Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mt Lemmon Highway in October

American Lady Vanessa viginiensis
On October 18th the Desert Broom bushes at Molino Basin in the lower elevation of the Catalina Mountains are in full bloom and surrounded by clouds of insects. I am glad I stopped on my way to the top of Mt Lemmon.

Soldier Beetles Chauliognathus profundus

and Chauliognathus misellus

Female Longhorn Beetle Tragidion densiventre
I am only showing a few samples of the abundance of species here, I think I will devote a whole blog chapter to the annual event of the Baccharis bloom that is like a final feast of the year for all entomologists from Arizona to Texas.

Hummingbird Trumpet Zauschneria californica

Other wildflowers are putting on a great show because of the unusually late rains.At Molino (Oak zone) there are still Hummingbird Trumpet, Flee Bane and Turpentine  Bush.

Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia)

Higher up under the Ponderosa Pines along General Hitchcock Highway the air is filled with the fragrance of Tagetes lemmonii. It evokes childhood memories of catching butterflies in 'Studenten Knopf' (Tagetes) beds in my mother's garden.

Tagetes lemmonii
But at this elevation the floral show is out-competed by the colors of the autumn leaves. The dark conifers that are in the majority here form a beautiful contrasting backdrop for a sprinkling of Mapels.

The Maple trees are only just turning fiery orange. The photo below is from October 15th 2009, when the deep crimson color was already fully developed. This year a few cold nights will have to add the finishing touches.

At the ski run some Aspen are glowing golden, while others were still green. That's a rare sight, as the trees are genetically identical and clones off the same stock.

A beautiful palette and I am glad I didn't miss it this year. Luckily the Aspen and Maples of Ski Valley escaped the devastating firestorm that raced through Summerhaven some years ago. It is sad to see that for the safety of the rebuilt community many slopes are kept bare. The houses grew back much bigger than they used to be, but the forest is not allowed back.

On the narrow road from the ski run to the top of Mt Lemmon the low standing sun made driving a challenge but the light changed the young Aspen into pure enchanted gold.

The burned slopes further up are a stark contrast but they allow for a beautiful view over the valley. It must have been quite cold up here already: there were nearly no grasshoppers, bees, or robberflies around even though a few flowers were still holding out.


  1. Gorgeous photos, thanks for posting them. It tells me I really need to get out and not stick to tight to the computer. I still have thousands of photos from Brazil to go over though...

  2. You write such long and detailed and picture-full posts; that's a lot of work.

    I'm not familiar with desert broom, but from your photographs I recognized it immediately as a Baccharis. In my nature photography blog I recently devoted four days to our local species in central Texas, B. neglecta, beginning at:

    These plants are so great in the fall. I hope you'll follow up on elucidating your species.