Journal archives for July 2021

July 08, 2021

July 2021 Events

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
We will be taking a break from in-person events this month, but there are great things happening virtually!


Tuesday, July 20 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, we hear from Carianne Campbell, founder of Strategic Habitat Enhancements (SHE). Carianne has become a well-known advocate for native plant conservation and restoration, and has worked in the government, business, and non-profit sectors for over 20 years. Carianne will speak with us about native plant gardening and the importance of creating effective habitat for wildlife and pollinators in our neighborhoods.
Register Here

Wednesday, July 14 | 6 p.m. MST & Tuesday, July 27 | 2 p.m. MST
Want to learn how to use a free online tool that professional botanists and researchers use to share and access information about plants across Arizona? Join us for Flora Finder trainings where we will explore the basics of SEINet. Take a look at local floras and pressed plants, test your identification skills and discover where species have been recorded through time. We're looking for people to help make new iNaturalist observations for plants on SEINet, using what they learn in these trainings to add valuable biodiversity data for our area. Could you be the first person to observe a species in metro Phoenix on iNaturalist? Join us in this biodiversity scavenger hunt and become a Flora Finder.
Register Here for July 14
Register Here for July 27

Posted on July 08, 2021 22:25 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 19, 2021

Reminder: EcoQuestions with Carianne Campbell

(Photo by Ed Flores)

Don't forget! Tomorrow at 3 p.m. MST we will be hosting EcoQuestions with Carianne Campbell of Strategic Habitat Enhancements. Register here for this FREE talk.

Strategic Habitat Enhancements empowers the community to reconnect with nature through resilient desert gardening, creating an urban network of wildlife and pollinator habitat. Founder Carianne Campbell has worked as an environmental consultant across the southwest, learning more and more with every new project, and unraveling the secrets of the native plants that make this region so unique. Two years ago, she decided to build a business that creates accessible and educational options for home owners, and this is how SHE came to be. Carianne will speak with us about native plant gardening and the importance of creating effective habitat for wildlife and pollinators in our neighborhoods.

Learn more about SHE
Be sure to follow SHE on social @ strategic_habitats

Posted on July 19, 2021 18:25 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2021

Adiós Oleanders?

To go along with the EcoQuest theme, project member @tommygatz was kind enough to share an article about oleander that he had written for The Garden Corner newsletter. It includes some great information and planting recommendations. Check it out! :)


We desert gardeners are a funny lot. We often purchase and pamper plants that struggle to survive here yet we sometimes get bored with the ones that thrive. Enough of us apparently got so tired of the yellow flowers on many of our desert natives that Carrie Nimmer developed a gardening class at the DBG called “Anything But Yellow”. Another example is our love/hate relationship with the oleander that may soon end if a bacillus spread by an insect called the Smoke Tree Sharpshooter eliminates this infamous plant from our town, as it is doing right now in some parts of California and central Phoenix.

Although noted plant expert Mary Irish is the only person I know brave enough to publicly admit to liking the oleander, more than a few of us secretly appreciate its usefulness in giving us privacy from our neighbors, shade for our homes and colorful blooms all summer long. All of this in spite of our ongoing struggle to constantly trim this hedge from hell when we plant it in a spot too small for its eventual size. Although it is not native and is poisonous, it does thrive in hot sun on limited water, stays green all year, flowers all summer, has few pests (until now), and (except for dwarf varieties) survives our winter frosts. I once asked DBG horticulturist Kirti Mathura why we hate it so much. “Because it is over-used and because it is so often planted in the wrong place where it becomes a nightmare to keep in bounds” she said wisely.

Well, what do we do now? If it disappears from the Valley, the Plant Hotline at the DBG will be ringing off the hook with inquiries as to suitable replacements for this landscaping mainstay. Here are several evergreen replacements to suggest, and all are native to Arizona. The following species can be planted together for more diversity. All require well-drained soils. They are all fairly cold-hardy and are susceptible to few pests or diseases. They are all low to moderate water users that can be grown as large shrubs or planted in dense groupings to create a privacy screen, sound muffler, wind break or shade hedge. While they lack the summer-long show of flowers provided by the oleander, they all make an excellent background for colorful annual or perennial plantings. They grow much more slowly than do oleanders, so get them started soon!

Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa). Full sun. Moderately fast growing to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Its winged fruit can be attractive. There is a purple variety from Australia that is less frost-hardy (to 20F) than our native bright green version. Holds up well in alkaline soils. We have two that shade the west side of our house and provide nesting habitat for our resident Inca doves. Quail and dove eat the seeds. Accepts varying water schedules and grows accordingly. It can be left unpruned and natural or pruned to maintain dense growth.

Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica). Full sun. Slower growing than the hopbush, this is another great choice for a hedge that can eventually reach 20 feet in height by 15 feet wide with extra water. It has clusters of white flowers and birds love the fruit. Deep water twice a month in summer once established. Develops fullness without pruning.

Sugarbush (Rhus ovata). Does best with some afternoon shade. Large, waxy green leaves with vanilla fragrance; small white flowers and red berries that birds relish. Grows slowly to 15 feet tall and 15 wide. Sensitive to over-watering in the summer. Water every 2 weeks during hottest periods, but allow it to dry out between watering. Best if planted in fall. Little pruning needed.

If you want a prickly barrier, two species worth considering are the thorny Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida), 12 feet tall and wide (full sun; needs water in summer to stay green) and the spiny-leafed, 10 foot tall and wide Red Barberry (Berberis haematocarpa). Both provide berries attractive to birds. The Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is slower growing to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide but with friendlier foliage.

Most of these species will be available at the DBG Plant Sale this fall. Thanks to Mary Irish’s “Arizona Gardener’s Guide” and Judy Mielke’s “Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes” for much of this information and to Cathy Babcock, Angelica Elliott, Dana Hiser, Mary Irish, Ray Leimkuehler, and Kirti Mathura for reviewing earlier drafts of this article.

Tom Gatz The Garden Corner (@tommygatz)

Posted on July 22, 2021 17:50 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 21, 2021

In Case You Missed It

Couldn’t make it to EcoQuestions with Strategic Habitat Enhancements? We’ve got you covered. 😉

The recording is now on our YouTube channel. Tune in to hear about native and near-native plant recommendations for the metro Phoenix area and the importance of creating habitat for wildlife and pollinators. See it here:

Links mentioned in the presentation:
Propagation Database:
Bloom Calendar:

Carianne's contact information:
Social: @ strategic_habitats

Posted on July 21, 2021 19:11 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 30, 2021

August 2021 EcoQuest: Look Out for Lovebirds

Join the August EcoQuest: Look Out for Lovebirds
Find and map as many rosy-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) and the plants they interact with as possible.

Join the EcoQuest
See lovebirds on eBird

All lovebird photographs in this post kindly provided by project member @reaglephoto. See more here!

Rosy-faced lovebirds can be seen all over the Valley and are adored by many. Often thought of as a native bird, these cheeky characters were actually introduced to the area. Observations from this month's EcoQuest can help us learn more about how these colorful parrots have adapted to life in metro Phoenix.

The population of rosy-faced lovebirds in metro Phoenix is unique in that most lovebirds that escape captivity don’t seem to be able to establish feral populations. This is true even in their native habitat of arid regions in southwestern Africa. The population in the Valley is believed to have been here since the 1980s and is thought to be the result of accidentally escaped pets and illegal intentional releases into the wild. These clever birds have found ways to survive in urban areas and are not entirely dependent on humans. As of 2020, their population is estimated to be about 2,000-3,000 and their range appears to be expanding along with urban development.

Rosy-faced lovebirds are smart and resourceful. Phoenix is one of the fastest warming cities in the country, and the heat is especially intense is urban areas. Lovebirds have figured out at least one way to stay cool in the sweltering temperatures. After hearing numerous reports of lovebirds near air conditioning vents on campus, Kevin McGraw, who runs a behavioral ecology lab at Arizona State University, studied the cheeky parrots with students. The study showed that on the hottest and most humid days the greatest number of lovebirds flocked to take advantage of the cool air being leaked from the vents, something native birds haven’t really been observed doing. They have also been able to figure out native food sources like mesquite, creosote and cactus fruit, making them not entirely dependent on bird seed and other human provided food sources. They can most often be found roosting and nesting in palm trees, tile roofs and saguaros, making the most of their surroundings.

How this species impacts other native wildlife hasn’t been scientifically studied. Although technically an invasive species, most evidence suggests that rosy-faced lovebirds are mostly benign because they don’t seem to be able to survive in more natural desert areas. The greatest competition to native wildlife is likely for food and roosting and nesting sites in urban areas. Climate change will impact both native and non-native species, and it will be interesting to see how lovebirds and other wildlife adapt, specifically in urban settings. Will lovebirds be able to tough out the higher temperatures with creative solutions like seeking out air conditioning leaks while native birds are left in the heat? Disease is another impact to consider. Lovebirds can have psittacine beak and feather disease, as well as Chlamydia psittaci which can infect other bird species and cause illness in humans. Research and studies are needed to learn more about the potential impacts.

It’s fascinating to see how an introduced species can adapt to a new environment, especially an urban one. Thanks to the work of the Arizona Field Ornithologists, we have a lot of information and data on this feral population. As is the way with science, there’s always more to learn! There could be plants we don’t know they are eating, or they could be interacting with other birds in ways we aren’t aware of. Help us learn more about rosy-faced lovebirds.

Fun fact: Did you know there was once a native parrot found in Arizona? The thick billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) inhabited higher elevations in the forests near the Chiricahua Mountains until it was hunted into local extinction. The last sighting of one in Arizona was in 1938, but it can still be found in Mexico.

Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute population and occurrence data for rosy-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) and we can learn more about their relationships with plants and other wildlife in metro Phoenix.


Common Name: Rosy-faced lovebird
Scientific Name: Agapornis roseicollis
Family: Psittaculidae
Origin: Southwest Africa

Lovebirds can often be found near water sources, especially with palm trees or houses with roof tiles nearby. Bird feeders are also a common place to spot them. Use iNaturalist to see where they’ve been spotted in the past! You can also upload lovebird sounds to iNaturalist as observations. Check it out.

See lovebirds on eBird
See them on iNaturalist

Associated Plant Species:
Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
Creosote (Larrea tridentata)
Palms (Arecaceae)
Cactus (Cactaceae)
Mesquite (Prosopis spp.)
Palo verde (Parkinsonia spp.)

Arizona Field Ornithologists
Greg Clark
Audubon Society
Maricopa Audubon Society
Animal Diversity Web
Rosy-faced Lovebirds and Disease

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PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Posted on July 30, 2021 18:37 by jenydavis jenydavis | 2 comments | Leave a comment