Cactus Blossoms in Pima Canyon

Delicate buds develop into a flower, and then, into a cactus tuna

A set of photographs of buds and blossoms of the Prickly Pear Cactus taken in Pima Canyon of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness of the Catalina Mountains.

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Eight New  Blossoms

Here are 8 flower bud growing from one cladode (pad).  There is a 9th bud on a second cladode.  What is interesting about these pads are the needle shadows.  Although thin, each provides some protection from the sun.

Cactus Closeup

This delicate bud will develop into a flower and, then, into a cactus fruit (in spanish, tuna).  The fruit retains those tiny spines, called glochids, which detach on the smallest contact.  The pads are also covered with them.

Prickly pears are known for growing into thickets.  The Cuban government created a “cactus curtain” of prickly pears around the Guantanamo naval base in the 1960’s, to prevent Cubans from escaping to refuge in the United States.

Cactus Flowers

Look closely at the anthers of these flowers.  Each curls over when touched, depositing its pollen.  The habit of prickly pears to grow together in thickets mean there are clusters of blossoms in springtime.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills

Among the desert wildflowers

Among the grasses, cacti and lichen-covered rocks were many small wildflowers

See Evening on Two Bar Mountain for another chapter of my four-day solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.

Campsite at Morning

On the late-morning of day three I climbed out of the Reavis Creek valley to camp on the slopes of Lime Mountain.  There I watched the afternoon progress to evening, a full moon rise in a bright sky and other events featured in this blog.  All around my campsite under a lone juniper the mountain side was blooming.

Grasses, Cacti and Flowers

Among the grasses, cacti and lichen-covered rocks were many small wildflowers.  I was careful to avoid damaging them and otherwise enjoyed their beauty and plentiful blooms my entire stay.  I capture some of them in the early morning light and spent some time identifying them for you.

Desert Hyacinth is a perennial lilly (Liliaceae).

It grows from an onion-like bulb used for food by pioneers and Native Americans.  This lilly propagates through this bulb and, also, from seed that forms from these flowers.

The umbel-shaped flowers grow in clusters at the end of long, leafless stalks.  Each blossom is an inch across and has six segments that are like petals.

Also called Blue Dicks, bluedicks, Papago lily, purplehead, grassnuts, covena, coveria.

Lupine is a pea, a perennial herb and a favorite of bees. Like other lupines, it improves the soil.
Their root nodules, with the aid of certain bacteria, allow lupines and other legumes to absorb free nitrogen from the air.

A member of the Phlox family (Polemonium), this five (5) petal flower bloomed in small groups on erect stalks with sparse leaves. The stamen heads are notable for a bright blue color.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Two Bar Mountain Views

Superstition Wilderness

Two Bar Mountain is only part of this view taken the evening of Day Three, my solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona.

The view encompasses most of the four day expedition, being the climb into the lower Reavis Creek Canyon from which I camped.  I spent one entire day walking up the valley to the falls.

The patches of yellow on the far slopes to the left and into Reavis Valley are Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) blooms.

To find lower Reavis Creek Canyon, look for the prominent cliff formation in the very center of the image.  Follow the end of the cliff down to a dark shadow.  The western canyon wall creates the heavy shadow.  As you move to the right, in the image, the shadow becomes wider because the canyon wall becomes higher.

The view also encompasses a 2005 solo expedition over Two Bar Mountain using the Tule and Two Bar Ridge trails into the Superstition Wilderness around Pine Creek.  See my blog “Racing the Sun” for an image Two Bar Mountain with the path of (most of) two days of that expedition.

An interesting feature of the full size image (lost in the small-scale reproduction of this blog) is the host of enormous saguaro cactuses marching up the sides of the canyon to the left, thinning out and ending on the western walls of the canyon (the slope directly beneath my viewpoint).  Our course, each cactus is perfectly still, casting a huge shadow, and seems very tiny.  The nearest is a mile away.  We are seeing in this thinning host the lower Sonoran in transition to the upper Sonoran life zone.

All of this in one view from Lime Mountain. Here is another, taken just as the sun set.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Not Guilty

…for lack of evidence

Greater Bee Fly is reputed to be a nectar thief, making a cut in flower base to siphon off nectar without fertilizing the flower. This behavior is not in evidence here as it approaches this Carolina spring beauty on a late April afternoon along the South Rim trail of Fillmore Glen State Park.

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Instead, what we see is this fly using a long rigid proboscis, found in the front of the head, to probe and feed nectar from the flower base as would any other respectable bumblebee that is resembles and is commonly mistaken for.

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Wild Sunflower

Composed of Ray Florets

As with other members of the family Asteraceae. Thinleaved Sunflowers are composed of ray florets. The scientific species name “decapetalus” is inaccurate on several counts. The flower is composed of 8-12 (not only 10, as in “deca”) of these ray florets, not petals. These ray florets are part of the flower reproductive organs, a flower petal is adjacent to, not a component of, a flowers reproductive parts.

Found growing August 24, 2019 along a sunny trail, The flowers attract many kinds of insects, including bees and butterflies, some of which, such as the painted lady and the silvery checkerspot, use the plant as a larval host. The seeds provide a source of food for birds. Muskrats eat the leaves and stems and use the stems in the construction of their lodges. Here we see a honeybee gathering nectar and pollen.

August 20129, Buttermilk Falls New York State Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Beauty

…and an edible plant

Claytonia caroliniana, the Carolina Spring Beauty, is an herbaceous perennial in the family Montiaceae. It was formerly placed in family Portulacaceae. Its native range is eastern and central North America. It is most found in the New England area of the United States, but its habitat extends from Ontario and a northern limit in the Cape Anguille Mountains of Newfoundland and south to Alabama.

