuntia Cactus Pad

Desert Spiny Lizard

Sonoran Gopher Snake

Javelina (Peccary) and Twin Piglets

Round Tailed Ground Squirrel

Male Gambel’s Quail

Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Desert Pollinators Sign

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly on Red Salvia

White Datura Flower (Moon Lily)

Cercidium Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree

Giant Easter Lily (Red Cactus Flowers)

The abundance of life in the Arizona desert is amazing!  If you look closely, you will see all kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and plants.  

The cacti in Arizona are especially fascinating.  Barrel cactus act like a compass and usually lean south.  Saguaros come in endless shapes and sizes.  They grow their first arm when they reach 75‑100 years old, and don’t reach full size until the age of 200!  They are 98% water and can survive 4 years without a drink.  Bats pollinate the flowers at night, and hummingbirds visit the flowers during the day.  Sometimes little elf owls and woodpeckers nest inside the cactus – it keeps them nice and cool.  Saguaros are so unique and full of character that a funny cartoon book was written about them by Reg Manning: “What Kinda Cactus Izzat?”.

Although the desert may seem somewhat barren during the dry season, flowers can appear quickly after a rain.  The desert is most beautiful at that time!  We are already planning another visit!

Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park

Painted Desert Overlook

Teepees Rock Formation at Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa Badlands Trail

Photography from Crystal Forest Trail

Petrified Wood Bark and Knot Hole

Sectioned Petrified Logs in Landscape

Sign Describing Who Cut the Wood (no one)

Colorful Petrified Wood

Postcard: Origin of Colors in Petrified Wood

Sign Describing Time to Petrify Wood

Painted Desert Inn

Inn’s Glass Skylight Ceiling with Pottery Designs

Famous Mountain Lion Petroglyph

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs

Petrified Forest Visitor Center by Architect Neutra

Rock Shop Outside Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has one of the best concentrations of petrified wood in the world!  One of the largest logs (Old Faithful) is 35 feet long, 10 feet wide, and weighs 44 tons! 

The trees (mostly conifers) were buried in mud during the late Triassic Period 225 million years ago.  The mud contained volcanic ash.  Silica in the ash was absorbed by the wood and crystallized into quartz over time.  This happened through a process called permineralization – the minerals do not actually replace all the organic material, but instead take on the shape of the cells.  Some petrified wood is so perfectly preserved that you can see individual tree rings, bark, and even knot holes!  Color results from minerals in the ash. In general, iron oxides produce red, yellow, orange, and purple; manganese oxide produces black; and pure quartz produces white.  Since petrified wood is so brittle and splits easily, it looks like someone took a chainsaw and cut up logs across the landscape.

A portion of the Painted Desert is contained within the park – scenic badlands with rocks of every color and hue (blue, lavender, red, and pink).  Vivid layered deposits of clay and sandstone make the scenery particularly dramatic.  You can hike through this landscape at Blue Mesa Badlands Trail.

The Painted Desert Visitor Center (at the entrance to the park off I-40) opened in 1963 and was designed by architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander.  Large windows let the sun in and high walls keep the wind out.  Neutra is famous for his midcentury modern buildings in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.  Nearby, the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark showcases a variety of historic artifacts.  The Rainbow Forest Complex at the south entrance contains the Rainbow Forest Museum, Visitor Center, Bookstore, Gift Shop, and access to the Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails. 

In June 2018 Petrified Forest National Park was designated an official International Dark Sky Park, which means it is one of the top places in the world for star gazing!  If you would like to enjoy the park’s night sky programming or other park activities, more info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/index.htm

A kid’s guide to Petrified Forest National Park is at: https://www.nps.gov/pefo/upload/YoungerStudent2006.pdf

Remember, if you want your own piece of petrified wood, please don’t take it from the park.  There are plenty of rock shops outside the park with an amazing selection for your collection.

Florida: Night Blooming Cactus!

Cactus Blooms Ready to Open

Cactus Flower Extravaganza at Night

Blooms on Snake Vine Climbing up Palm Tree

Night Blooming Cactus Pair of Flowers

Our night blooming cactus was in its full glory this week – 30 HUGE flowers opened at once!  It was spectacular!   In the old days of Florida people would have parties in the evening centered around the blooms.  Our snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus – Princess of the Night) was grown from a cutting planted only 6 years ago!

Arizona: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

Bonito Lava Flow

Yellow-Orange Juniper Mistletoe

Beautiful Weathered Juniper Wood

Tiny White Spider on Lava Flow

Yellow Newberry Twinpod Growing on Cinders

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a beautiful place to visit just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  The sunset colors reflect the volcano’s composition of silica, iron oxide, and gypsum.  The volcano erupted about 1040-1100 AD .  It is amazing how life returns and survives on the tough conditions of the lava flow!  Information about visiting is at:  https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm  and https://www.livescience.com/50237-sunset-crater-photos.html

Florida: Our Orchid Collection

Purple Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orange and Yellow Sunset Phalaenopsis Orchid

Yellow and Purple Golden Phalaenopsis Orchid

White and Purple Tiger Stripe Phalaenopsis Orchid

Pink, White, and Yellow Brilliant Smile Dendrobium Orchid

White and Purple Angel Moon – Love Letter Dendrobium Orchid

Lady Slipper Atticus Orchid

Fragrant Fringed Star Orchid

Recently we became very interested in orchids and now have a collection on our back porch here in Florida.  Orchids are fascinating on many levels and produce the smallest seeds in the world.  Besides the tropica flora already on our porch, we recently added a tree rose to the area and will soon add a fragrant gardenia.  Our goal is to turn the pool deck into a beautiful lush atrium and relaxing retreat!

California: Huntington Garden Favorites

Chinese Garden’s Scenic Lake

Tranquil Japanese Garden’s Weeping Willow Overhanging Bridge

Japanese Garden’s Entrance to Bamboo Forest Walkway

Historic Mexican Pincushion Garden

Mammillaria Pincushion Cactus with Pink Flowers

Hundreds of Globular Golden Barrel Cacti

Shapes of Barrel Cacti and Agave

Desert Garden’s Blooming Agave

California Praying Mantis on Red Hot Poker Flowers

Matchstick Bromeliad

Sundew Carnivorous Plant

Flock of Wild Red Crowned Parrots in Garden

Sweet Dog Statue Beside Camellia Flowers

Besides favorites detailed previously on roses and orchids at Huntington Gardens, we also enjoyed seeing the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Desert Garden.  The plants and landscapes are stunning at this California treasure.  Some of the largest specimens were first planted in the 1920’s, and the golden barrel cacti collection is one of the largest in the world.  If you get lucky, you  might see a flock of wild red crowned parrots and hummingbirds too (read about urban parrots in the Los Angeles area at:  https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/creating-an-urban-ark-for-endangered-species-in-los-angeles). Our anticipated one day visit was not nearly enough, so we returned again a second day.  There are also multiple museums in the garden and so much more to see that is not detailed here.  If you would like to visit, more info is at:  http://www.huntington.org/

Huntington Gardens: Roses

Red and White Striped Rose

Vibrant Pink Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Lavender Rose

Peach Rose

Butterscotch Rose

Red Roses

Huntington Gardens’ historic rose garden contains over 1,400 cultivars covered in thousands of blooms.  Two beds are devoted exclusively to fragrant varieties – joy! Roses do exceptionally well in the area, which explains why Pasedena, California, is home to the annual Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.

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