Spring Fragrance

What Phlox fragrance brings to mind.

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Working as a consulting dietitian, back in the 1980s, on a early June drive from Canisteo, New York on route 19 north of Mansfield, Pennsylvania, where the road goes through the Tioga-Hammond Lakes Recreation area there were miles of phlox growing on the east side of the road. The fragrance of phlox was pervasive with the window down and to this day I remember that time when phlox is in bloom as it was on June 5th, last week.

Click any photograph for a larger image.
The species name (Phlox) divaricata means “with a spreading and straggling habit”.

On the way to Treman State Park, to check out wildflowers, on an afternoon that threatened rain I came upon these stands of phlox, growing as it does under trees in damp soil on the east side of Colegrove Road. We’ve had plentiful rain this spring.

Phlox is abundant here

Looking it up in my reference book, “The Botanical Garden”, the plentiful number of species was daunting. (CLICK ME for more about this reference.) Bloom times spread across the calendar from May through August and into autumn. Species blooming in June were just not a good match.

The blooms seem to go on forever into the woods.

It was a surprising result, though in retrospect given the wide distribution and abundance of species, is to be expected. So I poked around the internet search engines, results from varied search strings, until Phlox divaricata popped up as a wildflower with a late May / early June bloom and growth habit and flowers matching these.

I captured macros of the two hues from roadside specimens.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Solved: Flowering Bush Mystery

from Asia by way of Germany

Thank you to the readers whose thoughtful responses appeared these past two days. Pam and I were caring for two grandchildren and, last evening after their Mom picked them up, I sat down with “The Botanical Garden” by Phillips and Rix, Volume I (2002, Firefly Books, Buffalo, New York and Willowdale, Ontario) and a sprig of the leaves and flowers and narrowed the choices to the genus Weigela of the family Caprifoliaceae.


Native to Asia (China, Korea, northeastern Siberia, and Japan), it was cultivated in France in the late 19th Century and is popular in cold climates, where it does well. These plants have been outside the kitchen window of our home for as long a Pam can remember (back to the 1960s).

I don’t know the exact species, it may be a hybrid of several. What identifies it is the overall growth pattern (tall, though we prune it down so the kitchen window view is not obstructed), the leaves (shape, come in pairs on opposite sides of the branch, tip is pointed and edges have teeth), the flower (tubular, 5 petals, 5 stamen shorter than the petals, 1 simple style with a capitate stigma). “Capitate” means it is round and on top of the style like a head. “Style” is an extension of the ovary though which fertilization by pollen happens. Ours is not fragrant, though some are.

Weigela is the family name of a early professor of Botany (and Chemistry, Pharmacy, Mineralogy) for the university town of Greifswald on the Baltic Sea. There is a botanic garden and arboretum associated with the university and, I suppose, a specimen of the plant was collected for the garden where it is scientifically characterized by the professor.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Flowering Bush Mystery

Request for Assistance

I need your help this morning. This year each of these bushes in front of our kitchen window has profuse blooms after Pam pruned and fertilized them early spring. I am coming up blank with identifying them.

The two bushes are over six feet tall and lose leaves each autumn (deciduous).

Here are some photographs. Can any readers identify these bushes? The common name or scientific will be much appreciated.

Thanks so much.




Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

First Water Trailhead

A desert garden with plans

….continued from the chapter “End of the Beginning”

First Water Trail Head

Notable Sonoran Desert Plants, all in the same frame. From the left, back row: staghorn cholla, ocotillo, saguaro. Front row: teddy bear cholla, yucca. I am not certain the greenery to the left of the yucca is brittle bush.

First Water trail head is the most used access point to the Superstition Wilderness, being the closest to Phoenix and its satellite cities and suburbs. For day hikers there are ample and interesting route choices as all foot trails of the west side terminate at First Water making for a variety of loops and incredible views. For horse people there are facilities to park huge trailers.

The ready access from Mesa, where my sister and husband had their home, was the primary reason I planned to finish my cross wilderness hike on the Dutchman Trail. Named for Jacob Waltz of the fabulous legend of the Lost Dutchman mine, the inspiration for The Searcher’s Superstition Wilderness expeditions and, ultimately, why he and I met and my change of plans.

On our ride over from Roosevelt he told of his difficulties building a home in Apache Junction, sleepless nights spent guarding building supplies from thieves. He looked forward to moving day.

This photographic record of five days in the wilderness would be much different without that meeting yet, there I was that afternoon with plenty of time for photography during the golden hours of late afternoon as I wandered the desert gardens until my sister arrived.

Wild Barley

The long distant ridge beyond the rugged near hills is the backbone of the famed “Superstition Mountain.” On the far right are hoodoos, appearing as so many teeth on a jaw. Gorgeous saguaros in the foreground.

