Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Field Guide to the Plants of Tucscon.

I love traveling! I love going places I have never been, I love seeing things I have never seen, and Tucson was definitely unlike anything I had ever seen before! We hoped off the plane and everything looked so strange. I had never been to the desert before and to be honest was a little surprised by the vast amount of plants (I pictured it something like the Sahara). There were so many different kinds of shrubs and bushes and REAL LIVE cacti growing right on the side of the road. Ryan is very cool and just as my eyes were starting to get big and I could feel hundreds of questions bubbling up inside of me, he spins around and says "What would you like to know about the flora and fauna Bodecia?"

So I asked him tons of questions, and he answered them, and then answered all of the questions that I hadn't even thought of yet. Ryan and Louise know a ridiculous amount about everything and I love it. Vacations with them are so fun because it is like traveling with a tour guide. Look out the window and point to a building or a plant and they will be able to tell you everything about it.

Being the good little home school girl that I am, I asked a lot of questions, listened closely and I learned a lot. So now I am going to share some of it with you.

The cool thing about Tucson is not only that the dirt, the rocks, the sky and the plants are different but the words themselves are different. For instance....

This is called an "arroyo" most people would look at it and think "that is a dried up riverbed" and it is. But that's not what it is called. It is called an "arroyo". Ryan said as a little kid one of the first things he learned about arroyos was never to play in them when it is raining, even if it is just a drizzle. You see Tucson is surrounded by mountains and a lot of times when it is raining in Tucson, it is pouring in the mountains. All of this water gets stored up, until the mountains can't hold it anymore, then it comes rushing down the arroyos in a massive flash flood, sweeping away whatever is in its path.

This is a "prickly-pear cactus" there are several varieties of prickly pears, but this one with the purple spines is my favorite. They grow all over the place and get fruit on top that people pick and turn into jellies and candies. Ryan says prickly-pear candy is for tourists but he still bought Louise and some to try. I thought it was really tasty. I also got a jar of prickly-pear honey for my birthday!

This is a "Barrel Cactus". It also grows fruit on top but unlike the prickly-pear, its fruit looks like tiny pineapples. I saw lots of half eaten ones all over the road and wanted to try one but Ryan said no, because there was a reason why they were only half eaten.

This is a "Saguaro Cactus". Tucson's desert is one of the only places they can grow because of its unique climate and elevation. I thought that meant they were rare and was excited that I saw one on the way out from the airport. Boy was I wrong! There are whole forests of them jutting out of the mountains and making them look as prickly as the cacti themselves. We were riding along in the car one day when Auntie G points out her window and says "Do you see that cactus leaning against the rock!?!" we look and see thousands of cacti ALL leaning against rocks and had a good laugh. They can live to be hundreds of years old. You can tell relatively how old a saguaro cactus is because they don't get their first arm until they are between eighty and hundred years old. The flower that grows on top of this cacti is the state flower and there are lots of different types of birds that live inside of them. They are very neat.

This is my favorite kind of cacti. Except I can never remember its name! It sounds something like "churro" but whenever I would say that people would laugh at me... Anyway's I like it because it looks sort of like a big fluffy teddy bear. I just wanted to give it a hug. But I was glad that I didn't because upon getting closer...

I realized that it was really more pokey than fluffy... =(

The big green curly sticks growing out of the ground in this picture are called "ocotillo". They ALSO are covered in spines =( You can't touch anything in Tucson without getting pricked! But they are very pretty and are actually despite their stick-like nature considered trees (HA, I am from Michigan and I mock your twiggy trees! HAHAHA!)

This plant looks more like a tree but is actually a type of agave plant. It grows a tall shoot that flowers just before it dies. And when I say tall I mean TALL. The white post next to it was 12 ft.

This isn't the best picture but next to the bridge you can see two green bushy plants. The lighter one is called "Pala Verde" which means green stick. It is a rather twiggy looking tree and it's bark is thin, smooth and green. Ryan says this is so that the tree can perform photosynthesis over its entire surface. "Mesquite Tree" is the name of the darker one and its wood is so hard and dense that it doesn't even float. It burns at a very high temperature which makes it good for burning in grills.

As you can tell I really liked seeing all of the different plants they have in Tucson. Actually on my first day there I went on a three hour walk just so that I could see all of the different plants and animals up close. I love it. There is a lot more that I could tell you about these plants, other kinds of plants and not to mention animals but I think I will save them for another post. I also want to give a HUGE thank you to Louise, Wayne and Danna, but especially to Ryan who showed me around, and answered all of my questions. You guys ROCK!

No comments: