Diario del proyecto Metro Phoenix EcoFlora

30 de junio de 2020

July 2020 EcoQuest: Sonoran Survivors

Join us for the July EcoQuest: Sonoran Survivors

This month's EcoQuest is dedicated to learning more about Sonoran Desert plants that can survive or repopulate after fire. Observing these plants can help teach how to recognize them and increase our appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

Join the EcoQuest here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/sonoran-survivors

This wildfire season is already off to a very hot start, with multiple fires very close to urban areas. Understanding more about wildfire and the Sonoran Desert can help raise awareness about wildfire impacts and how to attempt restoration. If you have experienced fire where you live, the plants in this month’s EcoQuest can help facilitate recovery of the desert landscape. Mapping these plants close to home can also provide information on what species could naturally make a comeback in your area.

Fire-adapted ecosystems are those that experience a regular occurrence of fire, and it mostly benefits the ecosystem. Plants that are fire adapted have traits that help them survive, recover or reproduce after wildfire. Examples of this include seed that relies on heat from fire to help them germinate, thick bark that protects a tree form fire damage, or plants that can resprout from their roots after the top part of the plant has burned away. To the best of knowledge, natural fires have not historically been a significant part of the Sonoran Desert. Unlike fire-adapted ecosystems, most of the plant life in the desert is not built to withstand intense, large-scale wildfires. Compounding factors such as climate change, invasive species, and a rise in outdoor recreation have contributed to an increase in major fires here in the Sonoran Desert. These larger, and often hotter fires that are happening closer together in time, do not play well with desert plants that are not adapted for it. This includes iconic cactus like saguaro and prickly pear, as well as agaves, and the desert’s rare plants, which may find it even more difficult to recover on a species level.

Some fires may have naturally occurred in the past, but the spacing of plants in the desert had prevented wildfire from spreading and having an extensive impact. More recently, successive wet winters combined with hotter, drier summers have contributed to an increase of annual dried vegetation, creating a perfect storm of biomass fuel for wildfires. Humans have also altered the natural landscape with the introduction of nonnative species. Many of these species have become “invasive” especially grasses (such as red brome (Bromus rubens), Mediterranean grass (Schismus barbatus.), fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), and buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris)) and stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum). Invasive plants are capable of rapid reproduction and displacement of native plants through competition for space and resources. They are most often introduced to the landscape and do not have the natural constraints of where they naturally grow to keep their populations in check. These plants can dominate the desert landscape and are filling in the open space that historically existed between desert plants. Now, when a fire starts in the Sonoran Desert, instead of burning a small patch of vegetation and then burning out, the fire can “run” because all of these plant patches are interwoven in a fabric of invasive species and increased annual vegetation growth.

Many Sonoran Desert trees and shrubs also support that the Sonoran Desert is not fire adapted. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and triangle-leaf bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) are most often reduced to ash, eventually making a comeback thanks to seed from other areas. Foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) and ocotillo (Foquieria splendens) can be completely eliminated by fire, and have been reported to not return in some burned areas. Even a fire that is considered low or medium intensity can be detrimental for foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla). Their bark is very thin, and they use it for photosynthesis (hence the green color). If they are not killed by fire outright, searing from flames or heat can take that photosynthetic ability away, and/or damage the inner layers of the tree, leading to eventual death. Although plants like jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) or creosote (Larrea tridentata) can possibly resprout, that does not mean they will. The ones that do are likely to be less healthy and not live as long. The plants that seem to handle fire the best and resprout vigorously, such as fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) and catclaw (Senegalia greggii), are often those that are also found outside of the Sonoran Desert in areas that are fire adapted.

Sonoran Desert agaves and cactus also point to the desert not having evolved with larger, hotter fires. Both groups of plants have evolved multiple effective adaptations for the desert’s natural heat and drought, but have not evolved the adaptations associated with a fire regime. Cactus and agave both use a unique photosynthetic process known as CAM (Crassulacean acid metabolism). Plants take in carbon dioxide through holes in their leaves called stomata. Unlike most plants, cactus and agaves open their stomata in the cooler night, taking in and storing carbon dioxide until the sun comes out. This allows these plants to not lose as much moisture, as opposed to having open stomata during the heat of the day. Both cactus and agaves also exhibit succulence, a characteristic that allows them to store extra water in their body tissues. Neither of these water-saving techniques acquired through evolutionary time protect them from fire, however. Cactus specifically are almost always killed outright by fire.

Specifically concerning saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea), if they are not initially killed by fire, most succumb to moderate or severe fire injury within the next decade or sooner. Saguaro seedlings and young plants are lost. It can take a decade for these icons to reach one inch in height, 50 to 60 years to reach about 6 feet, and 90 to 100 years to reach about 15 feet. The time scale at which saguaro grow is in itself, evidence that fire has not been significant in their habitat.

Agaves’ specific heat and drought adaptations include a rosette shape that funnels rain to their roots and shades the plant, leaf surfaces covered with a waxy coating to prevent water loss from stomata in extreme temperatures, gray-green leaves to maximize reflection of sunlight and keep the plant cool, and more. These traits, too, do not protect agaves from fire. Some agaves, such as Parry’s agave (Agave parryi), may be able to survive lower intensity fire if they’ve produced several “pups” (clonal ramets) from their underground stems - the stems within that clone may survive if the low intensity fire doesn’t burn the entire clone.

Having evolved complex heat and drought resisting features, but no real resistance to fire or an ability to survive it, points to the absence of fire as an ecological and evolutionary process in these Sonoran Desert plants’ ecosystem.

Recovery in the Sonoran Desert is not a fast process. Many plants have very specific conditions for seed germination, and growth is often painfully slow. It could take multiple human generations after a fire for saguaros to regain the widespread majesty of a forest, if they can. Sonoran Desert that has been severely impacted by fire has the potential to shift to a very different landscape than what we know now, especially with repeated incidence of fire.

The following is a list of some Sonoran Desert plants that can possibly recover/resprout, plants that can reestablish themselves by seed, and plants that can be planted to help create the right conditions for other plants to begin to grow after a fire.

To see photos of these plants and to learn more about them, please visit the Sonoran Desert Wildfire Plants guide. This is especially helpful for those looking to restore their home landscape after a wildfire.
You can find the guide here:
For a list of local nurseries that offer a variety of native plants and/or seed:

Plants that can resprout:
Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)
Mormon Tea (Ephedra spp.)
White Rattany (Krameria bicolor)
Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)
Catclaw (Senegalia greggii)
Whitethorn Acacia Vachellia constricta
Banana yucca (Yucca baccata)
Creosote (Larrea tridentata)
Ironwood (Olneya tesota)
*not as likely to resprout

Plants that can naturally reestablish from seed:
Wire lettuce (Stephanomeria spp.)
Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides)
Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae)
Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea spp.)
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa)
Triangle-Leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea)

Recommended for planting:
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa)
Triangle-Leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea)
Engelmann’s Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmanni)i
Brown-spined Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha)
Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida fulgida)
Boxing Glove Cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida mammillata)
Saguaro (Carnegia gigantea)
Graham’s Fishhook Cactus (Mammillaria grahamii)
California Barrell Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)
Engelmann’s Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii)**

These are highly recommended because they are considered “nurse plants.” They provide shelter and a favorable place for young seedlings and plants to grow.
*If these cactus are not severely scorched, they can be grown from healthy pieces/paddles. 18-20 inch stems are recommended.
***Plant new, full plants

It is NOT recommended to remove charred plants or soil. Disturbing the soil makes it much easier for invasive species to move in and dominate, and native plant seed may be unintentionally removed in the process. This can also worsen erosion impacts. If plants must be removed for safety reasons, try to leave the roots intact.

To help protect young plants from hungry animals, you can surround them with a ½” mesh galvanized hardware cloth cage.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, cactus, trees, and Ocotillo (Foquieria splendens) do not fare well with intense fire. Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) and Ironwood (Olneya tesota) may survive if they are not overly scorched. The best thing to do for plants that do not survive is to plant new vegetation that provides shelter and habitat for them to germinate and grow naturally.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, in 2019, 87% of wildfires were caused by people.

How you can help prevent wildfires in the desert:
If you see something say something. Do not assume it has already been reported. Contact your local fire department, the park service or 911.
Keep a shovel, extra water and a fire extinguisher on hand, especially in your vehicle or ATV.
Do not drive in or park on dry grass or brush. Your car is hot enough to start a fire.
Shoot targets in areas free of dry vegetation, and do not shoot on hot, windy days.
Learn how to properly extinguish campfires.
Do not throw lit cigarettes or butts out the window or onto the trail.
Fireworks and explosives are illegal on public lands.
Check trailer chains, these can spark and start a fire.

Learn more here:

For more information on these plants, what you can do for after a wildfire, or other questions, please email ecofloraphx@dbg.org.

