Metro Phoenix EcoFlora's Journal

April 16, 2021

EcoQuestions with Dr. Tania Hernandez

Did you miss EcoQuestions with Dr. Tania Hernandez last night? Not to worry! The recording is up on our YouTube channel. Check it out and learn about cactus biodiversity, evolution and adaptation. 🌵See the recording.




Dr. Tania Hernandez
New World Succulents Cactus Scientist
The work in my lab is motivated by an interest to understand how and when the succulent syndrome appeared and how succulent lineages diversified. Besides being beautiful, succulent plants exhibit an interesting array of evolutionary modifications that occurred at all organismal levels (morphological, anatomical, physiological, genetic, etc.). We still do not fully understand the adaptive significance of those modifications in the context of the particular abiotic, or non-living, conditions under which different succulent lineages evolved around the globe.
Read more about Tania’s research here.


Posted on April 16, 2021 18:24 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2021

2021 City Nature Challenge

Have you heard? April 30 through May 3, the Greater Phoenix Area will participate in the 2021 City Nature Challenge. This is a global effort to observe and document as much urban biodiversity as possible while engaging in community science. Using iNaturalist, anyone can get involved and share observations, anywhere from neighborhoods to local parks. Over 300 cities around the globe participate in this event and every year it gets bigger. This is the first year the Greater Phoenix Area will be part of the international challenge and it is co-organized by the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora, City of Chandler-Community Services and Educating Children Outdoors. We also have many great collaborators joining in on the fun. This is an important event for our state and will highlight the amazing biodiversity we have in the Sonoran Desert. Let's show the world that our desert is not a barren wasteland!

If you are not able to get out and make observations, you're outside of the Greater Phoenix Area, or you enjoy the challenge of identifying species more, you can help identify observations on iNaturalist from May 4-9.

Our neighbors in Greater Tucson and Albuquerque are also participating and we will be in a friendly competition together. Winner gets bragging rights! We are super supportive of one another, after all we are both interested in the same goals.

Results of the challenge will be announced on May 10!
There will be prizes given for the most observations made, most species observed and for the top identifier in our area!

Happenings will be added throughout the month of April, so be sure to check the website for the latest updates on webinars, events and trainings. Visit our website.
Click here to join the challenge.
Interested in collaborating with us? Please email greaterphxcnc@googlegroups.com.

While practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and following recommended safety guidelines, the 2021 City Nature Challenge is a great way to spend time and destress while learning about urban biodiversity. Learn more at citynaturechallenge.org/

Posted on April 13, 2021 00:50 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2021

April 2021 Events

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
Happy Citizen Science Month, National Native Pant Month, International Plant Appreciation Day, Earth Day and more! Please see below for April events. We're especially excited for the City Nature Challenge (CNC)! Join one of the events below to learn more, check out our official website and join the project. Happenings will be added throughout the month of April, so be sure to keep checking the CNC website and our social channels @ ecofloraphx for the latest updates on webinars, events and trainings.


April 30 through May 3, the Greater Phoenix Area will participate in the 2021 City Nature Challenge. This is a global effort to observe and document as much urban biodiversity as possible while engaging in community science using iNaturalist. This is the first year the Greater Phoenix Area will participate in the challenge and is co-organized by the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora Project, Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) and City of Chandler Community Services. CNC was created by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The event started as a friendly competition between two cities but quickly grew into an international event with over 200 countries participating in the most recent 2020 challenge.
Even if you are unable to get out to make observations, or if you are outside the Greater Phoenix Area, you can still participate May 4 - May 9 by helping us identify the observations made during the challenge.
There will be prizes given for the most observations made, most species observed and for the top identifier. Results will be announced May 10!


APRIL EVENTS

SCIENCE CAFÉ with CHANDLER PUBLIC LIBRARY
Wednesday, Apr. 14 | 6:30-7:30 p.m. MST
The Metro Phoenix EcoFlora will be presenting for Chandler Library and the Chandler Environmental Education Center on how to be a citizen scientist and why data collected by the community is important. Learn how you can be a citizen scientist in the upcoming City Nature Challenge, where you can help collect information on the nature around us.
Register Here

ECOQUESTIONS with DR. TANIA HERNANDEZ
Thursday, Apr. 15 | 6-7 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session hear from New World succulents cactus scientist, Dr. Tania Hernandez. Tania will discuss the origin, evolution and diversification of succulent lineages, with a particular focus on cactus (Family Cactaceae) and how we can learn more about biodiversity by comparing urban and wild populations.
Register Here

AZNPS PHOENIX CHAPTER MEETING
Sunday, Apr. 18 | 3-4:30 p.m. MST
Join the Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society and the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora for the April chapter meeting and learn more about the ins and outs of the City Nature Challenge.
Register Here

iNATURALIST TRAININGS
Tuesday, Apr. 20 | 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Tempe Town Lake
Saturday, Apr. 24 | 9-10 a.m. at Gilbert Riparian Preserve
These trainings explore the basics of iNaturalist. We will guide you through getting started with the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project and making observations, helping you make the most of the iNaturalist app and website. These trainings will also prepare you for the 2021 City Nature Challenge.
These events are limited to 10 attendees each on a first-come-first-served basis. Proper face masks will be required and worn, and we will practice social distancing.
Register Here for Tempe Town Lake
Register Here for Gilbert Riparian Preserve

Posted on April 09, 2021 21:39 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 06, 2021

Neighborhood Naturalist Bird Walk

Join the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora for a bird walk with the City of Chandler Environmental Education Center!

NEIGHBORHOOD NATURALIST BIRD WALK
Saturday, Feb. 10 | 9-10 a.m. MST
Veterans Oasis Park
4050 East Chandler Heights Road
Chandler, AZ 85249

Wildlife photographer Cindy Marple with Desert Rivers Audubon Society shares birding basics, as well as tips and tricks to help you make great observations. Please meet in the lobby of the Environmental Education Center.

This event is limited to 10 attendees on a first-come-first-served basis. Proper face masks will be required and worn, and we will practice social distancing.
Register Here

Posted on April 06, 2021 00:27 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 01, 2021

April 2021 EcoQuest: Lookin' Sharp

Join the April EcoQuest: Lookin’ Sharp.
Find and map as many cactus (Family Cactaceae) as possible.

Which plants are associated with the desert more than cactus? These prickly icons can be found all over metro Phoenix, from parks to street medians. Observations from this EcoQuest can help provide an initial view into species distribution and occurrence, which can help inform an urban population genetic study and provide insight into cactus biodiversity.

Join the EcoQuest
Guide to Cactus of Metro Phoenix


This month’s EcoQuest is in collaboration with the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society (CACSS) and research scientist Tania Hernandez at Desert Botanical Garden.


The Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society aims to teach others how to grow and study cacti, other succulents and associated xerophytes, promote interest in these plants and support conservation programs that protect them and their habitats. The Society holds public meetings for study and to provide the opportunity to exhibit plants.
Learn more about CACSS.


Tania Hernandez
New World Succulents Cactus Scientist
The work in my lab is motivated by an interest to understand how and when the succulent syndrome appeared and how succulent lineages diversified. Besides being beautiful, succulent plants exhibit an interesting array of evolutionary modifications that occurred at all organismal levels (morphological, anatomical, physiological, genetic, etc.). We still do not fully understand the adaptive significance of those modifications in the context of the particular abiotic, or non-living, conditions under which different succulent lineages evolved around the globe.
Read more about Tania’s research here.


Cactus have become increasingly popular, with their likeness found on anything from home goods and clothing to cell phone cases and toys. Demand for the plants themselves has also risen, with millions of plants sold every year. In 2019, Saguaro National Park saw over 1 million visitors for the first time in its history. How much do you know about these prickly wonders?

What makes a cactus a cactus? Almost all cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus. Succulents are generally plants that have adapted to store water in thick, fleshy leaves or stems. Agaves, aloes and some euphorbias are a few examples of succulents that are often mistaken for cactus. The stem is the part that stores water in most cactus and they have very few, if any, leaves. Instead, most have spines, which are highly modified leaves. Spines originate from a structure that distinguishes the cactus family: areoles. Areoles are circular or oval-shaped and look like discs covered in small hair or spines. Another way to know you are looking at a cactus is by its flower. Cactus flowers have numerous tepals, stamens, and stigma lobes. Many cactus bloom around April, so be sure and take the time to see if you can identify these flower parts while making observations.



Tepal: a term for when petals cannot be easily distinguished between a petal or sepal
Stamen: the reproductive organ of a flower that produces pollen
Stigma lobe: the reproductive part of a flower that receives pollen on top of the style

In the same way that biodiversity supports healthy ecosystems, genetic diversity supports healthy populations. By having different genetic makeups, species are better suited to adapt and resist risks from pests, disease, stress and environmental conditions. Undesirable genetic traits can also be reduced over time. With so many cactus being grown, bought and sold, traded and planted, we want to know more about populations and their genetic diversity. This EcoQuest can help us decide which species of cactus are most numerous in urban areas and which species to possibly study. Questions we may be able to investigate include where cactus are being sourced, are most cactus in urban areas clones (and therefore do not support genetic diversity), and how do urban population genetics differ from wild populations? The results from this EcoQuest can provide information and data for a future urban population genetics study.

Because of their popularity, cactus have become a prime target for poachers with demand being driven by enthusiasts around the world. Below are some tips from @ ethicalcactus on Instagram for making educated cactus purchases.


To learn more about species that are considered “at risk,” visit the IUCN Red List or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) website.

You can also read more about cactus poaching and the illegal plant trade in this article from The Guardian, featuring Desert Botanical Garden’s own Steve Blackwell.


Just for fun: Love urban cactus? Check out this Central Phoenix cactus map and other works by local artist Steady Hand Maps. Their amazing hand-illustrated cactus cards and map show where different types of cactus can be found in Central Phoenix, and how they can transform urban and residential cityscapes. The cards also have blank spaces to fill in your own observations!



Observing cactus species in metro Phoenix can help us understand more about populations and provide information and data for a future urban population genetics study.

WHAT TO OBSERVE:
Any and all cactus in metro Phoenix. Be sure to take multiple photos and include as many details as possible for an observation because this helps with identification. This includes a photo of the overall cactus, paddles or stems, closeups of spines and areoles, and flowers if there are any.

Cactus can be very difficult to identify, especially because of hybridization, and at times can only be distinguished genetically. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot identify to a species level.

We’ve also created a guide with cactus that have been observed on iNaturalist in Metro Phoenix: Guide to Cactus of Metro Phoenix


HOW TO REMOVE SPINES:

Take extra caution when observing cactus! Be sure to watch your step and pay attention to where you put your hands and feet. When making observations up close, be mindful of longer spines and wear eye protection and gloves if necessary.

If you do find yourself in a prickly situation:
First, don’t grab the spines!
If the stem of the cactus is still attached, try to cut it loose with snips or scissors, leaving about a half inch of spine. Next, deal with the spines. Use tweezers or pliers to try and work or pull spines out. If pieces of spine stay behind in your skin, try a warm soak with Epsom salt to relieve pain and try to draw the spine out. For tiny, hair-like spines like glochids, try running them under warm water and carefully scrape across your skin with something that has a hard and sharp edge. Applying duct tape or letting glue dry on your skin, then removing can also be effective. If you notice any swelling or redness for more than a week or so after, it could be worth a trip to the doctor to make sure the site isn’t infected.

Read more from Raul Puente-Martinez from Desert Botanical Garden in this article.


Sources and more information:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:
https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_cactus_.php
The Plant List
http://www.theplantlist.org/1.1/browse/A/Cactaceae/
How to Remove Cactus Spines
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/how-to-remove-cactus-spines-including-ones-stuck-in-your-throat?utm_source=pocket-newtab
Tucson.com
https://tucson.com/news/local/record-crowds-swept-through-tucsons-saguaro-national-park-in-2019/article_6a5a5487-dec6-5792-8686-1cc20cf06ba7.html#:~:text=Saguaro%20National%20Park%20saw%20its,by%20the%20National%20Park%20Service.





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:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/metro-phoenix-ecoflora

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
https://tourism.az.gov/responsible-recreation-across-arizona

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance)

Posted on April 01, 2021 19:42 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 15, 2021

Merit System

We are excited to announce the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora now has a merit system! Earn rewards for your observations, including stickers, buttons, tee shirts, books, Desert Botanical Garden tickets and more. Virtual badges are also awarded so you can show off your observation accomplishments. To claim merits, fill out the merit system form, we will verify and send out your goods!

Observations that count toward merits are those that have been made within the project boundary since the start of the project on Feb. 6, 2020. Merits will begin being awarded at the level you have achieved as of March 1, 2021. Open to project members only, while supplies last.

Posted on March 15, 2021 17:11 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 12, 2021

EcoQuestions with Vision Gallery

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
Please join us on Tuesday for EcoQuestions with Vision Gallery!

ECOQUESTIONS with VISION GALLERY
Tuesday, Mar. 16 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, hear from Aimee Ollinger and Mary Meyer, the artists behind Vision Gallery's "Approaching the Natural" exhibit. Their work reminds us to take a moment to appreciate the small details, shapes and colors of the natural world. Ollinger’s embroidery and mixed media work seeks to understand the macroscopic and microscopic by controlling the entropic nature of various organic forms. Meyer’s reliefs and wall sculptures attempt to understand the symmetry in nature and how the forms relate to and are similar to the human body.
Register Here

Also, the March newsletter was sent out this week! See it here. If you would like to receive the monthly newsletter by email, sign up here.

Posted on March 12, 2021 21:31 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 01, 2021

March 2021 EcoQuest: Wildflower Wonders

Join the March EcoQuest: Wildflower Wonders.
Find and map as many wildflowers as possible.

Wildflower season is a cherished phenomenon in the Sonoran Desert. Blanketing the desert floor with impressive shapes and colors, these ephemeral wonders have specific requirements that allow them to flourish. Observing wildflowers can provide information on populations and how environmental conditions could be impacting them. These observations can also provide an artistic appreciation of these natural wonders.

Join the EcoQuest
Guide to Wildflowers of Metro Phoenix


This month’s EcoQuest is in collaboration with Vision Gallery and Maricopa Native Seed Library.


The Vision Gallery is committed to curating exhibitions that foster community, spark inclusive dialogues, and enrich the livelihood of the Chandler residents. The Gallery at the Chandler Center for the Arts is dedicated to showing artwork from regionally renowned and prolific artists. Both Vision Gallery and The Gallery at CCA are located in the heart of Downtown Chandler and are managed by the Chandler Cultural Foundation. Vision Gallery also hosts free arts classes for youth through its Vision Kids program.
Visit Vision Gallery.

The Maricopa Native Seed Library provides free native seed to the community, as well as free workshops, information and consultations on native plant gardening. Whether you have a lot of space or an apartment patio or balcony, the library makes it easy to grow native plants where you live. You can find seed from the library at various locations throughout the valley.
Learn more about, find native seed and support the Maricopa Native Seed Library here.


The spring wildflower displays of the Sonoran Desert are one of the most anticipated natural events of the year. Wildflowers are flowering plants that grow without human intervention and usually only make an appearance for a season. Native shrubs, perennials, annuals and even trees contribute to our wildflower bloom, but we typically think of wildflowers as annual plants, such as poppies and lupines, that appear briefly in the Spring. Annuals complete their life cycle in one season, putting a tremendous amount of energy into quickly completing their life cycle. Many germinate, flower and die in just a few weeks. This strategy allows these plants, also known as ephemerals, to take advantage of short wet periods.

Annual wildflowers usually need a soaking rain of at least one inch in the fall. Earlier and more plentiful rains tend to create super-bloom displays. Temperature also plays a role. The plentiful rain should ideally come after the heat of summer, but before the coldest parts of winter. If these conditions aren’t met, wildflowers will produce less flowers and seeds, just enough to support future generations. Seeds can also persist in the soil for up to ten years for some species, providing more insurance for their survival. Because rains are unpredictable, a good wildflower bloom may only occur once in a decade.

For millennia, humans have tried to replicate nature through scientific and artistic means. However, the fallible nature of human hands never allows us to fully capture the intrinsic beauty of nature. When making wildflower observations, take a moment to get closer and inspect their structure. Look at the petal shapes, textures, color combinations and pollen colors. What small details can you see that you may have overlooked before?

Artworks by Mary Meyer and Aimee Ollinger continually approach the natural, with their splendor lying in the artists’ reinterpretation of the organic forms. You can see Mary and Aimee’s work on display in Approaching the Natural at Chandler Center for the Arts from March 6 through April 10. Approaching the Natural quietly expresses the diverse beauty that lies in nature from the hard curved edges in Meyer’s sculptures to the free flowing lines in Ollinger’s work.


Nature Study 21 by Aimee Ollinger
See more of Aimee’s work.


Luster 26 Detail by Mary Meyer
See more of Mary’s work.


Observing wildflowers can provide information on populations and how environmental conditions, such as lack of rainfall, extreme temperatures or longer periods of heat, could be impacting them. These observations also give us a chance to slow down and appreciate the artistic characteristics of these short-lived wonders.

WHAT TO OBSERVE:
Any and all wildflowers in metro Phoenix. Wildflowers are flowering plants that grow without human intervention and usually only make an appearance for a season. Be sure to take multiple photos and include as many details as possible for an observation. This can greatly help with identification.
Guide to Wildflowers of Metro Phoenix



PLEASE respect wildflowers. Picking one wildflower might not cause any harm, but it is important to realize that you may not be the only person picking flowers. The combined impact of 50, 100 or 500 people choosing to pick wildflowers can have a considerable impact on populations. Especially with the recent drought and fires, wildflowers need their seeds to ensure we have wildflower populations in the future. It is also illegal to remove wildflowers without a permit from public lands like state and city parks. Private land is also off limits unless you have permission.

Treading, sitting or laying on wildflower habitat is also a problem. By doing this in a wildflower patch, existing plants can be crushed and the soil can become compacted, making it more difficult for wildflowers to get started. This is especially true with repeated use and treading. Stick to the trails and take responsible wildflower selfies.


Before and after damage to wildflower habitat in just two weeks. Image credit: Instagram user @worldsokayesthiker


Aerial view of damage. Image credit: Instagram user @annanevaresimages


Sources and more information:
Art, H. 1990. The Wildflower Gardener’s Guide: California, Southwest and Northern Mexico edition. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications, Inc.
Arizona Highways. 1988. Desert Wildflowers. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Department of Transportation.
Jensen, M.S. 2020. Wildflowers butterflies and more: flora photo ID guide.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_plant_ecology.php





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:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/metro-phoenix-ecoflora

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
https://tourism.az.gov/responsible-recreation-across-arizona

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance)

Posted on March 01, 2021 19:12 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 16, 2021

EcoQuestions with GMGO Recording

Hello everyone,

If you missed the EcoQuestions session with Great Milkweed Grow Out (GMGO), don't worry! The recording is available on our YouTube channel. See the Recording Here

Posted on February 16, 2021 22:31 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 04, 2021

February 2021 Events

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
Please see below for February events that might interest you. :)

ECOQUESTIONS with GMGO
Tuesday, Feb. 9 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session we will hear from Dr. Kim Pegram and Natalie Melkonoff of Desert Botanical Garden, who are working to conserve monarchs through native plant propagation, research on monarch and milkweed ecology and outreach in the community. Learn more about monarchs and their current situation, milkweed species and the conservation efforts of Great Milkweed Growout (GMGO) at Desert Botanical Garden.⁣
Register Here

ECOFLORA ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Tuesday, Feb. 23 | 6-7:30 p.m. MST
⁣Can you believe it? The Metro Phoenix EcoFlora is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Join us for a review of the past year, member recognition and exciting announcements about what's in store for year two. We are also pleased to announce our guest speaker: Dixie Z. Damrel. Dixie worked with Dr. Donald Pinkava and Dr. Leslie Landrum to compile the Phoenix Flora Database (1997-1999), an online database that encompassed the vascular plants within a 40 mile radius of the capitol building in downtown Phoenix. This Flora has helped provide a baseline for the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project and can guide our efforts into the future. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴!⁣
Register Here

CAZCA ALL-PARTNERS MEETING
Thursday, Feb. 25 | 4-5 p.m. MST
Are you interested in the conservation work happening in our area?⁣ Attend the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance's 2021 virtual All-Partners Meeting: The Central Arizona Regional Conservation and Open Space Conference. Share your current work, collaborate and strategize around the ROSS, and network with colleagues as we build the basis for the conservation future of Central Arizona.
Register Here

Posted on February 04, 2021 20:21 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment