Thursday, April 8, 2010

Springtime in Pima Canyon

The Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association had a field trip to Pima Canyon last Saturday, April 3, and I was privileged to be invited to go along. I wish to thank Fred Heath for furnishing transportation. Our small group was looking mostly for butterflies, of course, and we collectively saw twenty-one species, but it was the incredible variety of wildflowers that got our attention most of the time.

Fred is very knowledgeable regarding the flora of the Santa Catalina Mountains, where Pima Canyon is located, and he was able to name most of the flowers, and find cryptic ones. I passed right by this larkspur (Delphinium), for example, assuming it was “just another lupine.”

Most of the time, this canyon runs dry, but the winter rains and snowmelt this year have the water cascading down the stream in abundance. The extra moisture meant that we saw flowering plants typical of more moist riparian zones. Take this common monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus, for example.

The flowers, in turn, did offer nectar for many of the butterflies we observed.

This Texan crescent, Phyciodes texana, was flitting from blossom to blossom on the common fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii) that is so abundant right now.

Pima Canyon is just a short drive outside of Tucson, and a very popular spot for hikers, so it can be a bit crowded on weekends. Just the same, I encourage visitors to southern Arizona to consider this scenic canyon as a potential day trip. It takes a bit of time to get into the heart of the canyon, but once there the shade afforded by the cliffs, cottonwoods and other trees is a welcome relief from the heat. You can always cool your heals in the creek, too, provided it is running, of course.

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