Weavers Needle is the distant peak, 5.5 dry miles away in this view to the west / southwest.

I’ve always been partial to how the dense spines of cactus catch the evening light. These staghorn chollas are in front of the same ridge of the Superstition Mountain. A famous formation, “The Flatiron” is visible on the far right.

The road to the trail head, Service Road 78, winds through 2.6 miles of hills. Here is another overview of Sonoran desert life.

You might remember hedgehog cactus blossoms from my posting “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. The following are from the large hedgehog cactus in the foreground of the preceding photograph.

Future Plans

During the drive back with my sister, Diane, we talked of plans for returning to the Reavis Ranch together, as a backpack expedition. In coming days I met with The Searcher to explore possibilities for a horse expedition and, three years later, these plans came together for a trip kicked off from this same First Water trail head.

Hedgehog Cactus Blooms

Here is a gallery of the same photos. It is fun to flip back and forth with me disappearing from the scene.

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Personable Wildflowers

Early Spring Beauties

Late one April afternoon these backlit Hepatica on the gorge wall above the South Rim Trail of Treman Gorge posed for their portraits.

Click me for the first post of this series.
Click me for “Finger Lakes Memories”, a gallery of fine art photography.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

End of the Beginning

Exploring Arizona in my Fifth Decade of Life

….continued from the chapter “A Rocky End to a Perfect Day.”

The Searcher arrived after breakfast. My camp was bundled up to join the rest of The Searchers equipment and supplies on Colorado’s panniers that replaced the saddle where I sat, and was dumped from, yesterday. This fifth morning of the adventure, I was to have the experience of a light pack for the 4.7 mile trail from Pine Creek to Campaign Creek, past the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance.

First, there was the climb to the edge of Pine Creek canyon where we, for the last time, enjoyed the view to the north of the Arizona Trail and, in the distance, the Four Peaks Wilderness.

North from Reavis Gap

At Reavis Gap we took a rest before the 1500 descent to Campaign Creek on a trail rated as so difficult backpackers go miles out of the way to access Reavis Ranch.

I split an energy bar and took a swig of water before setting up the tripod to capture the following view of our path. The ridge, hazy in the distance of 22 miles, is Apache Peaks, the near descending ridges an improbable green after a wet winter. In the previous photograph, “North from Reavis Gap” you can clearly see the transition from the desert to a grassland biome as the elevation increases.

Generations

On this, the southern shoulder of Two Bar Mountain, we enjoyed desert grasslands almost the entire length, starting with this unlikely oat field. The higher, eastern Superstitions are the western and northern-most Sky Island of Southern Arizona: rising from the desert as isolated mountain systems, catchments for passing storms, with life zones progressing with altitude, the highest typical of Canada. As with oceanic islands, each is a haven for life with potential for evolution of unique species from the isolating effect of the surrounding desert.

These oats are domesticated grain spilled from a horse or donkey pack to thrive in the decades since, sprouting into this spread of light green after a wet winter, ripening, then turning gold with the summer, the grains falling to wait for the next opportunity. This green hue is my first impression of Reavis Gap, see my post “Two Meetings” for a video of the morning breezes rippling along the hillside.

The camera sweeps 180 degrees for all the views from this spot, including prickly pear cactus among the grasses, a butte-like formation to the west, as in the following photograph.

Upper Horrell, the end of the beginning.

We passed the length of the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance, the Reavis Gap trail is 100 feet or so higher on the north side. The name “Upper Horrell” is attached to this location. Reavis Gap trail used to start at a ranch house, part of the “Upper Horrell Ranch.” Horrell is the family name of the former owners.

Upper Horrell is a fortunate location for the school, with the perennial Campaign Creek flowing parallel to their 13 acres on which is a large garden, many fruit trees, livestock and poultry. The school provides lodging and classes throughout the year.

The Searcher initiated his time in the Superstitions with wilderness survival classes and they allowed him to park is horse trailer and pickup outside the gates. We were loaded and out of there with a stop at Roosevelt, population 28, where we were the only customers for mesquite grilled hamburgers and french fries. We talked about the potential for future trips and I took him up on an offer to store my stuff until then. In the following years I did more Superstition Wilderness day trips, backpack expeditions, some with my sister Diane, and one horse expedition with The Searcher and a friend.

Here is a gallery of this post’s photographs, for you to flip through.
Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.
Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Hepatica, Fillmore Glen

Hepatica from April 2007

Back in 2007 I used a 100 mm Canon Macro lens on a Kodak slr along with a Sony DSC-F828 variable lens for this mix of macro and habitat captures presented as a gallery so you can flip back and forth among the larger images. Click any image to bring up a larger version.

Click for my “Finger Lakes Memories” Fine Art Photography Gallery.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills