What are the plants in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood?

Yesterday we spent some time at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It's a beautiful garden and we loved seeing the Chihuly glass exhibit. (I also know that there must be people in this large city who drive 15 passenger vans, but perhaps they don't visit the museum? J. ended up moving the van 2 times before the parking people were satisfied that it was blocking anything. Come on, it's not that big.) Here are a few pictures from the visit.


D., M., and TM

The little girls got a little tired of walking and I turned to discover the B. was carrying them both. (L. is on the left.)

All of this desert fauna and all the tourists (they really do stick out... and no, I don't consider myself a tourist when I'm here being a third generation Arizonian. I just live somewhere else) made me think that perhaps those of you who have never had the chance to visit the Southwest might be interested in the plants that grow and are common here. 

I went up and down my parents' block and took some pictures of the plants and here is my small desert plant lesson. It is random and very incomplete, but you'll get of sense of what things look like. (If you live in Phoenix, you can just go on to the next item on your to do list.)

First off, you can't talk about desert plants without mentioning the saguaro cactus (pronounced suh - war - ro). This cactus only grows in the Sonoran Desert and is pretty ubiquitous around here. This one lives a couple of houses down from my parents and is pretty old. Saguaros generally don't grow arms until they are at least 100 years old.

Next up is the palo verde tree. It is the Arizona state tree and is also native to the Sonoran desert. It gets its name (palo verde means green stick in Spanish) because its trunk and branches are green. (I'm not sure you can really see that in the photo.) This one is next door.

I would say that 2/3 of the houses where I grew up have desert yards and the rest are grass or a mixture of grass and desert. But there is one type of plant that many yards have regardless of the landscaping and that is...

citrus. Here is one of the orange trees in my parents' yard. Everyone asks why the trunk is painted white. That's because when the trees are trimmed so that the trunk is exposed, the trunk can burn in the sun. The white paint helps reflect the sun and protects the trunk.

If you look closely you will see that the tree is covered with white blossoms. I was thrilled to see they were still in bloom because orange blossoms are the best scent in the world. The best. You will also see that there are still a goodly number of oranges still on the tree. One of the things my parents want my children to do is to climb up in the trees (without knocking down blossoms) and take off the rest of the fruit. This is tricky, not only because of the blossoms, but because there are thorns in there as well.

The spring is really the best time to visit the desert, not only because it is not blazingly hot and there are orange blossoms, but because many plants are in bloom and it's beautiful. Here is a yard with both bougainvillea (that would be the pink flowers... they are really gorgeous this year) and African daisies which cover many of the desert landscaped yards. There are flowers everywhere at the moment. (We're a little too early for some of the cactus flowers, or I would show you those as well.)

Finally, no brief show and tell about plants in the area would be complete without discussing palm trees. Palm trees are everywhere and there are generally two types: the fan palm (which is ornamental) and the date palm (which does produce dates, though few people do anything with them). And now you will not only learn about palms, but get a Sunday school lesson as well.

These are fan palms. They get their name from the way the leaves spread out in a fan shape. The ribs are folded like you would a paper fan and they meed at a center point where the leaf meets the stem. When you are handed a palm at church for Palm Sunday, it is part of this tree. The ribs have been separated into individual parts and this is what you are waving. Just know, that these were probably not the palm leaves used at the actual event.

Those would be date palms. Now, since no one on our block has date palms, I couldn't take a picture of one. My parents do have some small ornamental palms in their backyard. They look like small date palms, so you will an idea of the difference. (Real date palms are much bigger and their leaves are more robust.)

When the plants bloom, the sprays of flowers which will turn into dates hang from yellow arching branches at the top of the trunk, underneath the leaves. Here is a close-up of a branch. You can see that the leaves are very different. Instead of meeting at one point at the base, a date palm leaf is much longer and the individual parts of the leaf run along a main spine. This is the type of leaf (though much larger) that would have used as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

So there you go... more information about plants than you ever knew you wanted.


Jayview said…
Fascinating though! I live in Melbourne, Australia where we have a mix of English style gardens and Australian native plants. We had a 13 year drought not long ago when many people in the suburbs shifted to dry gardens and started using more desert plants. The last few years have been wetter, but this year is dry again. Hard to tell sometimes what will survive. Jean

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