Cholla and Brittlebush Picture of the Week

Cholla and Brittlebush

It’s the end of April, and last week we went from, “let’s open up the windows and let some warmth in,” to “Oh my Gawd—turn on the air conditioner.” I don’t recall a year when the temperature gained thirty degrees in a week. I’m not ready for summer; I haven’t even put my sweaters away.

Spring began with an excellent opening act here in southern Yavapai County. In case you didn’t get out, a colorful ribbon of wildflowers lined the roads for weeks. They’re now drying in the heat and will soon turn to the thick golden straw that catches fire if you look at it cross-eyed. As happens every year, the public service announcements are already predicting 2020 to be the worst fire season ever.

Even with the temperatures over 100, spring isn’t over. The second act is about to begin. That’s when the palo verde trees take center stage and sprout bright yellow blossoms. Beneath their canopy, creosote bushes put out dark green leaves punctuated with tiny dots of yellow flowers. While they’re full, they look like a proper shrubbery that any gardener would be proud to have in their garden. But don’t go planting one in your back yard. I’m sarcastic; they’re a weed.

I’m glad that we snuck out for an afternoon and got some desert colors for you—like this week’s featured photo. On the hike that I described in last week’s post, I dawdled along the way back to the truck and shot some flowers near the path. The best of the bunch was this one that I call Cholla and Brittlebush. I find that both of these subjects are hard to capture. Mature cholla is pretty when the light is behind the needles, but as they grow, the stalks are bare and unattractive. Brittlebush flowers grow like a dome covering the plant, but the yellow washes out in bright sunlight.

Cholla and Brittlebush - A young cholla and brittlebush growing under a palo verde tree near Wickenburg, Arizona.
Cholla and Brittlebush – A young cholla and brittlebush growing under a palo verde tree near Wickenburg, Arizona.

None of that happens in this week’s image. I found them growing under a palo verde tree. The cholla is a young plant, so it hasn’t had time to drop its lower branches. The backlight shows off the sharp needles, and the cactus shades the flowers. The flowers at the bottom are more rooted in color, while the sunlight washes out those at the top. There’s even a gap where the olive-colored brittlebush leaves show. The photo may not be a still life worthy of Irving Penn, but I think it explains why April is the best time to experience the Sonoran Desert.

You can see a larger version of Cholla and Brittlebush on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it. Next week, I’ll begin a new chapter on our back road travel adventures. I’m keeping our destination a secret so the authorities won’t stop us when we sneak out under cover of darkness. Come back next week to see what we found—if we successfully evade the quarantine police.

Until next time — jw

Box Canyon Spring Picture of the Week

I woke this morning with the lyrics of a thirty-nine-year-old song running through my head:

Just like the white-winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Who who who
Just like the white-winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Oh baby oh said oh
Edge of Seventeen—Stevie Nicks

When I opened my eyes, I knew why. Perched on the trellis outside of our bedroom window was an African Dove trying to entice some lady dove—any lady dove—to have sex with him in our bedroom. I know it’s true because his caterwauling went on for a while before he flew right into the window, leaving a dust print of his body on the glass. “Oh crap, I just cleaned that,” I griped. Anne replied, “Zzzzzznxxx,” so I got up.

I miss the mourning doves. They were the ones you most saw in Arizona. Around the turn of the millennia, these invasive replacements started showing up and pushed out our natives. They’re slightly bigger with a black collar on their neck. I admired the colors of the native doves so much that I tried to match the blue-brown taupe hues on my office walls. These foreigners are just Army-Jacket brown. Their songs aren’t right either. The mourning doves song (ooo-ahh, oo, oo, oo) had a profound sadness to it, whereas the outsider seems rushed. And what’s with their Kamikaze dive-bombing scream? They sound like Ninja Stukas attacking every female passing through his territory. It’s no wonder that the women fly off so quickly. It’s like men slapping their car sides and yelling, “Hey babe, wanna’ ride?” (Not that I know anything about that, but it never worked for me either.)

I know that my criticisms are the literary equivalent of running out on the porch and yelling, “Get off my lawn,” to no one in particular. Maybe I’ve reached a new milestone, and I’ve become Old Uncle Jim, who starts every sentence with, “Back in my day …” I doubt it. I think it’s just spring, and like everybody else, I want to get out and enjoy the world without feeling guilty. I hate spring fever this year.

Box Canyon Spring - Spring arrives at the Hassayampa Box Canyon area bringing warm days and colorful flowers.
Box Canyon Spring – Spring arrives at the Hassayampa Box Canyon area bringing warm days and colorful flowers.

Speaking of spring, how about this week’s picture? I call it Box Canyon Spring. I took this down at the Hassayampa River Box Canyon area. That’s where the river, which generally runs beneath its sandy bottom, has cut a path through a gorge. On our outing this month, I noticed this scene on our way out and stopped on our return because the light was better. I also had to hike a mile down a convenient old mine road to get a better composition—and you thought there was no exercise in photography. Anne stayed in the car while I enjoyed the colors and sounds of the late afternoon. On my return—as I got close to the truck—Anne yelled out the window, “Hey babe, you wanna ride?”

You can see a larger version of Box Canyon Spring on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it. Come back next week when we continue with our illicit trip to Wickenburg’s Scenic Loop.

Until next time — jw

Lava Tube and Brittlebush Picture of the Week

Everywhere I look, the desert is yellow, and it’s as thick as a jungle out there. When Queen Anne and I run into town, the train tracks—only a block from the road—are hidden behind the dense foliage. I supposed this was predictable with the good rains we had this winter. We had a good crop of poppies this month along with purple lupine and orange mallow lining the highways.

Several plants give to the yellow with the first to bloom is the Brittlebush. Their soft yellow flowers look like small pale yellow daisies on stems rising from sage-green leaves. Unlike the poppies, their color isn’t vibrant, but they’re so pervasive that they’ll turn mountainsides yellow. They thrive in disturbed soil, like the highway shoulders.

Creosote bush adds a second note of yellow. The lowly creosote is like the lawn of the desert, except it grows 4-6 feet high. A couple of weeks ago, the field across from the park was Kelly green. The bush’s flower is small—almost like buds, and now that they’ve popped, the green has a golden tint.

The yellow crescendo comes when the Palo Verde bloom. Last week, Her Majesty and I ran down to our dentist at the border, and along the way, the trees were already blooming in the low-lands. The bloom moves through the desert like an opening curtain into the highlands. Today I see the trees in our park are beginning to show the tiny flowers. At their peak, the Palo Verde dot the mountainsides with yellow splotches. It’s then you realize that they’re growing everywhere. There’s a color symphony, and quail provide the background music with calls as they stake out their territory. It’s the best time to live in the Sonoran Desert.

Lava Tube and Brittlebush
Lava Tube and Brittlebush – Three of the flowering plants grow among the rocks below a lava tube.

When Fred and I were out taking photos in Black Canyon a couple of weeks ago, I saw lots of brittlebush growing in the lava rock cracks. Their soft yellow popped against the dark, almost black canyon walls. Since they screamed, “Spring,” I wanted to capture the contrast. Out of the several shots that I took, I liked this week’s image best.

In the shot that I call Lava Tube and Brittlebush, three plants were growing below a gaping void in the rocks. I believe it’s a tunnel that formed when the molten magma lost pressure then receded. It’s just like when you were little, and your older brother tortured you by pinning you to the floor then drooled over your face but sucked the spit back at the last moment. The threat was always worse than the spit. Oh! By the way, on your first desert visit, inevitably someone will tell you, “Don’t sick your hand into any place you can’t see.” The lava tube is an excellent example of what they mean. I tried to get Fred to see if he could find any rattlers in there, but he refused. He was no fun at all.

Oh, if you’re wondering how brittlebush got the name, here’s an example of how they look after a couple of weeks without water.

You can see a larger version of Lava Tube and Brittle Bush on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and next week; we’ll show another featured image from a different Arizona site.

Until next time — jw

New Showing at the Wickenburg Library

I see from the date of my last post, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I have a good reason. I’ve been working the last two weeks printing new images and making frames for them. I’ve worked my fingers to the bone and it’s a wonder that I can still type. The reason for printing and framing is for a show of my work at the Wickenburg City Library.

White Argentine Cactus Blossoms
White blossoms of an Argentine Cactus.

This afternoon I’m hanging a group of six new images in the library entry hall. The collection is a grouping of the cactus flower images I’ve taken over the last month. On my morning walks, I tried to capture the wide variety of colorful blossoms I saw along the way. Their colors were intense; almost surreal. It seem like it was only days before the beautiful flowers went to seed and but for a few stragglers, they’ve gone.

Claret Cup Cactus Flowers
The vibrant colored blossoms of a Hedgehog Cactus.

I hope you get a chance to visit Wickenburg and see the collection. The show will continue throughout May. The library is old town Wickenburg,  north of Highway US60 at 164 East Apache Street (East of Tegner Street). They’re open from 8:30 – 5:00 weekdays and till 12:30 on Saturday (closed Sunday). Please accept my invitation to stop in and see them. I’m also looking forward to hearing what you think.

Jim Installing Library Show
Yours truly posing before framed prints hanging at the Wickenburg Library.

Till then . . . jw

Desert Wildflowers

There is an upside of all the rain that we’ve experienced this winter, and that is the wildflowers that are beginning to bloom in the last week. Yesterday, Queen Anne and I had to run into town to Lowe’s, and along each side as well as in the median of Grand Avenue, we saw a beautiful display of wildflowers. There were blue lupine, orange California Poppies and African Daisies mixed in with the melon colored mallow. Of course I didn’t bring my camera.

Fence Poppies
California Poppies bloom in dense groups along the Highway 89 roadside.

I grabbed the camera bag when we got home and drove back down the road where I tried shooting a patch of poppies along the fence line. If you ever wanted to shoot desert wildflowers, this will be an exceptional year and the time to get out is now. Happy hunting.

Till then . . . jw

%d bloggers like this: