Our last day in Arizona we made a pilgrimage to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum about an hour east of Phoenix. As you might expect for this region of the country their emphasis is on desert plants of the world.
Not only did we get to visit this outstanding arboretum for the first time but we arrived in the midst of their annual plant sale. So the first thing we did was sort through a marvelous assortment of nursery plants — and came away with a Pomegranate ‘Wonderful’ and a Silver Spurge (Euphorbia rigida).
We encountered a number of plants that we were not familiar with. Right at the beginning was the Mescal Bean Tree. Think of a better behaved Wisteria with an equally delightful fragrance.
We were also lucky in that a volunteer (Cass Blodgett) from the Arizona Native Plants Society was leading a tour of the gardens with an emphasis on wildflowers. The nominal one hour tour lasted about two and a half hours and was loaded with fascinating insights into these plants and their various adaptions to the harsh climate — Thanks Cass! As we were walking through the gardens you could see this one large telephone pole sized tree that turns out to be the Boojum (the name is taken from Lewis Caroll’s ‘Hunting of the Snark’).
This was a marvelous specimen with flowering parts at the top. It grows an average of only 4 inches per year.
One of the characteristic plants at the BTA is the Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia). A close-up illustrates the name given to this relative of the Forget-me-not. It fills the stony fields.
Also very common were the Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma puchellum), a member of the Lily or Allium family, depending upon your classifying authority. They, are, regardless of classification and despite the unfortunate name, a charming little bulb with purple flowers.
Penstemon are to be found abundantly in the park (it is a state park as well as an arboretum), but the most striking were the Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) that project right out of rocky cliffs with their brilliant red colored flowers.
Of course there were plenty of cactus such as this Red-spined Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus gracilis)
And it was hard to ignore the Yuccas
But the plant that really captured our interest was the Hopbush (Dodoneae viscosa). This plant, which ranges from small bush to small tree, has the look of Hellebores grown up into shrubs. We liked them — a lot! There is a nice write-up on the Hopbush by Arthur Jacobson.
Of course I would be totally remiss if I did not mention the Hummingbirds. They have a lot of birds in the arboretum but everyone gets captivated by the Hummingbirds at the feeders and on the flowers with the butterflies.
So in the end let me make a strong recommedation to anyone who has the opportunity to stop in at the BTA. They have a very dedicated group of volunteers that helps them overcome the limitations of a state park system’s budget in these difficult economic times. And the springtime wildflowers are not to be missed. Here is a video link to the wildflowers in April of 2005. We had a wonderful time…