Something missing

I have ants in my front yard. They are some kind of leafcutter, I suppose. They decorate their hole with whatever flowers are blooming. The ants are mostly active in the late evening, so every morning when I walk outside, there is a new and transient work of art to greet me. Recently the flowers available have been red and purple. The ants compose a new combination of these every morning.


But there is something missing, a color that last year dominated my front yard for a month: the bright, sunny yellow of paloverde flowers that last year I blogged about being the Tucson version of the Cherry Blossom Festival. They are not just missing from my front yard, but from Tucson and the Tucson Mountains in general.

I have taken special note of the lack of paloverde flowers because I am interested in paloverde germination and survival. Last spring and summer seemed fantastic for these unique trees. As several winter storms came through, providing a spring bloom, I thought the trees must have made out even better. Do they not have deeper roots than tiny annual wildflowers? And are they not primarily inactive growth-wise all winter?

Yet as Doug Siegel from Pima County pointed out to me recently, the rains were late and they were torrential and few. One rain gauge, he said, received four inches of rain in one hour. Four inches! In one hour?! Nearly all of that would have run off, and Doug observed the sediment stripped away from the earth, confirming that to be the case. Little water soaked in to the ground, percolating deep enough to be absorbed by thirsty green giants.

And so those giants stand awkwardly about, green and brown and naked of blooms, jealously watching pink froth blossom on the  ironwoods nearby. And the ants work with the palette available to them this year.

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