Metro Phoenix EcoFlora's Journal

October 05, 2021

October 2021 Events

As always, events and classes are FREE to attend!

Thursday, Oct. 14 | 3 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session we hear from Mary Fastiggi, one of the Parsons Field Institute managers at the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Mary will discuss fountain grass and the recent removal experiments the Conservancy has been working on, as well as tentative results. Mary works to promote the Conservancy’s science mission to conduct ecological research through partnerships and citizen science to inform long-term natural resource management of the Sonoran Desert, to contribute to broader scientific knowledge, and to inspire stewardship of the desert. Join us to learn about fountain grass and possible outcomes for management from Mary.

Thursday, Oct. 21 | 3 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session we hear from Liz Makings, the Collections Manager of the Arizona State University (ASU) Herbarium. Grass identification can be notoriously difficult, and Liz is known as the go to person for grasses in our area. She co-authored A Guide to North American Grasslands and is the point person for local floristic expertise, responding to inquiries and requests from faculty, students, and the general public on a daily basis. Join us to learn the basics of grass identification with Liz!

Saturday, Oct. 23 | 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Join us for a walk in a patch of urban habitat to learn about grasses with Steve Jones. Steve is an independent botanist in northeastern Maricopa County. He is involved in the Desert Foothills Land Trust and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Field Institute, and has worked on documenting the flora and vegetation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. You may know him from iNaturalist, where he is the top identifier for the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project!

Posted on October 05, 2021 19:24 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 01, 2021

October 2021 EcoQuest: Gander at Grasses

Join the October EcoQuest: Gander at Grasses
For this EcoQuest, find and map fountain grass (Cenchrus setaceus) and native grass alternatives.

Join the EcoQuest
See the Grass Guide

Download the Fountain Grass Pamphlet
en español

Fountain grass has long been sold as an ornamental landscape grass and can be found across the country. While it is a very attractive grass species, it can spread rapidly and have problematic ecological effects, much like buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris). Observations from this EcoQuest can help us understand more about the range of fountain grass and compare it to native species.

This month’s EcoQuest is in collaboration with the Arizona Native Plant Society (AZNPS).
AZNPS is focused on promoting native plant use and conservation. Meetings, field trips and workshops provide the opportunity to build your native plant knowledge and become involved in local conservation work. AZNPS also produces Plant Press Arizona, a biannual publication that includes native plant information, research articles, book reviews, and society happenings. We have a local chapter right here in Phoenix!
Learn more, join, and/or support the Arizona Native Plant Society (AZNPS).

Fountain grass in a neighborhood wash.

People have carried plants with them to new places for ages, but sometimes this creates unintentional results. Plants are not inherently “good” or “bad.” Some just end up in a place where they can thrive and are invasive in areas they aren’t native to. Invasive plants are those that have the tendency to alter the ecosystem they live in by dominating the competition for space and resources. Fountain grass (Cenchrus setaceus) is an example of this. Native to Africa, its seeds were first available in the U.S. around 1880, and it may have been used to help reduce erosion. Records show that it was being cultivated in Tucson in the 1940s and the earliest voucher in Maricopa County dates to 1962. Fountain grass has escaped cultivation in home landscapes-thanks in large part to its easily spreading seeds. It can now be found as dense stands in washes and natural areas, where it competes with native plants, alters habitat, changes water flow and creates fuel for wildfires. There are no reported benefits of fountain grass to wildlife or pollinators. It was officially listed as an Arizona Noxious Weed in 2020 and can no longer be imported or sold in the state.
Download the Fountain Grass Pamphlet. en español.

Fountain grass voucher, 1962 by Elinor Lehto.

Consider removing fountain grass if it is planted where you live and can do so. While this is not an easy task, it is worthwhile to keep it from spreading further. Remove individual plants by digging out all of the crown tissue at the base of the stems just below the surface. This should ideally be done before the grass goes to seed. Be sure to place in a bag when disposing of it to prevent further spread and wear gloves and protective gear when removing. Do not mow! It will likely grow back from the crown.

What to do if:

• You see fountain grass where you live, but don’t own the property: try to speak with the property manager/owner to make them aware that fountain grass is invasive and see if they would be willing to remove the fountain grass.

• You see fountain grass in a neighborhood public area: provide the HOA, community manager, etc., with the fountain grass pamphlet (digital link or printed copy) and let them know that fountain grass is an invasive and a noxious weed. Ask them to consider removing it.

• You see fountain grass in a city park: contact the park manager, parks and recreation department or natural resource division to let them know where you’ve seen it. (See Sources and More Information below for contact info!)

Fountain Grass in the Superstition Wilderness.

It’s a good time of year for planting. If you choose to remove fountain grass from your own property, you can replace it with native grass that will benefit wildlife and pollinators. Yes, there are native grasses in the Sonoran Desert! Some of the most common species include three-awns or wiregrasses (Aristidia spp.), grama (Bouteloua spp.), muhly (Muhlenbergia spp.), and galleta (Hilaria spp.). These are the easiest to find plants and seeds for at local nurseries and the Desert Botanical Garden plant sale. A few non-grass alternatives include rush milkweed (Asclepias subulata), chuparosa (Justicia californica), desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) and banana yucca (Yucca baccata). Replanting with purple fountain grass (Cenchrus setaceus 'Rubrum’) may not be a suitable option. This grass is reportedly sterile and does not generally form seeds, but this doesn’t guarantee it won’t. And once again, fountain grass does not benefit wildlife or pollinators like our native grasses do.

Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute population and occurrence data for fountain grass, especially in urban landscapes. This can be compared to the data for the native grasses we’re searching for. We can also learn more about the areas that fountain grass may be occupying and where it could be spreading.


See the Grass Guide

Scientific Name: Cenchrus setaceus, (Pennisetum setaceum)

How to identify (from the AZNPS): Fountain Grass has a distinctive upright and graceful form with long feathery flower spikes at the end of the stems. Leaves are narrow and flat to V-shaped. Plants grow to 6 feet. The blooming spikes are 6 to 12 inches long and have purplish to bright green bristles with no visible seeds. The stems all grow from crown tissue just below the ground surface. Each year the base diameter increases, and the stems become more numerous.

Buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) resembles fountain grass, but it is smaller (3-5 feet tall) with smaller flower spikes. Its leaf blades also have a more tangled appearance, making it difficult to distinguish a single plant from another.


Common Name: Three-awn, wiregrass
Scientific Name: Aristida spp.

Photos by @larivera

Common Name: Grama
Scientific Name: Bouteloua spp.

Photos by @stevejones

Common Name: Muhly
Scientific Name: Muhlenbergia spp.

Photos by @stevejones

Common Name: Galleta
Scientific Name: Hilaria spp.

Park Contacts:
Phoenix City Parks:

Arizona Native Plant Society
National Park Service
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Arizona Dept. of Agriculture

EcoQuests are month-long challenges that are part of the larger Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project. Learn more by visiting our website.>

Look for project happenings, EcoQuest announcements and more in the newsletter, project journal and on social media.

Sign up for the newsletter, The Metro Phoenix Field Guide.

Let's be social on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Observe COVID-19 Guidelines/Recommendations.
This is a great opportunity to observe and appreciate nature in our neighborhoods as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. It is imperative that you follow COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands).

Do what’s best for you and your community.

For more COVID-19 information and guidelines, visit:

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ

Posted on October 01, 2021 18:26 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 23, 2021

Southwestern Butterfly Garden Guide

If you're interested in butterfly gardening or learning more about host and nectar plants, check out this guide by project member George Roark (@thegardenhound ). It also includes moths! You can also use this guide to learn more about the butterflies and moths we've been seeing in this month's EcoQuest: What's That Weed?

See it here: Southwestern Butterfly Garden Guide

Observation by @jaydensherwood.

Posted on September 23, 2021 19:03 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 09, 2021

New Project Members

Hello all!

Quite a few new people have joined the project recently and I wanted to take the time to welcome you. Thank you for joining the project, being a community scientist and documenting urban biodiversity! We're a community science project focused on plants, and the wildlife and insects that interact with them. We host monthly EcoQuest challenges, events and trainings, and work to support local conservation efforts and understand biodiversity in metro Phoenix. You can visit our website here.

To stay up to date with EcoQuests, events, and more, we encourage you to sign up for our monthly newsletter and/or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @ ecofloraphx.
Click here to see the September newsletter

Here's a helpful guide for making great observations in iNaturalist. Observations made following these guidelines are easier to identify and more likely to be promoted to research grade. The main things to remember are to take clear photos that are in focus and well lit. Take multiple photos if possible, especially for plants (leaves, flowers, stems, etc.). Also, remember to post multiple photos of the same organism to one observation.
Check it out! Click to see the guide in English or español.

You can also earn rewards for your observations through our merit system! Check it out here.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to message me here on iNaturalist or email me at

Thanks again and welcome to EcoFlora!

Metro Phoenix EcoFlora Coordinator

Posted on September 09, 2021 21:58 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 04, 2021

September 2021 Events

As always, events and classes are FREE to attend!

Monday, Sept. 13 | 6 p.m.
Metro Phoenix EcoFlora and artist Aimee Ollinger are exploring the microscopic world of plants! We will be discussing basic botany, plants in art, and using hand lenses and a microscope to view plant parts in an exciting way. Class materials will be provided, all you need to bring is yourself! You are welcome to bring your own plant pieces to examine. See Aimee's work and follow her on Instagram @ aimoart for more microscope magic. You can also see her work in person throughout the month of September at Modified Arts at 407 E Roosevelt St.

Wednesday, Sept. 15 | 7 p.m.
Join fellow Neighborhood Naturalists for an evening of getting up close and personal with nocturnal insects! Moth lighting is a great way to attract moths and other insects to observe and study them.

Wednesday, Sept. 22 | 6:30 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session we hear from botanist and artist Lia Clark (@clarkstudioart on Instagram). Have you been wanting to learn more about botany, but aren't sure where to start? This session is for you. We will learn about field guides, plant anatomy and morphology, and identification. Join us and learn botany basics with Lia!

Saturday, Sept. 25 | 8 a.m.
Join Central Arizona Conservation Alliance and EcoFlora to learn more about the public lands and wilderness areas we have in Arizona while hiking a portion of the Box Canyon Loop Trail. We will also be exploring and learning how to use iNaturalist, a free mobile app to help identify plants and wildlife. Come and enjoy the wonderful desert with us and celebrate!

Posted on September 04, 2021 21:27 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 01, 2021

September 2021 EcoQuest: What's That Weed?

Join the September EcoQuest: What’s That Weed?
Find and map these common “weeds” and the caterpillars, moths and butterflies that interact with them.

Join the EcoQuest
See the guide on iNaturalist

For this EcoQuest we’re looking at common weeds you may be seeing more of lately, thanks to the abundance of rain we’ve had this monsoon season! What we consider weeds can actually be native plants we can learn more about. Observations from this month’s EcoQuest can help us learn more about these common plants and how they can be more than a weedy nuisance.

What is a weed? The most common definition is “a plant in the wrong place.” A weed is a plant that exists where they aren’t wanted. Sometimes these plants are looked at with disdain, and are the target of intense removal efforts. When you take a closer look and time to understand a weed, it can change your perspective. Many of these plants have a wide range of edible and medicinal uses which we know of from traditional indigenous knowledge. This highlights the importance of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) and how Western science can better collaborate with indigenous peoples to learn more about the natural world.

You may have also noticed an abundance of caterpillars, moths and butterflies lately, feeding on some of these weeds. See if you can observe these too! White-lined sphinx moths are one of our most noticeable moths, and their caterpillars move across the desert in large groups, looking for more hostplants. They look like little armies of yellow and green caterpillars the size of a pinkie finger and have a prominent horn on the back. The caterpillars eat spiderling plants (Boerhavia spp.), a common sight along roadsides and yards after rain. The moths that these caterpillars become are important desert pollinators. While observing these plants, see if you can spot these insect visitors and take notes about where the plants are growing and what might be helping them grow, like an area that collects water.

Common Name: Spiderling
Spanish Name: Mochis, hierba del cancer, hierba de la hormiga, juaninipili
Scientific Name: Boerhavia spp.
Family: Nyctaginaceae (Four O’Clocks)
Nativity/Origin: Native, Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico

Description: Spiderlings (Boerhavia spp.) are tenacious broadleaf forbs that are low growing and spread quickly. The common name comes from the long, slender stems that overlap and intertwine, giving the appearance of a spider’s web. On the ends of those long stems are many clusters of tiny pinkish white or red flowers. These plants can be found growing in natural and urban areas alike. You’ve likely passed them by on your daily commute or even right where you live! Most common species in metro Phoenix are B. coccinea, B. erecta, and B. intermedia.

Palemr’s amaranth on left, fringed amaranth on right.

Common Name: Amaranth, pigweed
Spanish Name: Bledo, quelite
Scientific Name: Amaranthus spp.
Family: Amaranthaceae (Amaranths)
Nativity/Origin: Native, southern part of US, Baja California and northwest Mexico.

Description: The most common species in metro Phoenix are Palmer’s amaranth (A. palmeri) and fringed amaranth (A. fimbriatus). Both are annual forbs with alternate leaves. Fringed amaranth has very narrow and linear leaves compared to Palmer’s. Palmer’s amaranth can grow up to 6 feet or more, while fringed amaranth grows to about 2 feet tall. Amaranthus spp. all have similar medicinal qualities, the seeds can be ground into flour or meal and the leaves can be eaten as greens or potherbs and are high in vitamins and minerals.

Common Name: Woolly tidestroemia
Spanish Name: Hierba lanuda, hierba ceniza, espanta vaqueras
Scientific Name: Tidestromia lanuginosa
Family: Amaranthaceae (Amaranths)
Nativity/Origin: Native, southwestern US, northern and central Mexico

Description: Prostrate, low-growing annual forb. Very noticeable thanks to its leaves and stems that covered in white woolly hairs. Stems are reddish to pinkish and flowers are small and yellow to yellowish-green. Medicinal uses include insect bite relief.

Caltrop photo on left by Marianne Skov Jensen.
Puncturevine on the right.

Common Name: Warty caltrop
Scientific Name: Kallstroemia parviflora
Family: Zygophyllaceae (Caltrops)
Nativity/Origin: Native

Description: A small, annual, low growing forb with opposite and pinnate leaves. Flowers are small and orangey-yellow. A common non-native look-alike is puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris). You may be familiar with this plant for getting stuck in your foot or popping bike tires! Also known as goathead, the fruits of this plant have very sharp points. This is a feature that distinguishes them from the native warty caltrop, which has non-spiny fruits with one beak. Warty caltrop’s leaflets are also wider than puncturevine. Both plants are reported to have medicinal properties including treating kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, and skin disorders.

Photo of desert horse purslane on left by @juliestromberg
Common purslane on right.

