Saturday, August 12, 2017

August finds AZ Bustin' Out!

I got back from the Midwest last week to find Arizona as green as I've ever seen it! Even flying into the Tucson valley, the mountains were a rare emerald green! Evidently the month of July had been the wettest on record - of course, the rain stopped as soon as I returned! My back yard is usually a bare dirt sort of yard, but I returned to find 2 foot high weeds in desperate need of whacking!

With all the water, many of the cacti here are blooming again, some for the second time. In front of the house I have pair of barrel cacti, both at least 25 years old. They look pretty much identical, but one only blooms in the Spring, the other in the Fall - no confusion there! The normal Fall-blooming one (well, mid-August anyway), was budding heavily with the first flowers - well mixed with the yellow fruits from last year's flowers! The image at left reveals the first flower, well-hidden among the buds about to flower and the fruit from last year, and perhaps before! At right is a close-up of the flower. As with the last post of the Katydid, these images are all focus-stacks, where multiple exposures were combined to extend the range of sharpness. This close-up of the barrel cacti flower was constructed from 28 individual frames!

Since the largest image I can display on the blog is 1600 pixels wide, both the above images were reduced in quality for display. But here at left is a full-resolution of the flower, cropped from the original image. Note how the center part of the flower (stigma?), looks all the world like hot dogs encased in buns!

Out in the back yard, my favorite cacti are the array of Cereus Repandus plants along the east end of the house. One of my favorite monsoon activities is to monitor them as they open and watch for pollinators. Seeing 5" wide Rustic Sphynx moths attack these 6" wide night-blooming flowers is really interesting! However, the problem is that my next adventure (eclipse road trip!) starts in a few days, and while the plants are covered with buds, I'm not sure any of them will open before I need to leave! Fingers crossed there will still be some available to bloom upon my return in a couple weeks!

And almost hidden behind the grill, I remembered my little potted barrel cactus, and I almost missed it even though in full bloom! It's dark red flowers are not particularly conspicuous - I'm not sure I've seen flowers less conspicuous, unless you go with the green cholla cacti flowers! Shown at right they are a quite nice shade, and I see buds for future blooms - I'm just not quite sure what I'll see next time I'm home! Will be glad to give up the 2 foot high weeks though!

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