Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Was Hottest Summer World-Wide

The summer of 2014 was the hottest summer on record.

So what will the climate change deniers say about this?  Did Fox News even cover the NASA report or this news as reported by NOAA scientists?  They did not.  They reported the unusual weather events of 2014 here on their weather page, downplaying the significance of global warming with statements like this:

"From tornadoes, unquenchable drought and blazing wildfires to devastating floodwaters and roaring hurricanes, summer 2014 has been an active season. However, some may feel like the season never reached full-swing, as cooler-than-normal weather was in place during the typical dog days of summer."

We humans often interpret natural events around us with a "common sense" approach; in other words we don't use science, but rather draw conclusions from our own experience.  People who like to discard scientific theories that our human activity is the cause of present-day rising global temperatures often point to the next cold winter with record freezing temperatures as "proof" that the earth is not warming.  What they fail to understand is that global warming causes climate change which results in very different weather patterns over a very long period of time.  The changes in climate will make our world a very hostile place for our species.  Please look at my blog post on climate change from 2013 for an overview of the science on global warming "in a nutshell".

From NOAA article "What's the hottest the earth's been lately?" 
Today, over a 100,000 400,000 people are marching in New York City to bring attention to Global Climate Change.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Patience is a virtue...especially for this plant

I was given a cutting 4 years ago from what I was told was a Night Blooming Cereus.  My neighbor explained that although it was kind of an ugly and gangly plant, I would be rewarded with beautiful and aromatic blooms one day.  So I have neglected nurtured my thornless cactus/succulent for several years waiting for it to bloom.

Night Blooming Cereus in the terracotta pot on top shelf
I have found sunny south facing windows in the winter to place it in (they don't do well in weather below 35 degrees F.) and have taken it outside in partial shade in summer (they sunburn in full sun).  In taking my plant outside, I have dropped the pot and then divided the spoils into many pots and given them away to sceptical daughters and friends (who really didn't want them).

My daughters still have them but I suspect they are hoping they will die by not watering them.

(Surprise: they can live a long time without water.)

In June we moved to Albuquerque and my Night Blooming Cereus plant (which is now like 5 feet tall with it's roaming and growing stems and leaves)  was placed outside on a shaded west facing patio.

Around the second week of September, I saw buds on the plant!! Of course, I sent out announcements to all my doubting family and friends about the upcoming blessed event.

The buds signaling imminent birth of flowers
I had five buds which I checked on each morning and night.  Since I knew they only bloomed at night and died in the early morning light, I was afraid I might sleep through the whole blooming affair.

Hooker's Orchid Cactus
Epiphyllum hookeri

Then on September 14th, I walked out on my patio about 8AM to check on my garden.  When I returned to the door I jumped with joy and surprise.  There were three huge white blossoms on my Night Blooming Cereus.

I could see that they were not the same flower as I thought (Dutchman's Pipe or Queen of the Night Epiphyllum oxypetalum)  but then there are several plants called Night Blooming Cereus.  I now know, courtesy of the internet,  that my plant is a Climbing Cactus or Hooker's Orchid Cactus Epiphyllum hookeri.  The flowers do only last one night and they had faded by late morning.  They have a slight fragrance but not as intense a perfume as the Epiphyllum oxypetalum emits.

The first blossoms in 4 years

The blossoms expire after 1 day.

That night, I got up at 1:30AM to find another blossom:

 Then the last one bloomed the next night:

OK, so was it worth the wait?  I think it was.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Elusive Showy Flameflower

I finally found blooming Showy Flameflowers (Jercinovic, page 354)  last week.  I have led wildflower walks for the Forest Service since 2009 and have never found any blooming Showy Flameflowers  My old neighborhood is east of Albuquerque on the "green side" of the Sandia Mountains.  I used to live in the Sandia Knolls neighborhood at the southern end of the Monte Largo Mountains. There are numerous trails on the north end of Sandia Knolls that ascend Monte Largo and provide some scenic wildflower views especially after our abundant rainfall of the past two months.

Last September (2013), I was hiking there and found numerous small grey-green succulent plants which I recognized as Showy Flameflower (alternately called Dwarf Fameflower) Phemeranthus brevicaulis.  But they were past their blooming period (they usually bloom in July and August), and so I resolved to come back in 2014.  On August 27th, my friend and Master Herbalist, Beverley McFarland and I went to look for them in the same place I found them the year before. We knew they only bloom 1 or 2 hours in the late afternoon so we started climbing the trail at a about 2:00PM.  After an hour, we found them among a sunny and rocky slope facing south/southeast but the tiny plants were closed up and the flowers were not open.

Showy Flameflower Phemeranthus brevicaulis
 We saw so many of the tiny succulents but no flowers.  Then about 3:15PM we saw one with an open flower.

The flowers were just beginning to open in the late afternoon sun.

As we continued to walk for the next hour, we found hundreds of the Showy Flameflowers with their flowers opened up for the insects to pollinate them.  We were so happy because these flowers are so elusive that most people hiking along these trails would not be aware of the beauty that these members of the Purslane Family contain. They are very tiny plants growing among rocky outcroppings.

As we walked down, we enjoyed an abundance of Sunflowers, Red Penstemon, Sanvitalia, Bahia,  Peppergrass, Mullein, Toadflax, Globemallow, and lots of yellow and purple asters..

Beverly McFarland

Me among the sunflowers

Annual Sunflower

Wooly Mullein

Copper Globemallow

Yellow Ragweed or Bahia Bahia dissecta


Red Penstemon
If you would like to find the Showy Flameflowers, go in the late afternoon (after 3PM) and in the next week or so as the flowers will soon be done blooming.  Here is the Google Earth Map of the area just north of Sandia Knolls (in Sandia Park, New Mexico) with the approximate pathway to the location.  You need to take Frost Road east from NM-14 about 2 miles to Sandia Knolls.  Turn left into the Knolls on Camino Alto and stay on that road for about a mile to Pinon Heights Rd.  Go right on Pinon Heights Rd. to Gilbert Place (about 1/2 mile) and turn left.  Go down the hill to Gaddis and make a right.  Go to the next street and turn left (this is Canyon Rd.), take the left fork and park at the closed metal gate which marks one entrance to the Sandia Knolls Open Space.

Go through the gate and proceed along the trail to the left past the construction equipment parked there (the land to the right is owned by Reinecke Construction and their two story green house will always be on your right as you go up the trail). You'll cross the arroyo and then proceed on the path that takes you northeast, up above the arroyo, meandering up to the distinct clearing of the gas pipeline that cuts through the Knolls.  There are numerous paths criss-crossing this area before you get to the pipeline clearing, when you get to the pipeline clearing, take the path northeast where the yellow pipeline sign is,  You'll twist and turn up the mountain.  Look among the south facing rock outcroppings for the tiny grey green low succulents as the magenta flowers may not be open. Once you see them, keep walking higher (you should be about even in elevation to the one story dark brown building with the metal roof to the east on Canyon Road - you can see the power poles ascending up the hill along Canyon Rd).

 Here is the Google Map to get to the Sandia Knolls