Spring Leaf Drop

Don’t panic if you see your evergreen plants dropping large amounts of yellow leaves in the spring! These are actually older leaves giving up their nutrients to the flush of young leaves that seem to sprout up overnight as the temperature warms.  You might worry that leaves turning color and falling to the ground indicates that your evergreen plant isn’t happy or is stressing, but this spring leaf-fall is very much a vital, living process that prepares the plant for […]

Sugarbush for “lemonade”

Summer’s approach has teased the “sugar” out of our Sugarbush fruits, which are ready for harvesting from June until August. The red “berries” of our native Sugarbush (Rhus ovata) are oozing with an acidic, sugary sap that imparts a tart flavor to the fruits, technically called drupes (berry-like fruits with one seed enclosed in a hardened shell or “stone”). The sticky berries have a velvety pubescence, and become reddish when ripe. Native Americans dried the berries to preserve them, soaked […]

Summer Deep Watering

Summers are tough for a desert botanist. It pains my heart to look out across both our yard and the open desert and watch the native plants turning brown, dropping their leaves, and shutting down for the summer. I know that these plants have to do this just to survive the coming months of intense sun, 100+ degree heat, and no promise of rain for most of the year. Yes, the scientist in me knows that all these desert plants […]

Plant of the Month – July 2014

Sugar Bush Rhus ovata   Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub Water Use: Low Mature Size: 8-15’ tall & wide Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade Bloom Time: Spring (March – May); fruit Summer (June – August) Native to: California, Arizona, & Mexico (at elevations 3,000 – 5,000 feet)  Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 0°F     Sugar Bush is a very long-lived, evergreen, aromatic shrub with lush, deep green, leathery leaves that are slightly folded like a taco shell. Maroon twigs and leaf […]