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Quick Trip to Tucson
There . . . up the steep slope to our right . . . a medium-sized tree, pinkish looking. Desert willow?
It's in the midst of the taller saguaros. I check with the binoculars. Long marrow leaves, long dangling seedpods . . . I still can't be sure, but there will surely be some closer.
Karen and I decided to take back roads from Phoenix to Tucson just to look at desert. We drive through forests of saguaro and occasionally there are white blossoms at the tops of these extraordinary cacti. There's a column waiting to be written about them. Later, we drive into the parking area at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and right along the roadway is a desert willow.
During our Nevada years, this was one of my favorite plants. It was never abundant, so finding it was always a treat to me. The leaves of the plant here at Boyce Thompson are long, up to three inches and only half an inch wide, looking "willow-like." But the fruits or seedpods are spectacular: here are some that are about four inches long but others that are nearly twice that long.
The lovely blossom, likened to an orchid by some people, is basically white but tinged with pink to red to nearly purple. And it's fragrant. The configuration makes me think of a snap dragon or a penstemon in the Figwort family.
But today's plant is in a totally different family: it's in the Bignonia family.
The long petals resemble lips, giving us the Greek name Chilopsis and linearis is for the long leaves. It's related to our local Catalpa trees in Delta County and they are in bloom right now. Look for the long, dangling seedpods, then look for the lovely white clusters of blossoms.
Karen and I are seeing beautiful desert. The blossoms on the saguaro are a delight, but I think about the native peoples who collected them as a food source — what a job! I know that desert willow is used as a landscape plant and expect to see many of them in Tucson.blog comments powered by Disqus