All across this great country of ours, we find a major network of highways. As I travel, I find the historic and man-made attractions but it’s the off-road path less traveled that I try to seek out. It’s the lure of nature that brings us to these uncivilized places.
In Florida two weeks ago, it was the palms and pines as well as the Spanish moss and osprey. It was the alligators, coral snakes, and fire ants that you needed to be aware of there.
Here, at sunrise in Tucson, Arizona I’m impressed with the green palo verde (state tree), saguaro cactus, ironwood , pepper tree, mesquite, red rock, prickly pear, barrel cactus, cholla, and fairy duster. February and March in the desert have numerous hues of blue-green-gray and red color. It’s now that the white-yellow-pink-orange and red blooms appear. This is truly a beautiful time to be this close to Mexico (50 miles).
I’m here this morning with a Harris Hawk, hummingbirds, cactus wren (state bird), Gambrel’s quail, javelina, coyote, rabbit and a Gila woodpecker.
This is all a big food chain ecosystem. The Gila woodpecker will bore a hole in a Saguaro cactus and nest there. The next year, the Gila will move onto a new hole and the cactus wren will nest in the old hole. The javelina is a little pig-type animal that will eat prickly pear and the hummingbirds pollinate all the flowers. This, along with a roadrunner and beautiful sunrises and sunsets is what you might expect to see in the Arizona desert.
You know, as beautiful as this is – there’s baggage. Along with the expected comes the unexpected. Just when you’re walkin’ along fat, dumb, and happy, “up jumps a spider sits down beside ‘er.” This may be in the form of spiders, scorpions, snakes or Gila monsters, sun, hypothermia, virus, water, lightning or bees.
They have plenty of peaks and some lightning storms here. It can get very hot in the day in the desert and cold at night. Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted to us by rodent urine and feces.
Africanized bees were brought to South America and started moving north in 1957. They reached Arizona in 1998. They are much more aggressive than other bees.
Snakes are abundant here. Arizona has more rattlesnakes than any other state – but not to worry. If you’ve watched your fair share of black and white, shoot-‘em-ups, you know that when the snake coils and rattles, your horse rears up, and you simply shoot him between the eyes with a six shooter (shoot the snake – not the horse or yourself).
Their Gila monster is a lot like our snapping turtle. When he bites he likes to hang on ‘til it thunders or Sunday (usually 15 minutes). I don’t know about you but to me a sharp knife and cuttin’ his head off sounds better.
The scorpion here number 30 in species but only the bark scorpion is poisonous. It is appropriately named because it never burrows and is usually found on mesquite, cottonwood, and sycamore bark. You can tell these guys the same as you tell a dogwood in our area – by its bark.
May the forest be with you. I’m not a native but I got here as soon as I could.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.