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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Poppies are Popping Up!

The 2024 spring wildflower season will likely be average to above average, which is still a pretty spectacular sight. It is showy in spots, but color will not be as widespread as last year.

Not all Arizona wildflowers bloom profusely every year. A good show requires three key factors: sunlight, rainfall and proper temperatures.

The poppies around Bartlett Lake were in bloom a couple weeks before those around Saguaro Lake.

Bartlett Lake

Poppies are incredibly hardy, super vibrant, and are great at attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies. As a bonus, most poppies will self-seed, which means they'll naturally grow back year after year.

Native to the Sonoran Desert, chuparoa is a shrub that normally grows to about 3 feet tall and four 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 bees and blooms through the long mild winters in southern Arizona. The chuparosa usually is found along the washes.

Can you find the bee?

Some hummingbirds, like the rufous that migrate from Mexico to Alaska, follow the chuparosa’s bloom path as they travel through the desert Southwest. Hummingbirds are important pollinators for chuparosa ensuring that seeds will be produced for a new generation of plants. During the summer, drier soil causes the plant to stop blooming and drop its leaves. This is an important adaptation that allows the chuparosa to survive the hot, dry desert summers. The green stems continue to make food and energy for the plant until fall and winter rains come, and with that moisture a regrowth of leaves occurs. The twiggy, thin stems grow in an open and airy manner making this an attractive bush regardless of the season. Chuparosa blossoms are a fun addition to salads, too, as they taste like cucumbers!

The bees loved flying amongst the white poppies.

Could that be an angry fairy face poppy?

Beeline Highway

Last year, this area along the Beeline Highway was home to poppies, lupine, and purple owl's clover. I will have to check back next week when we will get warmer weather to see if poppies will pop up in this area.

The Salt River Wild Horses have made this their grazing area today. It is always special to see the wild horses.

The wild horses are used to the sounds of vehicles speeding by.

A group of wild horses is called a herd. The reason for this is because horses (like most hooved animals) display herd behavior.

This means that there is a clear hierarchy in a group of horses, with a lead mare (that’s a female horse) who guides the herd towards food and water, and has general control over the movement of the herd overall.

Many wrongly believe that it is a male horse, a stallion, who is in charge of the herd – but stallions tend to stay at the rear of the herd to help encourage stragglers to keep up with the others and to fight off both other male stallions and predators.

So, while stallions do play an important role in the herd, they are not ‘the leaders’

Feral horses live in groups called a herd, band, harem, or mob. Feral horse herds, like those of wild horses, are usually made up of small harems led by a dominant mare, containing additional mares, their foals, and immature horses of both sexes.

Bush Highway by Saguaro Lake

On National Forests, Parks or Monuments, it is illegal to pick or collect plants without a permit. National Forests issue permits for scientific and educational purposes. Permits must be carried while collecting; law enforcement personnel may ask to see the permit.

These poppies are growing within the Tonto National Forest.

One lonely lupine

Common names: Exserted Indian paintbrush, Purple owl's clover, common owl's clover.

Most paintbrush species have red flowers but those of castilleja exserta are bright pink, with reddish-purple bases. The corolla has a three-lobed structure, yellow or white at the tip, and is somewhat hidden by the many bracts rising above it. The bracts, the green leaves and the branched, purplish stems are covered by long, fine, silvery hairs. The bracts are smaller than other castilleja varieties, resembling some clover species, hence the alternative common name of purple owl's clover. The plant can be widespread and common, especially after heavy spring rainfall. It is somewhat variable in appearance, and hybridizes with other species including castilleja attenuata and castilleja densiflora.

Desert pincushion, Fremont's pincushion

Scientific name: Chaenactis fremontii

Main flower color: White

Range: The Mojave Desert, and adjoining areas (AZ, CA, NV, UT)

Height: Up to 14 inches

Habitat: Washes, alluvial fans, hillsides; sandy or gravelly locations

Leaves: Up to 3.5 inches long, linear, thick and fleshy, the largest divided into 1 to 5 (usually just 1 or 2) pairs of narrow, pointed lobes

Chaenactis fremontii grows in arid locations, across the Mojave Desert and adjoining areas. Stems and leaves are green, becoming purple as they mature, especially around the base. Stems branch a few times, generally from below the middle, and are often completely or mostly leafless when flowering occurs. Leaves - concentrated around the base - are thick and succulent-like, divided into a few well separated, linear lobes.

Flower clusters (initially flat-topped, becoming more spherical) are usually borne singly, and consist of disc flowers only, those around the edge noticeably larger than those towards the middle, resembling ray florets. These outer florets are bilaterally symmetric, while the others have the usual radial symmetry. Flowers are all-white or very pale pink. The light green, blunt-pointed phyllaries below the flower head, and the upper part of the stems, have a covering of fine, short, glandular hairs.

I think this might be a blackfoot daisy.

Just south of Payson, poppies were growing on the hillsides.

Lupine growing along the roadway. This was just south of Payson, too.

The hillsides are greening up due to the amount of rain we have had this month. We will have to come back in a month or so when the saguaro will flower.

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