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It grows approximately 6 inches tall in forests of the Appalachian Mountains and piedmont.Claytonia caroliniana is a flowering, woodland perennial herb. It grows from March though June and is one of the earliest spring ephemerals. The plant grows from spherical underground tubers in light humus. They sprout and bloom before the tree canopy develops. Once the area is shaded, the plants whither leaving only the tuberous roots underground.

The flowers consist of five pink and purple petals. Dark pink veins accent the petals and give them a striped appearance. The carpels are fused together. I have heard the flowers are white when first opened, have not experienced this myself. They grow on a stem 3 – 10 inches tall that bears a single pair of broad leaves. There are two green leaves that grow opposite each other on a node. The leaf has no teeth or lobes and a prominent central vein. They grow up to three inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide.

In the photograph, Carolina Spring Beauty flowers bracket the leaves just visible under leaf litter.


The plant is edible, but its usability is limited due to difficulty harvesting and the small quantities each plant produces. Its tuberous roots are edible and rich in starch and can be cooked or eaten raw. The leaves can be eaten as well. The tuberous roots are eaten by eastern chipmunks and white-footed mice.


The plant was named after John Clayton. Clayton was an early collector of plant specimens.

Source: Wikipedia”Claytonia caroliniana. Direct quotations are in italics.

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Spring Outing V

Wildflower Groupings

Red Trillium are early bloomers, along with Hepatica. I often photograph them together. Click me for a 2019 Red Trillium post of photographs from 2007 taken in Fillmore Glen Park.

Here we have two photographs from the end of the April 20, 2020 session. I finished a series of macro Hepatica and, tired (emotionally, not physically) and not wanting to step up the slope, captured the following grouping of a single Red Trillium, lit by a bolt of sunlight, White Hepatica, fern and the budding White Trillim from yesterday’s post. Not the same trillium, a continuation of all the individuals in bud.

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These were 15 feet or so up the slope above the South Rim Trail. I used the 100 mm macro lens, with the spring breezes ISO set to 2500, f/5.6 for a 1/200 exposure.

Not far away, also upslope, was this flower grouping against a moss covered log. Park forestry leaves fallen trees in place to return to the soil. Camera settings are the same.

Both photographs were handheld.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Early Spring V

Purple vs. White Trillium

Purple Trillium, a different species from the white, present different challenges. The purple blooms tend to dip down toward the ground. White flowers face upward toward the sky. My successful photographs of purple (Click me for another Purple Trillium posting) have the camera lower than the plant, say where there is a bank above the trail.

Shot from beneath, White Trillium project a hopeful air. Here is a comparison of the two species in the environmental and individual treatments.

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Flowering Saguaros in Finger Rock Canyon

Some Fallen, Some Blessed

My visit to Finger Rock Canyon of the Santa Catalina Mountains filled two mornings.  On the first morning, the subject was the lower canyon as morning light filtered over the eastern ridge.

Early morning to the north / northwest looking over a 20-foot fallen Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean), toward lower ridges of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  The saguaro is among a stand of healthy fellows, some with new growth and flowers on the tips of arms and main columns. This giant must have grown over rock through 60 years.  It was brought down when the roots weakened.  Specimens that are more reliably rooted can live to 200 years.

A clump of brittlebush shrub (Encelia farinosa) grows from the same rock.

Pima Canyon is the next over, behind that near ridge which provides similar shade.  Unlike Finger Rock Canyon, the Pima Canyon trail follows the western cliff and loses the shade much sooner.  During our three-week trip, my wife, Pam, and I visited Pima in our first week.

These photos were taken between 6:20 and 7:00 am.

Along the trail I noticed a multitude of buds on the tip of selected saguaro arms.  In a previous blog, there’s a photo of this same saguaro in the shade.  The following series captures the one blossoming top just as the sun passes over the eastern, shadowing, ridge.

The same saguaro, two minutes later…….

Here is a portion of the saguaro forest, around 7 am with the lower canyon filled with light.  There are a few foothill homes with west and southwest Tucson.  The Tucson Mountains are in the distance.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills

Saguaro Flowers in Finger Rock Canyon

April Perfection

These photographs are a continuation of blogs from two days’ exploration of Finger Rock Canyon of the Santa Catalina Mountains, southern Arizona. Here we explore the nature of the Saguaro blossom.

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Saguaro flowers start as buds on the tip of the cactus body or arm. The specimen in the photograph below, growing in the yard of a foothills home on the border of federal land, is over 30 feet tall and, at the end of April 2011, buds are sprouting from every tip.  Look closely for opening buds and full saguaro blossoms.

Flower buds grow only from some tips and around the center, along the sides, not from the point at the very end of the tip, from which the limb grows.

These buds first appeared mid-April and are here shown in the latter stages of maturity, prior to opening.  Sometimes, the base of an arm weakens and the arm lowers close to the ground while remaining healthy.  While descending the canyon I noticed this had happened to the arm of a particularly large specimen, an arm in full flower.  This and the following photographs are from that arm.

I have read that each flower opens in the cool of the night and lasts only until the following afternoon.  Here is a fully blossomed flower with a pair of opening buds.

And more, from a different view of the same arm.

A saguaro flower in full bloom, having opened the previous night. This flower will last a single day. It will wilt in the heat of a single afternoon and close. In this brief time, flying animals will pollinate it. You can see numerous honey bees on the flowers, in a previous blog, “Saguaro Flowers in Finger Rock Canyon.”

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills