Saturday, April 29, 2023

Loma Verde Trail - Blooming Cacti and Ocotillo and The Art of Bonsai

Corona de Tucson

April 29, 2023


We sure had some really nice weather this week.  Mornings begin in the low 50s and afternoons end in the mid 80s.  Tuesday, early morning, we headed east towards the Rincon Mountains to Saguaro NP.  Loma Verde Trail was our adventure for the day.  We have hiked this trail twice before...once in the winter of '19 when we were rollin' full time and the second time in October '21 after we purchased our sticks and stucco.  It's a beautiful trail that we enjoyed both those times, but we agree, spring is a mighty special time of the year for gorgeous colors with a surprise around every twist and turn.    

We begin the trail at the trailhead for Loma Verde.  There is a small parking area...about 6 the trailhead.  Our loop takes us on Loma Verde, a right turn on Pink Hill with a side trail to Pink Hill Lookout, a right turn on Squeeze Pen, and to close the loop, a left on Loma Verde and back to the jeep for just under 5 miles.  

I took lots of trail pictures, but you will have to take my word for it that this is one trail you have to experience in person to capture the whole beauty.  

Right from the get-go, the hedgehog cacti were in full bloom.  Their vibrant color is definitely a contrast against the other subtle desert colors.

As we walked further, the prickly pear cacti lined the trail.  The sunlight gave the effect that the petals were pretty !

We noticed the saguaro we were passing had lots of buds...

really fat buds !

And then, as we made the turn onto Pink Hill we saw blooms.

It's always a special treat to see these magnificent saguaros in bloom.  

These pure white waxy blossoms with a fragrant aroma on the giant Saguaro Cactus were designated the Arizona state flower in 1931.

The ocotillo were in full bloom as well.  Ocotillo are one of the tallest shrubs and weirdest looking plants in the's not a cactus.  The spiny long stems leaf during times of rain throughout the year...usually four or five times.

But they only bloom once...spring is their "time to shine" as my grandma would say.

I never thought about it before, but a lot of these ocotillo are blooming and the leaves have already fallen off.  it's been a few weeks since we had rain.

Ocotillo (aw-kaw-tee-yaw) is a Spanish word and translated means "little torch".  

Native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, these shurbs have become experts at conserving water. Because they are more drought-hearty, these wildflowers bloom more consistently every year than average wildflowers doThey can grow up to 20 feet tall and live up to 60 years.  They transplant easily, but you can't remove them from private, state or federal land without permission...they are protected under Arizona law.    

In addition to the regulars...penstemons, poppies, lupines, brittlebush, etc., we saw Desert Marigolds...

These daisy-like flowers with overlapping petals and scalloped edges are only found in the Southwest.  It's one of the longest blooming and most common wildflowers here.

miniature Wooly Star...

After heavy winter rains, these beautiful little stars carpet large areas of the desert floor.  

trailing four-o'clock, 

These purplish beauties appear to be one flower with 9 petals, but is actually made up of 3 flowers on a short stalk growing from a leaf attachment.

and  Parish's Larkspur.

These desert Larkspur stand up to 36 inches tall.  Flowers alternate on the upper 2/3s of a stalk with concentrated leaves at the base.   

And looking up, the Palo Verde trees were so pretty.

In 1954, the palo verde (Arizona state tree)  joined the ranks of the cactus wren, bola tie, and saguaro blooms as a state symbol. The seeds and the flowers are both edible.  

Any day in the desert is a great day as far as Joe and I are concerned.  Every season has something special to share.  

Pink Hill Overlook...360 degree view with one WOW after another...

This area of the NP has so many tall, healthy saguaro.

Not sure what the butterfly found as the fairy duster has withered away...

Mesquite tassels...

Desert Chicory seed pod before the wind blows...

Saturday morning we had plans for a double date.  We headed north to Tucson to meet Jamie and Andra at Tucson Botanical Gardens.  Yep, we never get tired of meandering the paths there and finding new things.  

This week-end, the Tucson Bonsai Society is celebrating their 51st Art of Bonsai.  This annual event features more than 100 locally-styled bonsai.  The traditional horticulture discipline began in China over a thousand years ago and was brought to Japan through the culture of Buddhist Monks and refined into what is know today as Bonsai...a tree in a pot.   



Simply put, this discipline cultivates and trains young trees to become sculpturally mature expressions of each species being trained.  

It is hard to believe the tree in the above photo is 65 years old.  The artist presenting this tree has been in the Bonsai Society for a year.  The tree was originally from the Stephen Ross collection.  It was explained that these beautiful pieces of art are passed along to others as folks pass away, or become too old to care for and continue to cultivate them.  The oldest tree we saw today at the exhibit was 75 years old.   

There were several different bougainvillea trees in the exhibit...the most colorful of all the trees.  This tree is 30+ years old and was dug from a yard.  The artist has been cultivating bonsai trees for 25 years.  

The tree in this version of a Tokonoma is a  35 year old Catlin elm originally purchased from a nursery. 

The bark on this and all the trees was so pretty. I did ask about the pots as most of them were so shallow...the trees are transplanted into pots with more circumference but not much more depth as they grow.  

At one of the exhibits we learned how wire is used to shape the tree.  The wires are tweaked every two weeks.  

We were happy to share the LEGO exhibit with Jamie and Andra.  This is the last week end it will be there.  

And the Butterfly exhibit will be closing at the end of May.

The cacti are blooming...

The roses are blooming...

The irises are blooming...

And we enjoyed a yummy lunch at Edna's Eatery on the patio.

Barbecued pork tostado with ranch beans, pickled corn, radish, oaxaca cheese, and fresh cilantro with a salad and in-house basil buttermilk ranch dressing...yummy!

It was a wonderful morning visiting with the kiddos and sharing one of our favorite places to meander, enjoy the nice weather, and have lunch. 

Back at the oasis, we walked the cart path three mornings.

The birds still make us smile.

The coyotes sing and play and keep us on our toes.

The pups had a good week.

Breakfast on the patio...

Dover, so hopeful I will drop a few crumbs...

Sally pretending she isn't waiting for me to drop crumbs...

Jack doing what Jack does after playing ball...

Until next time,

Happy Trails !