Pomegranate is One of the Healthiest Fruits On Our Planet

The health promoting attributes of Pomegranates put it in the category of “SUPER FOODS”. Pomegranate contains potent and unrivaled antioxidants called punicalagin and punicalin.  The juice of the Pomegranate has greater antioxidant activity than acai juice, green tea, cranberry juice or red wine.

healthiest juice to drink
Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate is one of the earliest cultivated fruits throughout history.  It appears in Egyptian tombs, Greek mythology and even in the Bible.  Pomegranate is a symbol of abundance and faith in many cultures.  Recorded history shows that over 2000 years ago Pomegranate was used to treat an assortment of illnesses.

Inside the fruit are hundreds of tiny seeds called arils; this is what we eat or make into juice.  The aril is delicious with a sweet, tart flavor that is high in vitamin C.  Pomegranates originated in Iran and are commonplace throughout the Middle East.  The unique flavor and exceptional health benefits are making it increasingly popular in the United States.

pulp and seeds of pomegranate
Pomegranate Seeds – Arils

Pomegranate Health Benefits:

  • Pomegranate has anti-inflammatory effects that help protect against cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Research showed patients with prominent carotid artery blockage showed a 30% reduction in atherosclerotic plaque after one year of drinking one ounce of Pomegranate juice per day.
  • Pomegranate is high in vitamin C and is a good source of fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin K and protein.
  • Studies conducted showed patients with memory issues that drank pomegranate juice every day performed better and exhibited increased brain activity on their MRI.
  • The antibacterial and antiviral properties of Pomegranate help reduce dental plaque.

Research and clinical studies continue to investigate pomegranates and their antioxidant effects. The experts state that drinking Pomegranate juice whole and unprocessed is the best way.

punica granatum red fruit
Fresh Ripe Pomegranate Fruit

The 2009 article “Pomegranate juice: a heart healthy fruit juice,” published in Nutrition Reviews states, “Observational studies and clinical trials investigating the cardiovascular health benefits of fruits and vegetables, attribute these effects to the combination of phytochemicals, fiber, and other nutrients in whole food intake, rather than the sole effects of an individual component.”

An easy way to eat the seeds, arils, of the Pomegranate is to slice the fruit in half.  Using a bowl of water, hold the half upside down and beat gently with a wooden spoon so the seeds drop down in the water.  The arils (seeds) are delicious alone, in cereals, or in your favorite dish.

seeds of pomegranate
Pomegranate fruit cut in half
cereal with Pomegranates
Pomegranate Seeds in Food Dishes

Before adding Pomegranates to your diet consult your physician.  The high vitamin K may counteract blood thinners.  It is always best to speak to your pharmacist or physician first.

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Pomegranate is #1 in our TOP 10 Heat Resistant Plants!

The bountiful pomegranate tree is native to the Mediterranean region which has similar growing conditions as the Arizona Sonoran Desert.  Pomegranates thrive in the drier climates of California and Arizona.  As a matter of fact, in 2009 the first commercial pomegranate farm started in Arizona. This fruit tree seems satisfied with our alkaline soil and experiences no deficiencies!

punica granatum red fruit
Pomegranate tree

Although the pomegranate originated in Iran, ancient records show it is one of the oldest known cultivated fruits.  Biblical Archaeologists discovered fruit such as the pomegranate,  was much more than a food; it had symbolic significance for the Ancient Israelites.  The antiquated Greeks believed pomegranate juice was the “symbol of love”.  The botanical name for pomegranate is Punica granatum belonging to the family Lythraceae. P. granatum has more than 500 cultivars.  In 1769, the pomegranate was introduced into California by Spanish Settlers.

fruit of love pomegranate
Juicy pomegranate seeds

In the sizzling, sunniest area of our yard we now have five pomegranate trees, shrubs ranging from six months to six years old.  “Wonderful” is our cultivar and is also the most common cultivar for Arizona.  Recently,  we had record temperatures of 113 degrees F; with higher temps forecasted for next week.  There was some vexing over the younger plants, but it proved to be unnecessary.  We are delighted to report our Punica granatum flourished in the extreme desert heat!

leaves of the pomegranate
Pomegranate seedlings 3 months old

The adamant pomegranate is drought tolerant and does best with well-drained soil, semi-arid climates and plant hardiness zones 8 to 10.  The fruit is adversely affected in wetter climates along with the plant becoming prone to root decay.  Tolerant to frost down to 20 degrees F.  Easy to grow, this deciduous tree can mature to 30 feet; but it is more common to see pomegranates at 12 – 15 feet.

p granatum blossoms flower
bright red pomegranate flowers

The leaves of Punica granatum are glossy, narrow, lance-shaped and deer resistant.  The lavish flowers are bright orange-red with a fleshy tubular calyx.  Some cultivars are grown for their flowers alone and used as ornamental trees.

red seeds in pomegranate
white membrane inside of a pomegranate

Pomegranate fruit is a berry filled with seeds numbering 200 to 1,400.  The seeds are in a white, spongy, acidic membrane.  The outer skin is a tough , leathery texture.

red pomegranate
ripe pomegranate

HARVEST:

The fruit is ripe when it reaches its distinctive color and it makes a metallic sound when tapped.  Overripe fruit will begin to crack and the seeds will become harder.

pomegranate fruit
over-ripe pomegranate with cracks

EATING:

The easiest way to eat a p. granatum is to use a bowl of water to separate the seeds.  The seeds sink and the white membrane floats.

seeds of p granatum
sliced pomegranate fruit

Slice the fruit in half and then hold it upside down and beat gently with a wooden spoon so the seeds drop down in the water.

flowering desert shrubs red
Pomegranate is a heat resistant plant

Another reason Pomegranates ranked #1 on our list:

  • This fruit has potent anti-inflammatory properties!  Numerous pomegranate studies have been achieved and the evidence shows its wide range health benefits.  Our next article will contain information on those studies and one of the most healthiest fruits on earth, “THE POMEGRANATE” !!

AZ traveling along route 77 takes you through awe-inspiring Navajo County

Our recent Arizona travels brought us to towering sandstone peaks, untouched Ponderosa pines,  and vast canyons that indulge your spirit.  Grab some adventure and enjoy these photos of Navajo County in Arizona.

State route 77 is an Arizona highway that stretches north from Holbrook to the south junction of I-10.

We ventured north on SR 77 towards Snowflake, AZ enabling us to enjoy the dazzling sites of Navajo County.

Navajo County in Arizona
our dogs love exploring the area

Navajo County is in northeastern Arizona.  The climate varies due to the diversity of the geographic area.  You will experience normal winter weather and delightful summers in the White Mountains.  On the other hand, the lower desert areas are warm with little or no snow.

Navajo County in Arizona
Salt River Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Indian reservation land makes up approximately 66 percent of Navajo County, AZ.  The 2 main areas are divided by the Mogollon Rim.  North of the Rim is dry and desert like.   On the south side of the Mogollon Rim you will experience mountains and forests overflowing with pine and pinon juniper trees.   Navajo County has the largest continuous stand of Ponderosa Pines in all of North America.

Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ
Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Cedar Canyon Valley is in Long Tom Canyon.  Cedar Canyon is one of our regular stops when heading south on route 77.

White Mountains
The White Mountains in Arizona

It is common for people to think of a vast, open desert when describing AZ.  Surprisingly,  Arizona is a state of extremes when it comes to geography.  In the southeast, one can experience some of the hottest temperatures in the world.  A few hours north in the White Mountains of Navajo County, you will experience a true winter with significant snowfall.

Mogollon Rim
Ponderosa Pines view from the Mogollon Rim

When looking at a map of Arizona you will see a jagged ink line making its way across the state.  This giant escarpment of volcanic and sedimentary rock is called the Mogollon Rim, pronounced,  “muggy own“.

Full of beauty and mystery, the Mogollon Rim is surrounded by history that formed from erosion and movements in the earth.  When visiting Arizona it is worth a trip through Navajo County to experience the spectacular white cliffs of the uppermost sandstone stratum of the Mogollon Rim.  These windblown white vertical cliffs are 280 million years old, the Permian Period,  and 350 feet thick.  The thickest on earth.

Mogollon Rim
The Mogollon Rim in Arizona
Mogollon Rim
Pine Trees along the Mogollon Rim

In Navajo County you will also find the Petrified Forest National Park.  Fossil lovers will be thrilled to study the fallen trees that are dated to the late Triassic period, 225 million years ago.  

Petrified Tree
Petrified Forest National Park tree

Navajo County was formed on March 21, 1895 and includes Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indian reservations.

Native American celebration
Native American celebration in Navajo County Arizona

By the time it became Navajo County, the railroad had crossed the county for more than a decade, and North America’s third largest ranch, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company near Holbrook, had been established.

The Hopi Pueblo of Oraibi Indian Reservation is further south and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the US.

Show Low Arizona
Show Low in Navajo County, Arizona

Ranching is a major portion of Navajo County’s economy along with coal mining, timber and tourism.  There was an uplifting of the soul as we rode past the curious horses.

Giant Saguaro desert cactus – facts and photos

Within Arizona’s Tucson Basin is The Saguaro National Park.  This park provides the ideal conditions for sustaining dense stands of the famous saguaro cactus.

saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park in Tucson

**The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, studies show that the Saguaro cactus obtains most of its moisture during the summer monsoon season.

Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus in Arizona

There are dozens of varieties of cacti;  short, tall, stout, delicate but none quite as magnificent as the Giant Saguaro cactus.

Quick Saguaro Facts:

  1. Saguaros have one deep tap-root but most of this cactus’ roots are 4-6 inches deep and span out as far as the desert plant is tall.
  2. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the US.
  3. After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture.
  4. The Giant Saguaro can live to be 200 years old.

In the Sonoran desert the saguaro cactus has a boundless variety of towering armed shapes.

the saguaro cactus in arizona
the saguaro cactus species in AZ

Water makes up 75 to 95 percent of the saguaro cactus’ weight.  During periods of drought the pleats of the saguaro cactus contract.  During Arizona rains the saguaro expands as it soaks up moisture.

saguaro cactus with fruit
saguaro cactus close up

Saguaros, like many desert cacti, grow excruciatingly slow.  Arizona cactus experts estimate that a forty-foot tall saguaro is about 150 years old.  Arm buds begin to appear when the saguaro is 75 years old.

the saguaro arms
the saguaro arm buds

Many saguaros now standing in cactus forests germinated in the mid-1800s !!

saguaro cacti over 100 years old
saguaro cacti over 100 years old

To survive their early years, saguaro seedlings must be sheltered from the elements, whether it be under the canopy of other plants or in the crevices of rocky outcrops. Saguaro seeds can be deposited in droppings of birds roosting on branches of shrubs and trees.

nurse tree
young saguaro cacti under a nurse tree

Lightning, powerful winds, harsh winter freezes and the rotting of dead tissue kill saguaros.  Their woody ribs stay on the desert floor until they are consumed by termites or decay and return to the soil.

dead saguaro cactus wood
woody spine of the dead saguaro cactus

This cactus species is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of the saguaro cactus.

You can find the majestic giant cactus in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexica.

Yellow flowers of the real Mexican Bird of Paradise

What is the small tree with yellow flowers and round leaves in Arizona?  The Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Bird of Paradise, is a flowering plant species in the pea family, Fabaceae. This drought tolerant, perennial tree is native to Mexico and the extreme lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Caesalpinia mexicana
Mexican Bird of Paradise yellow flowering bush tree
bush with yellow flowers round leaves
Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Bird of Paradise

All parts of this Mexican plant are poisonous.  The showy Mexican Bird of Paradise shrub thrives in dry conditions.  Once the roots are established, they are drought tolerant.  

yellow flowers and round leaves bush shrub arizona texas
Mexican Bird of Paradise, caesalpinia mexicana

If you are looking for a small shade tree that is flowering and easy to care for; the Mexican Bird of Paradise is perfect for your yard and a good choice for xeriscape desert gardens.

Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Poinciana, does best in full sun.  It is a perennial flowering tree that is heat resistant; with rounded leaves and spikes of solid yellow flower clusters.  The fragrant yellow flowers of this Bird of Paradise are very showy and will bloom throughout the year!  The USDA Hardiness Zone is 9.

Texas yellow flowers round leaves bush
Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Bird of Paradise Plant
Arizona bush yellow flowers shrub
leaves and yellow flowers of Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Plants

In the photo ABOVE see the rounded shape of the leaves and the yellow flowers.

The “Red Bird of Paradise”, – commonly but mistakenly called (The Mexican Bird of Paradise), –  has Red, Orange and Yellow Flowers. See the Picture below.

red orange blooming bush flowers
Red Bird of Paradise desert shrub

The Mexican Bird of Paradise bush can be pruned and trained into a small tree.

round leaves yellow flowers bush
Mexican Bird of Paradise tree, yellow flowers

How to grow bird of paradise plants from Bean Pods

Germinating the seeds for this Mexican Bird of Paradise will be easy! Simply soak the seeds from the bean pods in water for 48 hours or like many people use a damp paper towel.  If you are using the paper towel method to germinate your seeds-when a white shoot appears-plant it with the white shoot facing DOWN.

peat pots

To plant and grow your bird of paradise — plant the seed in peat pots.  Cover the seeds lightly with damp vermiculite or your choice of a good soil.

vermiculite

Bird of Paradise seeds need at least 8 hours of sun, but not direct sun it will be too hot! You can start to give them a little more direct sun after the first leaves appear.

Peat Pots are great and make growing and transplanting your Mexican, Yellow or Red Bird of Paradise seedlings much easier. Start your seeds indoors and when you are ready to plant your Bird of Paradise just put the entire pot in the ground. Roots will penetrate the peat pot and the pot disintegrates enriching the soil.

Arizona Monsoon brings Microbursts – Describe a Microburst

microburst starts with a typical thunderstorm.  What is a thunderstorm?

Image
Watching this microburst from our driveway in Southeast Arizona

A thunderstorm works like an engine. It pulls moisture and air in and converts it to rain and then pushes wind and rain out. For the thunderstorm to continue;  it has to be TILTED. The top of the thunderstorm can NOT be directly over the bottom.
During the later months of Arizona Monsoon (which means a season – like summer is a season),  the steering flow in the upper-level of the atmosphere weakens. The UPPER level winds are what tilt storms, such as thunderstorms. The thunderstorm can still form but it will lose the tilt quickly!

This picture is the basics of a thunderstorm. The updrafts and downdrafts are made up of warm air and cooler air.

Image
courtesy of WVVA TV

(Photo of a Thunderstorm chart courtesy of WVVA TV in Virginia – http://www.wvva.com/ )

As warm, humid air rises inside a storm, heavy rain forms and some of it evaporates in the colder air on top. This cooled air then sinks, accelerates and spreads out as it hits the ground, resulting in a localized, wind called a microburst.

These down bursts are put in two categories. A MACRO-burst and MICRO-burst, only difference is the area they are concentrated in.

Image
Picture of the Microburst note: the Cumulonimbus clouds were moving towards the microburst and combining with it!

To understand the difference in the sizes of a Micro-burst and a Macro-burst I included another photo from WVVA TV.

Image
Macroburst courtesy of WVVA TV

A Microburst Storm is an intense, localized downdraft of air that spreads on the ground causing rapid changes in wind direction and speed.   “downburst”

Microbursts are made of winds rushing down to the ground!  Wind speeds can be 50- 100 mph, damaging roofs, snapping trees, etc…

Image
A Microburst turns into a Macroburst, during Monsoon Season. (moonsoon)

Microbursts can happen so quickly here in Arizona and this is one reason why so many warnings are placed regarding flash floods. These intense storms are capable of producing winds of more than 100 mph causing significant damage.

On a positive note:  Microbursts replenish the desert with much needed rain.

Journey inside Colossal Cave – Arizona’s dormant cave

Before entering Colossal Cave it was essential to educate ourselves and obtain some “cave basics”.  The facts and information we learned about limestone caves made our trip profoundly interesting!

Colossal Cave is an archaic KARST CAVE (meaning erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, caverns and underground streams).

Colossal Cave is a Karst cave
Karst region

Karst caves have 3 categories:  limestone, gypsum and quartzite.

Colossal Cave is limestone and considered dormant, “dry”.  A dry cave is without drips of water, streams or pools.  How was the cave formed?  Here is a short, simple answer:

  • Precipitation mixes with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and decaying organic material in the soil.
  • When Carbon dioxide is dissolved in water it forms carbonic acid. The carbonic acid begins to form holes in rocks, seeps into crevices and dissolves the rocks, especially limestone; but very slowly.  (Thousands of years)
    rock crevices and joints.
  • Cavities form and further sculpting can occur from water and chemical weathering.
  • After passing through limestone, the acid water contains a dis-solvable calcium carbonate.  As this solution de-gases through exposure to air by way of splashing, dripping or flowing, it loses carbon dioxide and deposits a solid mineral called calcite.
  • Calcite is the main mineral component in CAVE FORMATIONS, (speleothems).
Calcite, which gets its name from “chalix” the Greek word for lime, is a most amazing and yet, most common mineral. – See more at: http://www.galleries.com/Calcite#sthash.7JQ91AJ6.dpuf

The SPELEOTHEMS in Colossal Cave no longer grow. This cave formed by water depositing limestone that has NOW disappeared.  Close by, in the same mountain park, are Arkenstone and La Tetera Caves with active growing formations.

dormant speleothems in Colossal Cave
crystallized calcium carbonate formations

The most abundant mineral in limestone is calcite (calcium carbonate).  The majority of limestone formed on ANCIENT ocean floors.

Calcite is a main component used by echinoderms, like sea urchins, starfish, and sand dollars to make their spines and skeletons.  Calcium carbonate (calcite),  is found in the shells of marine organisms and truly is one of the MOST abundant minerals on earth!

In the marine environment, if the conditions are right, calcite is stable enough that it can cement together sediments and overtime make limestone.

calcite in the ocean water
limestone towers in the Atlantic ocean

On occasion another element may be present while calcite is being formed (ex: magnesium) and take the place of a calcium atom.

A less stable aragonite is a polymorph of calcite. They are both calcium carbonate but have different crystal shapes and symmetries.  The calcium, oxygen and carbon atoms in aragonite bond together differently creating a unique crystal structure.

Ok this is plenty of background information so now journey with us to Colossal Cave Mountain Park!

what to do in Tucson
The retaining wall and Visitor’s Center at Colossal Cave

The elevation of Colossal Cave Mountain Park is about 3,500 feet.  The temperature of the cave averages 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  No extra clothing is needed but feel free to carry water or a camera.

Colossal Cave in Vail, Arizona
walkway outside of Colossal Cave entrance

Frank Schmidt was monumental in the improvements and preservation of Colossal Cave by handing over his leases to the State of Arizona.  You can find information and historical photographs at La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum.

preserved Colossal Cave
Frank Schmidt statue at the cave

 

good picnics and kids activities at this Tucson park
bring the family and spend the day at this Arizona park

In 1879, Solomon Lick, the owner of the nearby hotel, was searching for stray cattle and discovered the entrance to this cave.

Arizona historical sites to see
professional guides take you through this historical landmark

Thousands of years ago Colossal Cave was used by Hohokam, Sobaipure and Apache Indians.  Travel down the road to the ranch museum for a fascinating display.

must see historical sites in Tucson, AZ
Colossal Cave has 363 steps

Most crystals are found in areas, like caves, because they take thousands of years to grow.  The growth continues until the saturation is stopped or the cave dries out.  Most crystals in a cave are calcite or aragonite.

visotors must see in Tucson, Arizona
calcite in the cave

Your tour guide will tell the story of the bandits who hid out in Colossal Cave.  These outlaws even played cards in the Colossal Cave Living Room. Legend has it that the gold from the train robbers is still inside the cave!

Stay with the tour group.  Our guide really wasn’t kidding when she said the group might go left and you’ll go right and be lost for hours in Colossal Cave.

Tectonic activity is noticeable.  Your guide will point out a fault in the earth’s crust.

Colossal Cave spelunking
Fault lines inside the cave

Cave’s formations, speleothems, are created by the same water that dissolved the calcite in the limestone —- then deposited the calcite in other areas of the cave.

historical caves in Arizona
stalagmites and stalactites in Colossal Cave

Stalactites – “c” for ceiling – hang from the top of caves like icicles

stalagmites and stalactites
cave formations with labels

Stalagmites – “g” for ground – emerge from the ground like a traffic cone

Because Colossal Cave is DRY;  the appearance of these speleothems is different than living caves.

Layers of calcite build up into fluted curtains.
Layers of calcite build up into fluted curtains.
 cave
our wonderful tour guide at Colossal Cave
FDR's Conservation Corp
Civilian Conservation Corps designated by President Roosevelt

In the 1930’s, a Civilian Conservation Corps designated by President Roosevelt worked tirelessly building the retaining wall outside and improving the inside of Colossal Cave.

The CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, constructed the stairs, bridges and handrails.

Colossal Cave repairs and protection
Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, helping Colossal Cave

While visiting this cave do adventure down the road to La Posta Quemada Ranch.

what to do in Tucson, Arizona
visit the historical Ranch at Colossal Cave Park

Colossal Cave and the historic La Posta Quemada Ranch are listed on the National Historic Register.  When you visit be sure to enjoy a Desert Spoon Burger!

LANTANA is the best drought tolerant plant – Red, White, Purple, Gold, Perennial Flowers!

As I was going to the store I came across one of the greatest displays of The New Gold, White, Red and even Purple Trailing Lantana I have ever seen!  In our Arizona garden we have several species of Lantana because it is one of our desert favorites!

Best Drought tolerant plants, Lantana varieties
Purple Trailing Lantana, Texas New Gold, Red, Light Yellow Lantanas

White, Red (Texas), Purple Trailing and Gold lantana mounds in this picture – Gorgeous!

Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the VERBENA family, (Verbenaceae). They are native to tropical regions of Africa and here in the Americas.

Lantana Verbena in containers
Confetti Lantana and Purple Verbena desert plants

It comes in plants and shrubs commonly called Lantana and shrub verbenas. Some types are considered invasive; they spread easily because lantana leaves are somewhat poisonous to most animals.

This is precisely why Lantana is a large part of our desert garden. Not only is Lantana resistant to the hot temperatures in Southern Arizona, but also drought tolerant and all the small animals leave them alone!  Our dogs are not interested in our lantana plants or their poisonous leaves at all.

popular drought tolerant plant
Texas New Gold best lantana

The Purple Trailing Lantana looks beautiful dancing along side the Yellow New Gold and a lighter yellow lantana mound in the back.

Drought Tolerant flowering bush shrubs Lantana
Texas New Gold Lantana, Purple Trailing Lantana

Being somewhat toxic and rejected by herbivores, camara and trailing lantanas are very hardy, but once or twice a year mine become infested with pests.  Insecticidal soaps will damage this plant. Try using plain dish soap with water in a spray bottle.

Although I did not see any berries in this orchestra of multi-colored lantana plants … the berries are edible ONLY when they are ripe.

Yellow, Purple, Red, White Lantana
Varieties of colorful Lantana, Verbena bushes shrubs

Though the stems of lantana are thin, the wood is very tough and durable and thus useful for crafts and wickerwork.  This is one heat resistant, hardy evergreen lantana shrub!

Texas New Gold in a Pot

Planting, Growing and Caring for lantana is easy. They like a lot of sun and lantana is not picky about their soil.

red orange lantana species verbena
drought tolerant red flowering lantana plant

Half of our garden lantana are growing in pots and containers, the other half is in the ground by cacti.  We do water the potted lantana once a day when the temperature is high. Last week we reached 110 degrees and my pots / planters needed a small amount of water in the morning and then in the evening. This is unusual and was due to the bone dry heat.

Picture of Lantana Heaven!

Lantana stems are HOLLOW so overwatering will cause your lantana roots to rot.  Try NOT to prune or trim your lantana until the end of the season. Remember the lantana stems are hollow.

Red and Yellow Lantana Plants, trailing mound

On average, the ground lantana need a DEEP soaking twice a week. A good indicator is the leaves. If your lantana is wilting, then water but be careful NOT to get water on the leaves. Most of the lantana we have planted are in full sun.  Watering at the roots prevents the risk of burning the leaves.

Explain types of clouds? – Cirrus, Stratus, and Cumulus

Most of us have fantasized while admiring clouds; but have you ever wondered why clouds float?  As long as the cloud is warmer than the outside air around it, it will float.

angels in the sky
cloud that looks like an angel

The height of the cloud in the atmosphere depends on the temperature and amount of water vapor of the rising air.  For example, drier air has to rise higher to cool enough to start condensation.

Microburst Monsoon cloud
vertically developed – cumulonimbus clouds

Cumulus clouds can grow into cumulonimbus clouds which are larger and often spread out in the shape of an anvil or plume. Cumulonimbus may produce heavy rain, lightning, severe and strong winds, hail, microbursts, and even tornadoes.

Clouds are grouped by their shape and by their height in the atmosphere.

Arizona storm clouds monsoon
Nimbostratus – rain bearing clouds

The characteristics of clouds are established by the elements available, including amount of water vapor, temperatures at the height, wind, mountains and other air masses.

The names of clouds come from Latin words that describe their characteristics. The main types of clouds are:

  • Cirrus means “curl” or “fringe”,
  • Nimbus means “rain-bearing”,
  • Stratus means “layer”,
  • Cumulus means “heap” or “pile”
arizona desert clouds
Cumulus cloud

Cumulus clouds are probably the most recognized clouds. These clouds form below 6,000 feet but in some extreme cases they can be in altitudes as high as 39,000 feet! They look like white, fluffy cotton balls. The reason cumulus appear fluffy is because bubbles of air, called thermals, linger in the cloud.

In mountainous areas, clouds may form lines at an angle to the wind. Wave clouds do not move downwind as clouds usually do, but remain fixed in position relative to the obstruction that forms them, for example: mountains.

clouds and wind
cumulus wave clouds by a mountain

Lenticular clouds form on the downwind side of mountains and are lens-shaped. Wind blows most types of clouds across the sky, but lenticular clouds seem to stay in one place.

clouds that look like UFOs
lenticular clouds are lens shaped

Strato-cumulus clouds form in altitudes below 6,000 feet.  Below photo shows a low layer of strato-cumulus clouds spreading the remains of larger cumulus clouds.

cumulus and stratus clouds
Stratocumulus clouds

Alto-cumulus clouds differ from Strato-cumulus  because they are slightly smaller. One easy way to determine if the cloud is alto-cumulus or strato-cumulus is to hold your hand up to the sky,  alto-cumulus clouds are about the size of a human thumb nail while strato-cumulus clouds are the size of a fist.

cumulus clouds
Strato-cumulus and Alto-cumulus clouds

Stratus clouds belong to the low cloud (surface-2000m, below 6,000 ft) group.  They are uniformed layered, gray in color and can cover most or all of the sky

stratus fog clouds
stratus clouds can look like fog

Stratus clouds can look like a fog  and are associated with overcast weather. Only drizzle comes from stratus clouds, if heavier rain falls then their title is changed to nimbostratus.

The most common of the high clouds is Cirrus.  These clouds are composed of ice and are thin, curly, wispy, feathery clouds. 

long cirrus clouds
wispy CIRRUS clouds

Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair weather even though they are so cold and composed entirely of ice.  They are the fastest moving cloud because the wind current is very strong at that high altitude.

identify clouds white long
Cirrus clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds belong to the thunderstorm clouds or clouds with vertical growth group. Reaching heights to 10km, high winds will flatten the top of a cumulonimbus cloud out into an anvil-like shape.

monsoon cloud in arizona
Thunderstorm clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds, also called Storm Clouds, cause heavy rain, lightning, hail, snow and tornadoes.

Cumulus clouds, which indicate low-level atmospheric moisture often precede storms. In this picture of a Cumulonimbus cloud or thunderstorm cloud, much lightning was occurring with the winds increasing rapidly.

Arizona monsoon weather storm clouds
Cumulonimbus cloud – Thunderstorm clouds

Mammatus clouds are pouches of clouds that hang underneath the base of a cloud. They are usually seen with cumulonimbus clouds that produce very strong storms.

storm clouds cumulus
mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds look like a field of tennis balls, melons, or like female breasts. That is where the name comes from.  

Cirrostratus clouds form in the 18,000 feet and above. The refraction of light by the ice crystals in the Cirrostratus clouds cause a halo around the sun or moon.

stratus clouds
Cirrostratus clouds

You can not see the halo when this happens but the sun or moon will be less visible because the Cirrostratus clouds condense too much for clear visibility. Clouds are usually white and predict fair weather. These clouds often follow Cirrus clouds therefore Cirrostratus clouds are indicators of good weather.

Regional Climate Zone, Planting Map for the US

Each hemisphere of the Earth is neatly separated into three distinct climate zones.  These climate regions or zones are the tropical, temperate and polar zones.  Below see photos of climate regions.   This can be used as a helpful tool for planting a successful garden.

Climate of the United States
Climate Region Map of the US

Pictured above is a Climate Region Chart, Map of the United States.  The various climate definitions below give general guidelines for various climate zones based on average temperatures, precipitation and heating degrees.  Look at the various climate charts to find the region you live in.

Hot-Humid

A hot-humid climate is generally defined as a region that receives more than 20 in. (50 cm) of annual precipitation and where one or both of the following occur:

  • A 67°F (19.5°C) or higher wet bulb temperature for 3,000 or more hours during the warmest 6 consecutive months of the year; or
  • A 73°F (23°C) or higher wet bulb temperature for 1,500 or more hours during the warmest 6 consecutive months of the year.

Mixed-Humid

A mixed-humid climate is generally defined as a region that receives more than 20 in. (50 cm) of annual precipitation, has approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) or fewer, and where the average monthly outdoor temperature drops below 45°F (7°C) during the winter months.

Hot-Dry

A hot-dry climate is generally defined as a region that receives less than 20 in. (50 cm) of annual precipitation and where the monthly average outdoor temperature remains above 45°F (7°C) throughout the year.

Mixed-Dry

A mixed-dry climate is generally defined as a region that receives less than 20 in. (50 cm) of annual precipitation, has approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) or less, and where the average monthly outdoor temperature drops below 45°F (7°C) during the winter months.

Cold

A cold climate is generally defined as a region with approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) or more and fewer than approximately 9,000 heating degree days (65°F basis).

Very-Cold

A very cold climate is generally defined as a region with approximately 9,000 heating degree days (65°F basis) or more and fewer than approximately 12,600 heating degree days (65°F basis).

Subarctic

A subarctic climate is generally defined as a region with approximately 12,600 heating degree days (65° basis) or more.

Marine

A marine climate is generally defined as a region that meets all of the following criteria:

  • A mean temperature of coldest month between 27°F (-3°C) and 65°F (18°C)
  • A warmest month mean of less than 72°F (22°C)
  • At least 4 months with mean temperatures more than 50°F (10°C)
  • A dry season in summer. The month with the heaviest precipitation in the cold season has at least three times as much precipitation as the month with the least precipitation in the rest of the year. The cold season is October through March in the Northern Hemisphere and April through September in the Southern Hemisphere.

(research courtesy of the US Department of Energy) – http://energy.gov/

Planting Climate Region
North American Hygrothermal Map

The Hygrothermal Regions Map above, illustrates the eight major climate zones in North America. The climate zones are generally based on heating degree-days, average temperatures and precipitation.

Now you know all about your zone!

What insect has one of the most PAINFUL stings? – meet the Tarantula Hawk wasp

Tarantula hawks, aka – pepsis wasps, are impressive with bright orange wings on a large velvety black body.  They feed on nectar from flowers but are most famous for their battles with tarantulas !!  The fearless tarantula hawk female that is ready to reproduce searches for a tarantula burrow…

tarantula hawk wasp fights spider
huge black wasp with orange wings

This tenacious pepsis wasp will tap and strum the web at the burrow entrance trying to coax the tarantula out.  If the tarantula responds, a long battle will begin!

Most often the tarantula hawk wins by delivering a paralyzing sting to the tarantula. The paralyzed tarantula is dragged to a pre-dug burrow and dropped in by the large female wasp.

black bug with orange wings fights tarantulas
male Tarantula Hawk aka pepsis wasp with orange wings

The tarantula hawk then lays a single egg on the paralyzed tarantula and leaves. The wasp larva will hatch and feed on the tarantula spider.  After completing its metamorphosis, in about 3 weeks, the adult pepsis wasp will then dig its way out of the underground burrow and start its life cycle anew.

tarantula hawk black wasp orange wings
large black bug that fight tarantulas are female pepsis wasps

Tarantula Hawks, have the second most painful sting of any insect.   Just how painful is the sting of the Tarantula Hawk?  The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates insect stings from 1-4.  Africanized bees and hornets register 2.  Bullent Ants and Pepsis wasps register 4 !!

Only the female Tarantula Hawk stings because the stinger is derived from the ovipositor, the egg-laying organ.

huge wasp orange wings
pepsis wasp aka Tarantula Hawk

In the deserts of the southwestern US two species of Tarantula Hawks are common, pepsis formosa and pepsis thisbe.  The most common in Arizona is pepsis formosa wasp with the orange wings.

Hundreds of Tarantula Hawk Wasp species exist worldwide.  The color of the wings may very from species but the sting of the this killer wasp is described as blinding, fierce, and shockingly electric.  Simply unbearable pain, lasting 3 minutes.  A long 3 minutes!  Not lethal to humans unless you are allergic to pepsis wasps.

tarantula hawks huge bug with orange wings
pepsis black wasp with orange wings eats pollen

How to tell the difference between the male and female pepsis wasp?

  • The antennae of the male tarantula hawk is tightly curved while the FEMALE wasp is only SLIGHTLY curved.
giant wasp insect
female tarantula hawk wasp
  • Tarantula Hawk females grow larger than the males, and can reach up to 3 inches in length.

This youtube video is a battle between the Tarantula Hawk and Tarantula Spider.

Both female and male pepsis wasps are nectarivorous.  The male does not hunt but fills himself with the nectar of plants while watching for female tarantula hawks that are ready to reproduce.

Other than Roadrunners and Bullfrogs, most predators avoid the Tarantula Hawk wasp.

Little TIDBIT:  The tarantula hawk wasp is the state insect of New Mexico 

Apple Annie’s Orchard – Arizona travels!

Apple Annie’s is a “you pick” orchard in Willcox, Arizona.  It is about 1 1/2 hours from Tucson through the exhilarating countryside.  A must see for travelers or anyone looking for a gladdening family activity.  The farm is well marked and easy to find.

This WILLCOX ORCHARD was started in the 1980’s by a husband, wife and their 2 young children.  They humbly began with only tasty apples and their famous apple pie.

orchard in Willcox - activities in Arizona
Apple Annie’s Orchard in Arizona

Nowadays you can pick juicy peaches, Asian pears, bell peppers, corn, etc… Apple Annie’s is a farmers’ market dream! 

The start of the Fall season is complete with PUMPKINS of all sizes, shapes and colors that are available for picking at Apple Annie’s HUGE pumpkin patch.

Arizona places to visit - farmer's market
Apple Annies Orchard cider donuts

One of the best parts of Apple Annie’s Orchard is they sell “cider donuts” and your tummy will thank you! If you are adventurous, try a taste of the zesty jalapeno honey mustard, horseradish pickles and other oddly paired condiments.

Apple Annies Orchard - Willcox, Arizona
Farmer’s Markets in Arizona

For anyone traveling to Phoenix or Tucson, AZ the drive to Apple Annie’s Orchard is a great way to spend a relaxing, memorable day in the country. Remember to bring your camera and keep in mind fall days on the farm can be cold in Willcox.

giant Sunflower field in Arizona
Sunflowers at Apple Annie’s Farm

Before planning your trip to Willcox, you can call Annie’s Crop Hotline at 520-384-2084 to hear a list of what the farm is currently harvesting.

Annie's Arizona farmer's market
pick your own vegetables – Apple Annie’s Farm

Children can choose a wheelbarrow or bucket and pick their own vegetables while learning about farming.

pick your own fruit vegetables in Arizona
Apple Annie’s Farmer’s Market – pick it yourself
Apple Annie's orchard in Willcox, Arizona
Corn Maze activities at Annie’s Farm in AZ

For extra thrills make a reservation at the CORN MAZE.  Apple Annie’s added 3 levels of difficulty waiting to gobble you up!  Halfway through the maze is a high bridge with a great view of the farm; but, it will not give away the solution.

Apple Annies in Willcox Arizona
Annies Orchard farmer truck ride activity

Rest your feet by relaxing on a tractor pulled hay ride in “Farmer John’s truck”. God bless you Apple Annie’s for all your hard work and dedication to the community.  Oh and of course the YUMMY home made foods!

Arizona Farmer's markets and activities
pick your own Apple at Annies Orchard in Willcox

here is the link to  Apple Annie’s Orchard and Farm 

“When we planted the first apple trees we asked God for His blessing and guidance in this new venture, but we never envisioned the plans that He had for us! We planned for a commercially harvested crop, but His plans were for us to share our orchard, the farm experience, and the lifestyle that we love, with thousands of families from around the state. We consider it a real privilege to be able to offer an old-fashioned farm experience to today’s busy families!”  ~ John and Annie Holcomb

Sage bushes with Purple Flowers bring life to the desert!

It is difficult to imagine that a flowering plant can thrive in hot desert temperatures; but, these vibrant purple sage bushes love the heat!

Tucson bushes with purple flowers
Purple flowering sage bushes – Texas Ranger Plant

Also known as Texas Ranger Plants, these lavender flowers fill the sage bushes that adorn the streets of the Sonoran Desert.

heat tolerant purple bush tjs gardenowers
Purple Flowering Texas Sage in the desert

Our Texas Ranger Plants, Leucophyllum frutescens, are blooming with butterflies and bees promenading between the purple flowers.

heat tolerant plant with purple flowers
purple sage bush with butterflies

The bees are buzzing noisily as they work their way in and out of the purple blooms.

phoenix purple flowering shrubs bush
purple flowers of the Texas Ranger plant

When it comes to drought and heat tolerant plants, Purple Sage is right at the top of the list.  The hotter it gets in the desert, the happier this flowering shrub is!

texas ranger plant sage Tucson
Purple flowers – Texas Sage Shrub in Arizona

As humidity rises during the start of Arizona’s Monsoon season, the Purple Sage bushes will bloom right before it rains.  The purple flowers are a built in barometer!

Growing and caring for Purple Sage is easy if you plant them in full sun.

varieties of sage bush shrubs purple white
Purple Flowering Texas Sage in the desert

This desert bush is native to Mexico and Texas and needs very little maintenance. Texas Sage is incredibly heat resistant and will not be harmed by moderate frost in the winter.

white cloud flowering white sage
white flowering shrub is White Cloud Texas Sage

The Sage bush variety with white flowers is called White Cloud Texas Sage.  It is exactly like the purple sage but with white blooms.

Texas Cloud Sage with white flowers bush
White Cloud Sage with Red Bird of Paradise Flowering shrubs
Mexico purple sage flower bush
Purple Texas Ranger Sage Plant

The best time to prune your Texas Sage is in the Spring.  Over pruning your sage bush will reduce the amount of flowers and cause the plant to use more water.

Desert Monsoon weather, facts and details

What is MONSOON?  The word monsoon is derived from the Arabic word mausim, which means season. Traders fishing the waters off the Arabian and Indian coasts noted that dry northeast winds in the winter suddenly turn southwest during the summer, and bring heavy rains to Asia.

mexico arizona storm weather
summer Monsoon flow graph

We now know that these Monsoon large wind shifts from dry desert areas to moist tropical areas occur in other parts of the world including Arizona.  Strong yearly variations of temperature over land masses is a primary cause of MONSOON.

Tucson Phoenix Monsoon Season map
Monsoon Information weather chart

The monsoon weather in Arizona is not as intense as Monsoon season in Asia and India mainly because the Mexican Pleateau is not as high or as large as the Tibetan Plateau in Asia.  In Arizona, the monsoon process starts with the hot and dry weather of May and June.

Tucson, Phoenix, AZ Monsoon weather storm clouds
Monsoon dark clouds over Coronado Mountains

Most of Arizona’s humid air comes from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico. Our hot desert sun heats the moist air causing the familiar thunderstorm cumulonimbus clouds.

Monsoon weather Arizona storm clouds
Cumulus clouds, Monsoon thunderstorm

Cumulus clouds are a type of cloud with noticeable vertical development and clearly defined edges. Cumulus means “heap” or “pile” in Latin. These clouds typically form when warm air rises and reaches a level of cool air, where the moisture in the air condenses.

If the top of the cumulus cloud reaches above the altitude where the temperature is at or below the freezing level, then precipitation from the cloud is possible. 

Usually by May or June,  our strong Arizona heat causes temperatures to soar over these desert land areas. The intense heat causes surface air pressure to fall, forming an area of low pressure known as a thermal low.

Eventually, the cooler and much more humid air over the ocean is drawn toward the hot, dry air over land. This moist air moving onto the hot land eventually becomes unstable and develops into thunderstorms.

Once this occurs and rain begins to fall, humidity levels increase over land, which only triggers more thunderstorms.  Now you have the Arizona Monsoon Season!

This cycle will continue until land areas begin to cool in the early fall and the monsoon gradually ends.

Dark Monsoon Storm Clouds Arizona
Thunderstorm cumulonimbus clouds

Until the late 1970s, there was serious debate about whether a monsoon truly existed in North America. However, considerable research, which culminated in the Southwest Arizona Monsoon Project (SWAMP) in 1990 and 1993, established the fact that a bonafide monsoon, characterized by large-scale wind and rainfall shifts in the summer, develops over much of Mexico and the intermountain region of the U.S.

Dark Thunderstorm Clouds Monsoon
Monsoon Clouds , Microburst cloud in desert

Rainfall during the monsoon varies with distinct “burst” periods of heavy rain and “break” periods with little or no rain. Monsoon precipitation accounts for a substantial portion of annual precipitation in northwest Mexico and the Southwest U.S.

What are the varieties of sunflowers?

Like many people who savor gardening as a hobby, we fancy the bright colors and upbeat feeling a sunflower brings! So, how many varieties of sunflowers are there?

species of sunflowers mirasol
Dwarf Sunflower variety SUNGOLD
Sunflowers
SUNGOLD is a dwarf sunflower
sunflowers in the desert
SUNGOLD aka TEDDY BEAR Sunflower variety

First, SUNFLOWERS belong to the genus Helianthus, which contains over 70 species.  Most varieties are annuals; but, Helianthus incorporates 38 species that are perennial (grow back every year on their own).  With so many cultivars out there one can get overwhelmed quickly!  We’ve identified several Sunflower favorites to make it easier.

Sunflower variety
Holiday Sunflower variety

The variety called “Holiday Sunflower”  has uneven heights and multiple blooms.

common sunflower in desert
Sunflower species HOLIDAY SUNFLOWER

Sunflowers track the sun throughout the day, but when they are fully grown the mature flower-heads face towards the east and no longer move. To grow the best sunflowers they will need full sun!

sunflower varieties
Dwarf sunflower species – Ring of Fire

The variety called Ring of Fire is another dwarf sunflower species that is very uniform and under 3 feet in height.

species of sunflowers with red
RING OF FIRE Sunflower variety

Dwarf sunflowers are a perfect choice if you want to grow sunflowers in a pot or window container.  After choosing the size of the container, add a layer of small rocks to help the soil drain. To grow sunflowers you will need fertile moist soil with heavy mulch.

sunflower variety
Big Smile sunflower species

The variety called Big Smile Sunflower is under 2 feet in height, has multiple blooms and is a Dwarf Sunflower Plant.

small dwarf sunflowers for pots
Sunflower variety BIG SMILE

The sunflower stem is rough and hairy with a circular head of flowers. The head has hundreds of individual flowers which mature into seeds.

sunflower species
Red, Orange and Yellow sunflower – AUTUMN BEAUTY

The sunflower species called Autumn Beauty branches out with a variety of yellow, red and orange colors.

multiple blooms sunflower
Sunflower variety AUTUMN BEAUTY

In the 16th century, sunflower seeds from the Americas were brought to Europe along with sunflower oil and they became a popular cooking ingredient.

ornamental type of sunflower
Tohokujhae Sunflower varieties

Tohokujhae Sunflowers are bright yellow with multiple blooms.  This variety has big double flowers 6-7 inches across.  The height of Tohokujhae sunflowers is 3-6 feet.

teddy bear sunflower species
Sunflower variety TOHOKUJHAE aka Teddy Bear

The leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed and the fiber in the stems can be used in the production of paper.

sunflower species
Variety of Sunflower – SONJA

Some say Sonja Sunflowers are a weaker variety.  The height is uneven and ranges from 3-5 feet.  This sunflower has a dark center with big yellow petals.

wild sunflowers arizona
SONJA Sunflower variety

TIDBITS: The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas, USA.  American Indians had various uses for sunflowers, such as in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.