Common Name: Desert horse purslane and common purslane
Spanish Name: Verdolagas, verdolaga de cochi, verdolago de cochi, verdolaga blanca
Scientific Name: Trianthema portulacastrum, Portulaca oleracea
Family: Aizoaceae (Ice plants) and Portulacaceae (Purslanes)
Nativity/Origin: Native, southern US and Mexico

Description: Prostrate, semi-succulent annual herbs. Desert horse purslane has opposite egg-shaped leaves on reddish stems with pinkish purple flowers that are tucked in to where the leaf meets the stem. This plant is reported to have many medicinal uses including the treatment of fever, jaundice, and liver and kidney diseases. It is also reported to be anticarcinogenic, diuretic and antimicrobial. It is said to be edible, with some reported toxicity and throat irritation. There is debate about common purslane’s nativity, as it may have been present in the US before colonization. This species has more spoon-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. Common purslane is much more palatable with a sour or salty taste and can be eaten as a raw green, stir fried, or pickled! It is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, has a high nutrition content, is antioxidant and has medicinal uses. This species is also considered beneficial to other plants by breaking up hard soils and providing ground cover, making it easier for other plants to grow.

Another common weed you might be seeing is sandmats, or spurges. We looked for these in a previous EcoQuest, and you can find more information about them here: Spot Spurge

Don't forget to observe any caterpillars, butterflies or moths you encounter near these weeds!

Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute population and occurrence data for these plants and increase our understanding of them. We can learn more about their ecological niches and the moths and butterflies that interact with them.

Southwest Desert Flora
Yavapai County Native and Naturalized Plants
Pure Applied Biology
US National Library of Medicine

Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected.
Visit our website.
Let's be social @ ecofloraphx

Let's be social.On Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Posted on September 01, 2021 16:50 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 31, 2021

We're on the News!

The Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project and the August EcoQuest were featured on 12 News KPNX!
Observations by @ecoexplorers and @reaglephoto made it into the clip. :) You can also read the interview as an article.
Thank you to all of you who make this community science project great!

Photos courtesy of Reagle Photography (@reaglephoto).

Posted on August 31, 2021 19:00 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 02, 2021

August 2021 Events

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
This month we are looking for and learning all about lovebirds! Join us for EcoQuestions and a walk around Steele Indian School Park. We are also hosting another Flora Finder training. Reserve your spot early, the class is limited to 15 people and last month was fully booked!


Wednesday, August 11 | 6:30 p.m.
Let's look for lovebirds! We will be walking the Circle of Life path at Steele Indian School Park while using iNaturalist to make observations. If you haven't used iNaturalist before, don't worry! We will walk you through it. The August EcoQuest is all about lovebirds, and we hope to learn more about these colorful feathered characters.
Register Here

Wednesday, August 25 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, we hear from Greg Clark, the Burrowing Owl habitat coordinator for Wild At Heart. His conservation work has focused on bird surveys, sound recording, photography, and active translocation of displaced Burrowing Owls to artificial habitat. Greg has compiled and mapped rosy-faced lovebird locality and population information in the metro Phoenix area since 1999. His website provided foundational support for studying their status and allowed others to collectively share information about them. Thanks to Greg, we have a great record of lovebird images, sounds and information spanning the past two decades.
Join us to hear all about lovebirds from Greg!
Register Here

Monday, August 30 | 3 p.m. MST
Want to learn how to use a free online tool that professional botanists and researchers use to share and access information about plants across Arizona? Join us for Flora Finder trainings where we will explore the basics of SEINet. Take a look at local floras and pressed plants, test your identification skills and discover where species have been recorded through time. We're looking for people to help make new iNaturalist observations for plants on SEINet, using what they learn in these trainings to add valuable biodiversity data for our area. Could you be the first person to observe a species in metro Phoenix on iNaturalist? Join us in this biodiversity scavenger hunt and become a Flora Finder.
Register Here

Posted on August 02, 2021 22:13 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 30, 2021

August 2021 EcoQuest: Look Out for Lovebirds

Join the August EcoQuest: Look Out for Lovebirds
Find and map as many rosy-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) and the plants they interact with as possible.

Join the EcoQuest
See lovebirds on eBird

All lovebird photographs in this post kindly provided by project member @reaglephoto. See more here!

Rosy-faced lovebirds can be seen all over the Valley and are adored by many. Often thought of as a native bird, these cheeky characters were actually introduced to the area. Observations from this month's EcoQuest can help us learn more about how these colorful parrots have adapted to life in metro Phoenix.

The population of rosy-faced lovebirds in metro Phoenix is unique in that most lovebirds that escape captivity don’t seem to be able to establish feral populations. This is true even in their native habitat of arid regions in southwestern Africa. The population in the Valley is believed to have been here since the 1980s and is thought to be the result of accidentally escaped pets and illegal intentional releases into the wild. These clever birds have found ways to survive in urban areas and are not entirely dependent on humans. As of 2020, their population is estimated to be about 2,000-3,000 and their range appears to be expanding along with urban development.

Rosy-faced lovebirds are smart and resourceful. Phoenix is one of the fastest warming cities in the country, and the heat is especially intense is urban areas. Lovebirds have figured out at least one way to stay cool in the sweltering temperatures. After hearing numerous reports of lovebirds near air conditioning vents on campus, Kevin McGraw, who runs a behavioral ecology lab at Arizona State University, studied the cheeky parrots with students. The study showed that on the hottest and most humid days the greatest number of lovebirds flocked to take advantage of the cool air being leaked from the vents, something native birds haven’t really been observed doing. They have also been able to figure out native food sources like mesquite, creosote and cactus fruit, making them not entirely dependent on bird seed and other human provided food sources. They can most often be found roosting and nesting in palm trees, tile roofs and saguaros, making the most of their surroundings.

How this species impacts other native wildlife hasn’t been scientifically studied. Although technically an invasive species, most evidence suggests that rosy-faced lovebirds are mostly benign because they don’t seem to be able to survive in more natural desert areas. The greatest competition to native wildlife is likely for food and roosting and nesting sites in urban areas. Climate change will impact both native and non-native species, and it will be interesting to see how lovebirds and other wildlife adapt, specifically in urban settings. Will lovebirds be able to tough out the higher temperatures with creative solutions like seeking out air conditioning leaks while native birds are left in the heat? Disease is another impact to consider. Lovebirds can have psittacine beak and feather disease, as well as Chlamydia psittaci which can infect other bird species and cause illness in humans. Research and studies are needed to learn more about the potential impacts.

It’s fascinating to see how an introduced species can adapt to a new environment, especially an urban one. Thanks to the work of the Arizona Field Ornithologists, we have a lot of information and data on this feral population. As is the way with science, there’s always more to learn! There could be plants we don’t know they are eating, or they could be interacting with other birds in ways we aren’t aware of. Help us learn more about rosy-faced lovebirds.

Fun fact: Did you know there was once a native parrot found in Arizona? The thick billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) inhabited higher elevations in the forests near the Chiricahua Mountains until it was hunted into local extinction. The last sighting of one in Arizona was in 1938, but it can still be found in Mexico.

Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute population and occurrence data for rosy-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) and we can learn more about their relationships with plants and other wildlife in metro Phoenix.


Common Name: Rosy-faced lovebird
Scientific Name: Agapornis roseicollis
Family: Psittaculidae
Origin: Southwest Africa

Lovebirds can often be found near water sources, especially with palm trees or houses with roof tiles nearby. Bird feeders are also a common place to spot them. Use iNaturalist to see where they’ve been spotted in the past! You can also upload lovebird sounds to iNaturalist as observations. Check it out.

See lovebirds on eBird
See them on iNaturalist

Associated Plant Species:
Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
Creosote (Larrea tridentata)
Palms (Arecaceae)
Cactus (Cactaceae)
Mesquite (Prosopis spp.)
Palo verde (Parkinsonia spp.)

Arizona Field Ornithologists
Greg Clark
Audubon Society
Maricopa Audubon Society
Animal Diversity Web
Rosy-faced Lovebirds and Disease

Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected.
Visit our website.
Let's be social @ ecofloraphx

Let's be social.On Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Posted on July 30, 2021 18:37 by jenydavis jenydavis | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2021

Adiós Oleanders?

