IS THIS A CACTUS?
One of the most amazing of the many unique and unusual plants found in our Sonoran Desert is the ocotillo.
In the dry season, the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), with its bundles of gray, thorny stems, looks drab and totally dead. But, given the warmth and moisture of our summer monsoon, miraculously and seemingly overnight, the ocotillo transforms into a leafy green, orange-crowned flowering wonder. The Ocotillo is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2–4 cm), ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months.
This transformation from gray to vibrant green is one of the desert's best examples of drought avoidance.
When the weather warms up and there's plenty of rain, green leaves sprout to photosynthesize, and flowers emerge to create seed for the next generation of ocotillo. But when the rains subside in September, the ocotillo sheds its leaves and returns to its state of suspended animation, to wait out the dry months until summer's warm rains return.
Ocotillos grow naturally throughout the desert Southwest, Baja California and northern Mexico. They are frost hardy, and, of course, heat tolerant, growing in all areas of the low, intermediate and high deserts.
Colonies of mature ocotillo are impressive. Older specimens can reach heights of 25 feet, some spreading out more than 15 feet across. Typically, plants growing in home landscapes range from 6 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.
Until recently, most ocotillo available for sale were harvested from the desert by retailers. Now, however, to conserve native ocotillo and improve transplant success, more are being grown from seed in nurseries.
These plants have fully functioning root systems, ready to grow out and establish once planted.
However, transplant success is anything but guaranteed for harvested ocotillo, the ones dug from the desert. That's because they're often ripped from the soil, tearing off most or all of the plants' roots.
As a result, they must generate an entirely new root system.
One of Tucson's oldest restaurants:
Blue Willow, Est. 1978
2616 N. Campbell Ave.
Blue Willow Summer Menu Items (Credit: Jackie Tran)
This quirky gift shop meets restaurant has something for everyone. With a menu friendly to both vegans and carnivores alike, it’s hard to go wrong. You almost hope they’re on a (slight) wait so you’ve got a reason to peruse the gift shop and pastry case.
Tucson’s El Charro Café: Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant
Did you know that the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family is located in Tucson, Arizona? El Charro Café was established in 1922 by Tia Monica Flin. Tia Monica came to Tucson via France in the 1800s when her father Jules, a famous stone-mason, was commissioned to build the city’s St. Augustine Cathedral. Jules’ signature work can be seen throughout Tucson’s historic district, and in 1896 he built the family residence which is now home to the original downtown Tucson El Charro Café location.
Location: 311 N. Court Ave. Tucson, Arizona 85701
A good place to take visitors......
Mission at Tumacacori
We love taking visitors to the mission at Tumacacori. But the best night is on Christmas Eve, with 100's of lights twinkling down the path to and all around the old mission. It is a must see in my book. And don't miss the great spice shop across the road. It is not far from Green Valley, take the I-19 south.
From: Kathy Dite
A hidden gem in Tucson - the Sweetwater Wetlands .......
The Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility, an urban wildlife habitat, and an outdoor classroom. It is an amazing urban wildlife habitat, a tranquil park where you see native wildlife in an urban setting. Although we haven't spent much time there, we saw loads of dragon files, some lizards and read that there are dozens of other species around, including raccoons, hawks, and even bobcats. We are certainly going back nearer to sunset, when I expect to see more birds.
Directions to the wetlands:
Take the El Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff Road exit 252 on the I-10.
Remain on Eastbound frontage road.
Turn right on W. Sweetwater Drive.
Travel approximately 0.2 miles to the Sweetwater Wetlands parking lot.
From: Kathy Dite
For all the birders in our neighborhood, Gordon Craig has provided this wonderful summary:
Hiking and Birding Destinations - Green Valley is in a desert valley surrounded by the Santa Rita Mountains with plenty of canyons to explore. The mountain tops are referred to as sky islands that are used by migrating birds spring and fall. Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita range is about a half hour to the east of town and is part of the Coronado National Forest State Park with many hiking trails and picnic areas through the mountain. It is also a favorite birding site with the thick stands of pine and cotton wood at about 4000 feet elevation (Green Valley is 3000 ft above sea level). A number of trails rise to 6000 and 7000 feet at the peaks.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, is one of the best birding spots in the Southwest. This lush riparian area provides habitat for over 200 species of birds plus rare fish, frogs and plants. Gray Hawks nest in the large Fremont Cottonwoods along the creek, and Zone-tailed and Common Black-Hawks are occasionally seen. Over 20 species of flycatchers have been recorded on the preserve, including Thick-billed Kingbird and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. The preserve is on the west side of Patagonia about an hours drive from Green Valley.
Because of the mountain valley topography there are many hiking and birding sites within an hour and half drive of Green valley all within the domain of the Coronado National Forest (www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/). A quick search on the internet will identify endless prospects.
If you don't want to hike alone, then GVR has a hiking club (www.gvrhc.org) which conducts weekly hikes every Thursday to various destinations; you must attend a one hour orientation session before joining a hike and are permitted two hikes before joining the hiking club. They hike every Thursday leaving about 7am and returning mid afternoon from destinations within 70 miles of Green Valley. A number of our members are either current or past hikers with the club, including Gordon Craig, Ken and Vicki Steh, and Michael Dite.