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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Poppies and Ponies

There weren't many ponies to see but poppies and ponies is a catchier phrase than poppies and horses. Salt River Wild Horses are quite amazing.

With all the precipitation we have had in Arizona this winter, we are all hoping for a vibrant wildflower season. Poppies along the Beeline Highway, Saguaro Lake, and Bartlett Lake have not disappointed photographers and many out of state visitors.

Some sections of this area burned last year. So happy to see the desert coming back to life. Four Peaks is off in the distance.

Arizona wildflower facts

  • "Not all Arizona wildflowers bloom profusely every year. A good show requires three key ingredients: sunlight, rainfall and proper temperature.

  • A dry winter usually means a poor season for the showstopping Mexican gold poppies. Brittlebush, on the other hand, is a reliable bloomer in most conditions.

  • Some Arizona wildflowers are annuals. They grow from seed each year, and those seeds only germinate if there's enough rain in autumn and winter.

  • Other Arizona wildflowers are perennials. They bloom on plants that survive year round. Perennials could pop any time the key ingredients of sun, temperature and rain are present.

  • Arizona’s range of altitudes means that most plants that flower in North America can thrive somewhere in this state.

  • Spring is prime time for flowers in Arizona's low-lying desert regions. Come summer and as long as it stays warm into September, wildflowers bloom in the mountains and higher-elevation communities."

The blue flower is an Arizona lupine. Lupine are a plant of the pea family with deeply divided leaves and tall colorful tapering spikes of flowers.

Purple Owl's Clover

Mexican Gold Poppy

It’s not every year that this flower blooms, but when it does, it really puts on a show. Perhaps the most famous of the Sonoran Desert wildflowers, it can blanket entire hillsides during banner years. Forming as a small yellow cup made of four petals, this flower is simple yet elegant.

The Mexican Gold Poppy usually grows on rocky hillsides or slopes, and is most typically seen during March. If you wish to see the cup open, you must look for them mid-day because they only open when in direct sunlight.

The California poppy is found throughout the Sonoran Desert and in great abundance during years of above-average precipitation.

California Poppy is a perennial or annual growing to 5–12 in (13–30 cm) tall with blue-green foliage. The leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2 to 6 cm (0.79 to 2.36 in) long and broad; flower color ranges through yellow, orange and red (with some pinks). Flowering occurs from February to September in the northern hemisphere (spring, summer, fall). The petals close at night (or in cold, windy weather) and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather.

It isn't often I see a wild white poppy.

Four Peaks

So many saguaro cactus and shrubs perished in the fire.

Superstition Mountains off in the distance

This section of the desert burned last year. Wonderful to see this area come back this quickly.

Bartlett Lake area

The red flowering shrub is called a chuparosa. Native to the Sonoran Desert, "chuparosa" is a shrub that normally grows to about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Under ideal conditions, it can grow to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Leaves are semi-succulent and measure about 1 inch long. Tubular flowers are nearly 1.5 inches long. Red is the most common flower color with yellow or orange variations less common. Chuparosa attracts hummingbirds and blooms through the long, mild winters in Southern Arizona.

Arizona’s Wild Horses: A History

"With all of its diverse wildlife, it’s no surprise that there are still wild horses in Arizona.

The Salt River wild horses have lived in the Tonto National Forest for hundreds of years. The first official record of these horses was in 1902, when the Tonto National Forest was founded. At that time, Arizona’s historical records acknowledged the existence of these wild horses. The records mentioned both their existence then and the hypothesis that they were inhabiting that area well before 1902."

"There is another mention of the Salt River wild horses in an Arizona State Archive from 1890. Then, the Arizona Champion Newspaper mentioned the horses, calling them native stock/native animals. This mention is likely the first official mention of the Salt River wild horses. At the time, they lived all over the land, not just by the Salt River."

"Even before that, it is presumed by historians that Father Eusebio Keno, a missionary important in Arizona’s history, left hundreds of wild horses at his missions, and the stockyards developed through the missions in 1687. He partook his missions and expeditions over horseback, so it can be assumed that he had access to horses – the Salt River wild horses. It is not surprising that he utilized the horses, as there were a huge number of them at the time. So, the Arizonian wild horses can safely be tracked back to the 1600s, though it is probably that they were present in what is now known as the Tonto National Forest before then. "

"While the state is no longer the Wild West, there is one aspect of the 1800’s expansion that still remains today: horses. The forever-symbol of America’s cowboys remains in Arizona, where approximately 400 wild horses remain a symbol of the era of the Wild West.

The horses live in herd-protected areas run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in a national forest near Phoenix and on the Navajo reservation in Northeastern Arizona. The herds are managed by the US National Forest Service and the non-profit Salt River Wild Horse Management Group."

"Also known as mustangs, from the Spanish word mustango, which means, "wild, stray, or feral animal," they are thought to be descendants of Spanish Colonial or Iberian horses brought to the Southwest by explorers in the 16th century. However, as domestic horses were allowed to interbreed with the Salt River horses over the years, the lineage became diluted."

"Members of the herds are descendants of horses Spanish explorers and missionaries brought to the Southwest in the 16th century. Many were left in Arizona when Mexico severed ties with Spain in 1821, since then, the herds have lived independently."

The horses are used to seeing humans, but they’re still wild animals. So, it’s important to keep at least 50 feet away. Move out of the way if horses approach you, and don’t interfere with their natural behavior. If they have to change their behavior because of your presence, you’re too close.

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