Dr. Joe McAuliffe, Dept. of Research, Conservation & Collections, Desert Botanical Garden
Raul Puente-Martinez, Dept. of Research, Conservation & Collections, Desert Botanical Garden
Wendy Hodgson, Dept. of Research, Conservation & Collections, Desert Botanical Garden
Lane Butler, Dept. of Research, Conservation & Collections, Desert Botanical Garden
Juanita Armstrong, Natural Resource Specialist, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

R.C. Wilson, M.G. Narog, A.L. Koonce, and B.M. Cocoran, https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/4403/PostfireRegen.pdf

EcoQuests are month-long challenges that are part of the larger Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project.
You can learn more and join the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora here:

Sign up for the newsletter at ecofloraphx@dbg.org.
Let's be social @ecofloraphx

PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ

Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks)
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals)

Ingresado el 30 de junio de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de junio de 2020

Pollinator Week BioBlitz!

Join Desert Botanical Garden and Metro Phoenix EcoFlora as we celebrate National Pollinator Week from June 22nd-28th!

About 75% of all flowering plant species need pollinators for reproduction, making pollinators essential for both healthy ecosystems and a sustainable food supply.

Participate by observing pollinators and the flowering plants you find them on! A bee on your veggies, a hummingbird on your morning walk, or a butterfly you see fluttering past your window will help us learn more about pollinators in the Valley!

You can find the BioBlitz here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/pollinator-week-bioblitz

Ingresado el 22 de junio de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de junio de 2020

Exciting News!

Greetings everyone,

We have some exciting things to share!

Fist off, we have an official logo for the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project!

Also, we have established an email address, newsletter and social media channels.

If you would like to sign up for the newsletter, please send an email to ecofloraphx@dbg.org.

We can be found on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @ecofloraphx.

Looking forward to connecting with everyone!

Ingresado el 16 de junio de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de junio de 2020

June 2020 EcoQuest: Wild for Willow

Join us for the June EcoQuest: Wild for Willow!
Help us find and map Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis). This month's EcoQuest is in support of the Arizona Native Plant Society.

Join the EcoQuest here:

Have you been noticing a tree with big, beautiful violet or light pink blooms lately? It’s likely Desert Willow! This Arizona native plant thrives in our desert heat and continues to display its showy flowers through even the hottest days of summer. Desert Willow makes a great “street tree,” and you can find it in many urban areas.

Not actually a willow, but this tree is a member of the Bignonia family (Bignoniaceae), the same family as Jacaranda. This tree is a great resource for wildlife, providing food, cover, and habitat, especially for birds and pollinators. The cover and shade is enjoyed by people, too! Desert Willow is extremely drought and heat tolerant, and practically pest and disease free. Erosion control and acting as a windbreak are also benefits that it offers. Average height is 20-30 feet with a 15-25 foot spread. The leaves are narrow and long (sometimes 12 inches!). And of course, it has those big, beautiful blooms ranging from violet to nearly white.

Desert Willow is a plant of ethnobotanic significance, meaning it is and has been used by people in many ways, such as food, fiber and medicine.

For the most part, Chilopsis linearis subsp. arcuata is found in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California and New Mexico. Chilopsis linearis subsp. linearis is usually found east of the Rio Grande River in New Mexico and Texas.

Finding and mapping Desert Willow can provide us with more information about native plants (wild and cultivated) in the metro Phoenix area. Studying occurrences contributes to learning about population size and density. We can also see where wildlife can find food and shelter in an urban setting.


About the Arizona Native Plant Society: AZNPS is focused on promoting native plant use and conservation. Meetings, field trips and workshops provide the opportunity to build your native plant knowledge and become involved in local conservation work. AZNPS also produces The Plant Press, a biannual publication that includes native plant information, research articles, book reviews, and society happenings. We have a local chapter right here in Phoenix!

Learn more, join, and/or support the Arizona Native Plant Society (AZNPS) here:

There were 558 observations of stinknet for May's EcoQuest: Search for Stinknet!

The Desert Defenders project currently has a total of 1,236 observations! WOW!
If you enjoyed this month's EcoQuest, please consider continuing to support Desert Defenders in mapping this invasive species: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/stinknet-desert-defenders.

And the "awards" for most observations goes to:
@andybridges with 126
@debbiesak with 109
@kathleendamron with 76
Congratulations and THANK YOU!

It is becoming increasingly important to map stinknet, as well as other invasive species that are high risk fuel for wildfire in the Sonoran Desert, and especially close to home. Your participation can help agencies and organizations identify areas at greater risk when it comes to wildfire. Each observation is an important piece of a larger puzzle. Thank you everyone!

Ingresado el 01 de junio de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de mayo de 2020

May 2020 EcoQuest: Search for Stinknet!

