Category Archives: Botanical Adventures

Things that you learn in the desert…

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It has now become a new tradition for my Mama and I to go to the Gem and Mineral show in Tucson, Arizona. Our drive is always filled with an immensity and repetitiveness, the saguaros hypnotic. I have always found myself attracted to these sort of  isotropic landscapes, the uniformity calms me and the large expansive feeling of the desert is always filled with this sense of possibility.

This year after the show we unexpectedly discovered that Chihuly had a running show at the Desert Botanical Garden. The Desert Botanical Garden is Phoenix is a magical place where a frame is put around the desert and the local fauna is dissected and showcased while still keeping with the purity of the desert landscape. It is here that Chihuly’s glasswork seamlessly blends in the environment while simultaneously creating fantastic explosions of color and rigid lines in the horizons. The experience is amazing – the plants, the glass, the plant diversity, and the man made combining with the natural shapes – but the end, the real show stopper for me were the gorgeous Saguaros.

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Saguaros can be found in a small swath that covers the Southwest from Arizona to Sonora Mexico and Eastern California. Some specimens have been known to live over 150 years and thought they are not in danger of extinction when disasters have destroyed them, it can take decades for them to re-establish.  Their accordion like nature is easier to conceptualize once you imagine the rainwater soaking through them and stretching their engorged ribs. It is even more interesting to think how slowly they consume and conserve their water to withstand the harsh desert landscape. They do this all white surrounding a wooden skeletal form.

I have never seen a Saguaro Flower but have heard of their beauty and I am such a sucker for night blooming scented flowers. The night blooming white and yellow flowers have an underwater anenome-like flare to them, but what makes them astounding is how they have slowly moved through the passage of time to perfectly align with pollination. The flowers nocturnal habits have evolved because of their main pollinators, bats. The rich nectar, the high positions of the flowers, the durable blooms and the night blooming scent are all signs between the essential connection between pollinator and flower.  (Though I wouldn’t want to forget the doves and bees who help and are the main daytime pollinators.)

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The uncanny connection between plants and animals of the desert is always so incredible to me. At the Botanical garden some of the Saguaros can often look ragged and chipped, and our garden centric minds always move towards the emotion of pity, but really the raggedness is just a sign of the desert life and the wrinkles of passages of time. Small animals or coyotes in a thirsty year may chew on the bottom of the Saguaros to get moisture. Gila woodpeckers as well as house finches and a variety of other birds create holes that are deep cavities into the cactus which then become “saguaro boots” and were used as storage by the natives.  Elf owls then use the cavities after their former inhabitants have long gone as their own homes. It is this interconnectedness  between the levels of natural systems that constantly strikes me, how different levels intermingle, working together and fighting for a bit of landscape or food.

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Mendocino Botanical Garden

Mendocino is magical gnome country. A place of foggy mornings of creeping nasturtium that turn into dizzying wind swept ocean cliffs. And then there is the Mendocino Botanical Garden.

I can’t even begin to list my favorite part of the garden because I loved every bit of it. The Perrennial Garden was a a collage of colors, all in perfect sync. The Dahlia garden and the Vegetable garden are also explosions and perfect examples of their kind and inbetween them a magical childrens garden! Which just happened to  include a giant robins egg nest made out of large rocks painted blue! The garden end with an expansive view of the ocean on a magical path that I am sure is covered with mushrooms once Fall comes.

Go to this garden! I promise you that it will be everything you wanted it to be and more!

California Carnivores

There is a dreamy sort of architecture to California Carnivores.  A place of curious and rare living things. A space that contains processes that are both horrifying and meticulously natural. The stickiness that captures prey and then devours it. An alien kind of forms that devour things slowly.

Drosera, Sarracenia, Nepenthes, Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, Cephalotus, Pinguicula, Utricularia.

The perfect names for the most unique of plants.

www.californiacarnivores.com

Annie’s Annuals and Perennials

Annie’s Annuals and Perennials is a magical adventure land for plant lovers. It is huge, overwhelming, colorful, and hundreds of dollars can be easily spent. Located in Richmond, it is tucked away in a location that most would not venture. Yet, for the adventurous, you will find one of the best nurseries in the country. Natives, rare and unusual plants, fantastical descriptions, thousands of wandering bees and butterflies. It has everything a plant connoisseur could want. If you are wondering what any of these plants are below, just go to Annie’s website, which is as thorough as their nursery is gorgeous.


New Years’s Day Mushroom Hunt

I grew up in Los Angeles. This is not easy mushroom territory. It is the sort of place where if the general public even thinks of mushrooms, it is as  lawn anomalies (that possibly poisoned your dog) or boxed packages filled with edible brown caps. Which is why it is so strange to find myself  in my role as a forager. And, that the most wonderful thing I can imagine myself doing on the first day of a New Year is wandering around the forest looking for colorful, occasionally edible, but often seemingly redundant mushrooms. There really is something very visceral about walking through the forest and looking for these lovely bottom dwellers of the biological world and collecting anecdotes, as if they were celebrity sightings.

On a more anecdotal note, in the Genealogical Tree of Life, mushrooms have been revealed to be more closely related to humans then to plants. Biologically, this moves into complicated territory describing the evolution of eukaryotes, single-celled organisms, and the restructuring of the tree of life. On a more human level, it brings to mind all kinds of potential fairytales and gives the anthropomorphizing dance  of the mushrooms in Fantasia a far-fetched, yet, magical basis.

Laccaria Amethystina. I love finding purple or red things in the forest. These mushrooms are part of the Laccaria family which bleeds a milky substance when you break the gills.

Ramaria Formosa. Coral fungi. This one reminds me of a overly elaborate fairy tale castle on the bottom of a fish bowl. It also makes a beautiful dark purplish dye (ironic huh?)

Hygrocybe Coccinea. When I saw this mushroom I thought it might be  Cortinarius semisanguineus which dyes a beautiful red color. Sadly, not so, but it was this interesting waxy texture and is a beautiful bright shimmering red.

Polypore!