To go along with the EcoQuest theme, project member @tommygatz was kind enough to share an article about oleander that he had written for The Garden Corner newsletter. It includes some great information and planting recommendations. Check it out! :)


We desert gardeners are a funny lot. We often purchase and pamper plants that struggle to survive here yet we sometimes get bored with the ones that thrive. Enough of us apparently got so tired of the yellow flowers on many of our desert natives that Carrie Nimmer developed a gardening class at the DBG called “Anything But Yellow”. Another example is our love/hate relationship with the oleander that may soon end if a bacillus spread by an insect called the Smoke Tree Sharpshooter eliminates this infamous plant from our town, as it is doing right now in some parts of California and central Phoenix.

Although noted plant expert Mary Irish is the only person I know brave enough to publicly admit to liking the oleander, more than a few of us secretly appreciate its usefulness in giving us privacy from our neighbors, shade for our homes and colorful blooms all summer long. All of this in spite of our ongoing struggle to constantly trim this hedge from hell when we plant it in a spot too small for its eventual size. Although it is not native and is poisonous, it does thrive in hot sun on limited water, stays green all year, flowers all summer, has few pests (until now), and (except for dwarf varieties) survives our winter frosts. I once asked DBG horticulturist Kirti Mathura why we hate it so much. “Because it is over-used and because it is so often planted in the wrong place where it becomes a nightmare to keep in bounds” she said wisely.

Well, what do we do now? If it disappears from the Valley, the Plant Hotline at the DBG will be ringing off the hook with inquiries as to suitable replacements for this landscaping mainstay. Here are several evergreen replacements to suggest, and all are native to Arizona. The following species can be planted together for more diversity. All require well-drained soils. They are all fairly cold-hardy and are susceptible to few pests or diseases. They are all low to moderate water users that can be grown as large shrubs or planted in dense groupings to create a privacy screen, sound muffler, wind break or shade hedge. While they lack the summer-long show of flowers provided by the oleander, they all make an excellent background for colorful annual or perennial plantings. They grow much more slowly than do oleanders, so get them started soon!

Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa). Full sun. Moderately fast growing to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Its winged fruit can be attractive. There is a purple variety from Australia that is less frost-hardy (to 20F) than our native bright green version. Holds up well in alkaline soils. We have two that shade the west side of our house and provide nesting habitat for our resident Inca doves. Quail and dove eat the seeds. Accepts varying water schedules and grows accordingly. It can be left unpruned and natural or pruned to maintain dense growth.

Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica). Full sun. Slower growing than the hopbush, this is another great choice for a hedge that can eventually reach 20 feet in height by 15 feet wide with extra water. It has clusters of white flowers and birds love the fruit. Deep water twice a month in summer once established. Develops fullness without pruning.

Sugarbush (Rhus ovata). Does best with some afternoon shade. Large, waxy green leaves with vanilla fragrance; small white flowers and red berries that birds relish. Grows slowly to 15 feet tall and 15 wide. Sensitive to over-watering in the summer. Water every 2 weeks during hottest periods, but allow it to dry out between watering. Best if planted in fall. Little pruning needed.

If you want a prickly barrier, two species worth considering are the thorny Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida), 12 feet tall and wide (full sun; needs water in summer to stay green) and the spiny-leafed, 10 foot tall and wide Red Barberry (Berberis haematocarpa). Both provide berries attractive to birds. The Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is slower growing to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide but with friendlier foliage.

Most of these species will be available at the DBG Plant Sale this fall. Thanks to Mary Irish’s “Arizona Gardener’s Guide” and Judy Mielke’s “Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes” for much of this information and to Cathy Babcock, Angelica Elliott, Dana Hiser, Mary Irish, Ray Leimkuehler, and Kirti Mathura for reviewing earlier drafts of this article.

Tom Gatz The Garden Corner (@tommygatz)

Posted on July 22, 2021 17:50 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment