2011 Ranger Cam

Ranger CamThe Ranger Cam for 2011 is now finished. Due to lack of rain, there weren't many wildflowers this season. See current Ranger Cam

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Four O'Clock (left) & Menodora (right)

Easter Sunday there's a special guided wildflower walk at 11:00 am featuring Arizona State Parks Volunteer Cass Blodgett, the season finale for guided wildflower walks here, though color is expected to continue strong through early May. Tourguide Cass reports there's still plenty of camera-ready color from marigolds, fleabane daisies and dayflower in the Cactus Garden, native hedgehog and prickly pear cacti flowering above Ayer Lake -- and vivid red firecracker penstemons contrasting with the coral-orange aloe blossoms in Queen Creek Canyon. April's the month when cactus blossoms start to show in force; one of the rare treats you'll see this week is in the Cactus Garden -- watch for the fenced-off collections of 'Claret Cup' Arizona Hedgehog Cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus), a rare plant with beautiful flowers you can see and photograph up-close this week. Two clusters of these are flowering near the wooden shade ramade in the cactus garden.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State ParkOur own endemic "Boyce Thompson" Hedgehog cacti are still flowering, along with the darker strawberry hedgehog variety -- look for these along the trail as it climbs above Ayer Lake. Prickly Pears with bright yellow flowers are prominent at the main trail's highest point just before you approach Picketpost Mansion. Watch for buckwheat (low-growing and with white flower clusters) and also Odora (also known as Yerba de Venado) along the Switchbacks as the trail drops towards Queen Creek, then along the riparian corridor you'll see bright green Wild Cucumber vines with spiky golf-ball-sized ripe fruits. Despite scarce rain a few wildflower species are thriving -- for example, walk the high trail and look for unusual Bush Penstemon with their yellow buds; these will bloom for the next couple weeks. Also along the High Trail watch for Ocotillo, Gila Rock Daisies and Eaton's (Firecracker) Penstemon. Also some Sarcostemma was blooming (pictured above right).

View a three-minute film clip of spring flower highlights filmed around the Main Trail and the
High Trail a couple years back. Summer hours resume May 1; during May, June, July and August hours are daily from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Ocotillo (left) & Hedgehog Cacti (right)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Claret Cup Hedgehog (left) & Yellow Bush Penstemon (right)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Mystery Phacelia (left) & fishhook cactus flower (right)

Park staff predict peak color for a few species this week, a guided wildflower walk featuring a special guest April 10 (Sunday), and the beginning of colorful cactus blossoms that will grow more numerous and more vivid throughout April. Meet Arizona State Parks Volunteer Cass Blodgett Sunday when he leads an interpretive wildflower walk at 11:00 am; joining him will be wildflower field guide author Marianne Skov Jensen, who will be available both before and after the walk to autograph copies of her colorful, photo-packed field guides to common Sonoran desert flowers.

Cass Blodgett reports "Penstemons, Dayflower, Marigold are all at their peak, as are the few bright red Texas Betony you'll find walking the High Trail. Hedgehog cacti are making a great show, all seemingly in bloom at once; Cholla varietals and Prickly Pears should begin blooming in another week. when you're in the Cactus Garden make an effort to seek out the fenced-off collections of 'Claret Cup' Arizona Hedgehog Cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus), a rare plant with beautiful flowers you can see and photograph up-close this week (two clumps are near the wooden shade ramade in the cactus garden). Higher up, above Ayer Lake, look under shade-providing 'nurse plants' for fist-sized Fishook Cacti and their stylish crown of pink flowers. Wolfberry and Wild Cucumber already have ripe fruit, and despite scarce rain these past few months a few wildflower species are thriving -- for example, walk the high trail and look for unusual Bush Penstemon with their yellow buds; these will bloom for the next couple weeks, and there are still Purple Bladderpod flowering along the trail there, too. Gila Rock Daisies and Eaton's (Firecracker) Penstemon are in full bloom now on the cliffs above the High Trail, and the Gila Rock Daisies are producing nice vibrant yellow flowers. View a three-minute film clip of spring flower highlights filmed around the Main Trail and the High Trail a couple years back

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Monkeyflower (left) & Penstemon subulatus (right)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park this week continues to have fine displays of Desert Marigold, Spreading Fleabane, Fetid Marigold and Globemallow, according to Arizona State Parks Volunteer Cass Blodgett - who leads two more wildflower walks April 2 & 10 (Sunday) at 11 am. Cass also shared a few photos for this page. According to Cass: "In several spots along the Main Trail Globemallow are pink and red as well as the more common orange blooms. And throughout the cactus garden are beautiful displays of purple/blue Western Spiderwort and pink Parry's Penstemon. Along the Upper Sonoran section of the Main Trail both Ratany and Hedgehog Cacti are putting out flowers. These very different plants both put out deep magenta flowers, and the Hedgehog blooms (especially) are as showy as any desert wildflower can be. Early visitors will spot Yellow Evening Primrose on the Main Trail and nice displays of white Desert Wishbone Bush in the Upper sonoran Area.

Vibrant yellow flowers of the Gila Rock Daisy are starting to pop out. These can only be found growing out of the cracks in the Rhyolite cliffs of the Upper Sonoran part of the Main Trail, and you have to look up to see them. The High Trail still has abundant displays of Western Wallflower with their bright yellow panicles. These are often mixed with the white blooms of Purple Bladderpod; both are members of the Mustard family. Firecracker Penstemon, another cliff-dwelling plant, blooms bright red up high on all the volcanic cliffs. Careful observers will be able to spot them high up the cliff faces. For a face-to-face look at Firecracker Penstemon, hike the High Trail where these are growing out of cliffs at eye level. Thick carpets of green Miners' Lettuce border shady sections of the High Trail, too.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Boyce Thompson Hedgehog Cactus, with a bee (left) & Twining Snapdragon (right)

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Bluedicks (left) & Parrys Penstemon (right)

AZ State Parks volunteer Cass Blodgett trumpets "Good news!" about rainfall earlier this week, predicting the .38" of rain measured here Monday will invigorate flowers at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. Rain has already given a boost to the hot-pink Parry's Penstemons and other flowers along highway 60 from Gold Canyon up through Gonzales Pass and towards Superior.

Cass shared the following report: "Good news! Rain this week will extend and enhance the bloom already in progress. Globemallow are blooming bright orange throughout the park; also keep an eye out for one of few pink globemallow varietals flowering near the Chihuahuan trail entrance raised bed garden, and in the Cactus Garden as well. There are plenty of Desert Marigold, Fetid Marigold, Spreading Fleabane and Brittlebush to be seen along the Main Trail."

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park"The park opens at 8:00 am, arrive early to see Yellow Evening Primrose with their translucent flowers visible in the Cactus Garden. By 9:30 am they'll probably have closed for the day. Western Spiderwort is blooming along the main trail in the Cactus Garden. Get up close to this flower and look at the details (a good shot for your macro lens). There are still good blooms of pink Parry's Penstemon in the lower gardens and red Eaton's Penstemon (aka Firecracker Penstemon) have started blooming up the rock faces along the High Trail. In the Arizona Upland part of the garden, Purple Bladderpods (pictured at right) continue to be numerous - particularly above Ayer Lake. There are still a few Bluedicks to be seen but they are starting to finish their season (blooming strong along the shadier High Trails, though). Surprisingly, there is one Mariposa Lily right along the main trail with a couple buds, and the possibility it might bloom in the weeks or two. Watch for robust Wild Cucumber vines (Marah Gilensis) crawling through, up, and over the hackberry and mesquite trees in Queen Creek Canyon. These still have clusters of starfish-shaped, off-white flowers; some already have the plant's distinctive spiky, green seed pod."

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park"The Arboretum's half-mile-long High Trail, accessed from the suspension bridge and also the crossing near the picnic area, features a surprisingly abundant display of Western Wallflower (orbs of golden flowers atop spindly foot-tall stalks). There is a Texas Betony (Red Mint) and a Desert Phlox (white and sweet smelling) forming buds on the high trail; these should bloom within the next week. A few more plants blooming this week: Fairy Duster, Rattlesnake Weed, Perennial Rockcress, Miners' Lettuce (pictured at right), Mormon Tea, Wild Heliotrope, Jojoba, Desert Rhubarb, Gila Rock Daisy, Pipevine, New Mexican Thistle (Silver King Wash); Goodings Verbena (Queen Creek)."

Special Weekend Wildflower Walks this weekend are included with daily Arboretum admission of $7.50. March 26, Saturday, author Christine Maxa celebrates the new and updated edition of her popular book "Arizona's Best Wildflower Hikes: The Desert" by leading a wildflower walk at 11 am. The author will be available before and after her guided walk to sign copies of her book. And Sunday, March 27, the 11 am walk will be lead by Cass Blodgett (also co-president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Native Plants Society).

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Sonoran Desert wildflower trailside color is increasing around the gardens and grounds at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park — and park staff reported good news this week, with .38" of rain Monday, which will definitely help kick-start any "shrinking violet" flowers which had been reluctant to invest their energy into blooming!

Special Weekend Wildflower Walks will be offered on March 26 and 27; Saturday's tour guide is author Christine Maxa, celebrating the new and updated edition of her popular book "Arizona's Best Wildflower Hikes" by leading a wildflower walk March 26 at 11 am. the author will be available both before and after her guided tour to sign copies of her book. And Sunday, March 27, the walk will be lead by AZ State Parks volunteer Cass Blodgett who provided the pictures for today's entry. Cass shared the following report from a walk he lead around the main trail last week:

“Parry's Penstemon can be found all along the main trail at the cactus gardens, also Desert Marigold, Fetid Marigold, Brittlebush and Spreading Fleabane. Also along the Cactus Gardens section of the Main Trail Globemallow are starting to appear and will increase in the next week or so. In the park a special population of Western Spiderwort, plants of higher elevations, are full of buds ready to bloom any time in the next several days. Also special to the park is a lone Penstemon Subulatus in full bloom with its small but vibrant red flowers. See if you can spot it on the South side of the Main Trail in the cactus garden. Above Ayer Lake in the native Upland community as well as along the High Trail, Purple Bladderpod Mustards are abundant. Look for the Bluedicks, a small purple lily, along the rocky trail leading to the view of Picketpost Mansion. On the High Trail are surprisingly plentiful populations of bright yellow Western Wallflower. In the next week, look for Firecracker Penstemon and Texas Betony with their red flowers on the north facing cliffs.”

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Wildflower Hotline

Tips for Viewing Wildflowers

  1. Research the areas you will be going before you leave to be sure the elevation is where the flowers are blooming. Different flowers bloom at different temperature and soil conditions. Flowers in sand dunes are much different than those in the mountains. Arizona Highways Magazine has an excellent "Desert Wildflower" book. This book also tells the rainfall patterns and temperatures that affect wildflower blooms.
  2. Bring plenty of water and a picnic lunch.
  3. Bring a camera and lots of film. A magnifying glass will let you see the flowers up close.
  4. Don't touch or pick flowers, buds or seed plants. Don't step on the green plants.
  5. Be in the desert on a sunny day between 10-3:00 if you want to see poppies when they are open and the most beautiful. On cold or windy the flowers will close.
  6. Don't stop on the freeway or park on the side of roads to take pictures.
  7. Never touch any type of cactus. The tiny spines you can't see embed themselves in your skin.
  8. Watch for the wildflower pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, bats, and beetles.
  9. People with allergies should be aware that the pollen could cause an allergic reaction.
  10. Globemallow are pretty but also called "sore-eye poppies" because if you touch your eyes after touching the flower the star shaped hairs will irritate your eyes.

Rules & Regulations about Native Plants

The Native Plant laws that protect plants everywhere in Arizona require that you not harm the plants. This includes digging them up, shooting them, stealing skeletons, collecting the seeds or picking the flowers. About 30 different plants and almost all cacti are on the Native Plant protected lists. There are civil penalties and fines ranging up to $2500 and 6 months in jail for violating these laws. In State and National Parks the laws are even more specific. You can't collect plants, harm plants or animals, pick up any type of plant skeletons, collect wood, or pick up archaeological or historical objects or even take rocks from the Parks.

Past Ranger Cams

Check out the 2010 Ranger Cam (2010 Ranger Cam)
Check out the 2009 Ranger Cam (2009 Ranger Cam)
Check out the 2008 Ranger Cam (2008 Ranger Cam)

To take your own photographs, rangers recommend a piece of black velvet for photo backgrounds. Wildflower books are available with brochures and maps in rural areas at all the State Parks. For more information on Arizona’s State Parks’ wildflowers call the hotline at (602) 542-4988 or track the blooms on the RANGER CAM at AZStateParks.com/rangercam.

Photography Copyright © Arizona State Parks.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.