Friday, November 6, 2009

The Alligator's Bark

Travel affords the opportunity to see our plants' relatives, not unlike visiting the cousins, of the Ohio native plants we know and love. Our Eastern Redcedar is a staple for wildlife, even leading its name to the Cedar Waxwing. Known by its prickly scale-like leaves (needles) and blue-toned berries, it is attractive to birds and a key ingredient in gin! Some of its western cousins can be easily recognized by most nature enthusiasts.

Western Scrub-Jay flies out of a Rocky Mountain Juniper in the Sedona foothills.

The Southwest offers its own varieties of Juniper, some with berries, like the Rocky Mountain Juniper, Junipoerus scopulorum seen above.

And others reproduce not by berries, but rather by brown seed cones, which may take two full years to develop. This Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana is found in the rocky soils less than an hour drive from the city of Tucson, Arizona.

The Alligator Juniper was easy to identify by its unique alligatored or checker-board bark. It was a standout among the evergreens and the roughened layers of bark on this well named tree were mesmerizing. The Alligator's bark was its most telling feature and it quickly became ingrained in my mental search image.
And not unlike our own Junipers, it provides shelter and habitat for many birds- including the Bridled Titmouse. Hope you are enjoying the Arizona adventures, wish I could have brought the sun back with me!

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