Join us for May's EcoQuest: Search for Stinknet! Help us find and map as much Stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum) as possible!

This month's EcoQuest is in partnership with Desert Defenders. This program is managed in collaboration by CAZCA, Maricopa County Parks and Rec, and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Participation in this month's EcoQuest will provide data to BOTH projects and increase awareness about this invasive species.

This invasive plant has spread aggressively both in urban and open spaces during the last few years. Stinknet spreads via very small seeds that are easily carried by wind and by foot. This plant can quickly alter the landscape as it outcompetes native species for resources and creates an extreme fire hazard once it dries. Be careful when observing this plant as it can cause allergic reactions, both respiratory and dermatological for some people. The smoke is also considered to be caustic.

In order to best plan for and manage stinknet we need to know where it is. When observing, please try to note how many plants you see, or take photos of the overall area along with your closeups of the plant. As a bonus, see if you can observe insects visiting stinknet!

Join the EcoQuest here:

Join the ongoing Desert Defenders project here:

In other exciting news, here are the results from April's EcoQuest: Metro Phoenix Nature Challenge!
Congratulations to @larivera and @sonoranaturalist!! Lisa had the most observations (127) while Matt observed the most species (66). Great work!

Final Counts for the April EcoQuest:

Top Three Observed Species: Stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum), Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii), and Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)!

Observations: 3,828
Species: 909
Observers: 579

This is AMAZING and EXCITING! Thank you all for getting out there and discovering the biodiversity around you!

Ingresado el 01 de mayo de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

16 de abril de 2020

April 2020 EcoQuest (The FIRST One!)

Can you believe we are half way through April?!

April is a month filled with nature celebrations. Arbor Day, International Plant Appreciation Day, and Bat Appreciation Day to name a few. It is also Citizen Science Month and National Garden Month! This year is extra special, with the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and the 5th Anniversary of the City Nature Challenge.

Even though there are many causes to celebrate, April of this year is very different. We are all navigating the complications that COVID-19 has brought. Among the difficulties, we are seeing the brighter side. Life has slowed down a little, and we are spending more time outside exploring the places we live.

We launched our first EcoQuest this month, the Metro Phoenix Nature Challenge. What are EcoQuests? They are like monthly hide-and-seek games for urban biodiversity. The goal of EcoQuest challenges are to observe and study specific plants and/or plant interactions. Each EcoQuest will have its own goal and project page, with top observations and observers every month.

This month's EcoQuest is simply to make as many observations, of as many species, by as many participants as possible. If you think you have been missing out, don't worry, your observations are automatically included. You are, however, encouraged to join the EcoQuest project page so that you can stay up to date with the findings and stats! As of this moment, there are 1,954 observations of 682 species by 261 people!

You can join the EcoQuest here:

While we are spending more time outside close to home, and with Earth Day AND Arbor Day next week, let's celebrate safely and see what we can find!

It is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments & institutions. Please stay close to home, practice social distancing (that means on the trail too!), wear a face mask in public and avoid heavily trafficked areas.

Do what’s best for you & your community. Your participation is up to you and your level of comfort.

For more information and helpful ideas visit:

Maricopa County Parks and Recreation:

Ingresado el 16 de abril de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de marzo de 2020

Hello and Welcome!

Welcome to the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project!

The intention of this project is to emphasize our relationships with plants and ecosystems by bringing attention to their connection in our everyday lives. Community understanding of biodiversity and urbanization, accessible science for everyone, and contribution to local conservation are the goals. United in our efforts and enthusiasm, we as citizen scientists can inspire and create a lasting appreciation for plants within the urbanized Metro Phoenix area, and the Sonoran Desert at large.

Workshops, field trips and EcoQuest challenges engage and educate, while newsletters and social media communicate and celebrate our findings. Let's build community and bond over the excitement and appreciation for nature while we learn about our desert city home.

Thanks for stopping by and happy discovering!

How To Get Started:

Step One
Download the iNaturalist app to your smart phone, or visit the iNaturalist website, www.inaturalist.org.

Step Two
Create an account using your email and an iNaturalist username and password.

Step Three
Join the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project.
• In the app: Tap "More," then "Projects," and search for Metro Phoenix EcoFlora. Tap "Join."
• On the website: Search Metro Phoenix EcoFlora and click "Join" at the top right of the banner.

Step Four
Make observations and share what you've found on iNaturalist.
• Take photos of plants, animals and insects and upload them.
• Your observations are automatically included in the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project

Ingresado el 11 de marzo de 2020 por jenyonen jenyonen | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario