Spring is Busting Out in Phoenix

Say “Spring” in Phoenix and half the U.S. imagines blooming cactus. That’s it. Areas of the desert that have enough rain sprout Mexican Poppies.

My joy is seeing plants that come into Spring with a metaphor. Here’s what I mean:

Isn’t this the happiest blossom you’ve ever seen? Just bursting with energy. And yes, this delicate bloom is native to the Sonoran Desert.

Palo Verdes grow fast, so they are often trimmed hard in the fall. Palo Verdes have tiny leaves, and in the heat, they drop off. The tree had adapted with green branches and a green trunk–photosynthesis is not left to fickle leaves.

This pair is raising its arms to the sun, shaking fists at the sky that will fry those branches by late May.

Aloes are not indoor windowsill plants here. I have them as border plants. In late January, they send up straight spikes and in February the spikes bloom.

This spike got bent, but the blossom knows which way is up. I love this determination to find the sun.

The fig tree is deciduous—it looses its big, fuzzy leaves in November, and in March, the new leaves unfurl, one by one. The fig tree is about three weeks early this year.

I love watching the leaves peek out and then pop, as big as your hand, in a few weeks. I’m grateful for the shade in the summer, and more grateful for the figs that we eat in June.

–Quinn McDonald is a naturalist who never knew how much greenery thrives in the Sonoran Desert.


Figs, I Want Figs!

How do you know your figs are ripe? Well, about a week before they get to the point where you enjoy eating them, right before perfection, exactly at the point where the juice and sugar content soar, the birds will descend on the tree and eat holes in all of them. Figs are ripe when the fruit stops hanging out from the branch and droops downward. I’ll never see it happen if these birds continue with their voracious habits.

Almost-ripe figs

Almost-ripe figs

Now I wouldn’t mind if they ate half the figs, and left me half. Birds aren’t like that. Birds will drill holes in all of the figs. I’m amazed at how tiny finches, barely out of the nest, are bold enough to ignore my cats, ignore me, in fact, even when I’m wielding a broom. These birds, with brains the size of a shelled pea, outsmart me with ease. They stay three inches beyond the reach of my broom, pooping with abandon, and creating a huge mess on my walkway.

There is no rubber snake, pinwheel, pieces of mylar that scares these birds. Huge, aggressive grackles, tiny finches, spotty starlings, rattling doves, curved-beak thrashers and yes, busy hummingbirds, all snack on the figs.

Netting is not the answer, either. The tree is 15-feet high, and between the side of the house and the

Two still-untouched figs

Two still-untouched figs

block fence. Part of the tree hangs over into the neighbors yard. It’s overhung by a palo verde and shares space with a grapefruit. To cover the tree with a net, I’d need a lot of netting, a very tall ladder, another person and the ability to affix the next like a hairnet around the whole tree top.

I’ve seen nets in trees and I’ve seen birds fly under them with ease. The trouble is you then have a bird that can’t easily find its way out from under the net. I don’t want broken-winged birds, and I don’t want panicky birds. Panicky birds are destructive, and I’m losing enough figs.

Quinn McDonald is a nature lover who loves fresh fig preserves. She may not get them this season. Quinn has two websites: one for professional training at QuinnCreative.com and her art journaling site at raw-art-journals.com