The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is long over, and with it those flocks of “snow birds” – sixty-degrees-and-sunny-weather chasers down from Minnesota and Ohio for the winter – will head back up north to avoid the scorching Arizona summers.
Plants here have learned this trick, too. An entire “guild,” or group with similar life histories, of “winter annuals” exists. These are plants that germinate, grow, flower, and set seed all within the winter rainy season. They vanish with the winter rains during that arid foresummer of April and May, much like the retirees. I visited my field site a few weeks ago, only to find an entirely new set of green things “carpeting” (for Arizona, anyway) the hillside. With an early end to the rains, many are flowering now – Tumamoc Hillis covered in something yellow with purple highlights! The wildflower fans I know are planning their weekend excursions now, nearly a month before expected – so hurry outside! The bloom won’t last.