News from The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Fall Color- October 5, 2011

Virginia creeper (parthenocissus vitacea) is a native, woody vine. It has distinct palmately compound leaves with serrated edges. It is a prolific climber and often covers entire sides of buildings. In the fall its foliage turns bright red. It can be found covering the main Walter Reichardt House.

Gamble oak (Quercus gambelii) is a native deciduous oak tree. It has very distinctive lobed leaves and produces acorns. It has semi-flexible branches making it able to withstand heavy snow fall in the winter. In the autumn its leaves turn yellow orange. It can be found across from the blue garden, and on the main trail from the gift shop (not changed yet).


Fall Color, September 27. 2011

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is a northern Arizona native tree. It gets its name from its leaves that flutter in the wind. It reproduces asexually by suckering, or root sprouting, so one aspen can be comprised of many trees. If the fall it turns a brilliant yellow to orange to red.

Lead plant (Amorpha canescens) is a native shrub. It has small terminal, purple pea flowers when blooming in the spring. The foliage is a series of densely hairy compound leaves. In the fall the leaves turn yellow. The Native Americans used this plant medicinally. It can be found on the paved walkway to the Horticulture center.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) is a North American native shrub. It grows to about 3 feet tall and produces a small green panicle of flowers. Later they will put off a panicle of bright red berries that persist through the winter if the animals don’t get to them first. In fall the foliage turns a brilliant crimson. It can be found near the Courtyard garden behind the picnic table area. 

Fall Color, September 21, 2011

Amur Maple (Acer ginnala) grows to be about 10 feet tall and had the distinct three lobed leaves maples have. In fall the typically green leaves turn a brilliant brick red. This tree can be found in the McAllister garden and near the sun flower maze.

Canadian Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a suckering tree that grown 20-30 feet tall. July through October it produces deep red to purple berries that have a very pungent flavor. They are a favorite of near-by wild life. In fall the green leaves turn orange/red. This tree can be found in the McAllister garden.

Golden Currant (Riber aureum) is a native shrub. It grows 2-5 feet tall with spinless stems. Its fruits are black at maturity and also a food source for local wildlife. In fall the leaves turn yellow to red, before falling off for the winter. This can be found in the H2O conservation garden.


August Color, August 18, 2011

Indian pink (Silene laciniata) is a native, perennial. They produce glandular, sticky stems that can reach up to a meter high (ours are much smaller). Each inflorescence can have from one to many long pedicels. The flowers are bright red with 5 pedals each and each pedal is made of 4-6 pointed lobe making them appear fingered. They can be found in the McAllister garden.

Russian sage (Peroviskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial shrub. Although it is called sage, it is not in the genus salvia like other true sages. It prefers full sun, but is very cold hardy and drought tolerant. The square stems are silvery white and grow about 1 meter tall, and the foliage is small and deeply lober. From mid-summer through fall Russian sage puts off long spikes of small purple flowers. Where it is grown natively the people eat the flowers and smoke the leaves. It is uses to reduce fevers. This plant can be found in the herb garden.

Lady Lavender (Lavender augustifolia ‘Lady’)is a perennial herb in the mint family. It has grey green foliage and in the mid-summer produces lavender/blue flowers. It is a dwarf cultivation of the common English lavender. It can be found in the herb garden.


Gardens in Bloom at The Arboretum, August 3, 2011

The gardens are in full bloom this month at The Arboretum at Flagstaff. “The peak of summer color should occur over the next few weeks,” says Steve Yoder, Executive Director. “The monsoon has treated us well this year, and the gardens are responding well to all of this moisture.” The Arboretum is home to 2,500 species of plants and offers guided garden tours, wildlife programs, classes, workshops, and other events.

The guided tours are offered three times daily, at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm. These tours are free with admission and highlight the history of The Arboretum, as well as the diversity of plants that are suited for high-elevation climates and the importance of landscaping with native plants.

Monsoon Blooms, July 25, 2011

Antelope sage (eriogonum jameseii) is a native herb. It has lance shaped, hairy leaves. Its inflorescences are cottony and the flowers provide red and white anthers. Mules dee4rs and mountain sheep like to gaze on this. It can be found outside the Horticulture center behind turf demo.

Coyote mint (Monardella villosa) is a native herb with gray/green foliage. It typically grows about two feet high and produces clusters of light purple flowers. It is used medicinally to cure sore throats. It can be found in the rock garden.

Strawberry seduction (Achillea millefolium) is a cultivated yarrow with typical feathery yarrow foliage. It produces dense clusters of small red flowers, each with a yellow center. The particular cultivar was cultivated in the Netherlands. It can be found in the McAllister and ground-cover gardens.

Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native Penstemon. It has distinct, pine needle shaped foliage. For about 6 weeks, mid summer, it produces small tubular orange flowers making it a favorite of hummingbirds. There is also cultivated variety, Mersea Yellow, which produces yellow flowers. Both varieties can be found in the McAllister and the Pollinator garden.

Photos cited:

Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte,

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service,


Summertime Blooms, June 29, 2011

Purple Robe Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is native tree with dull green elliptic shaped leaves. In late spring to early summer it blooms with clusters of pink flowers. The flowers hang resembling a cluster of grapes, and have a very sweet fragrance. This can be found in the McAllister garden.

Arizona honeysuckle is a native, perennial shrub. It has woody stems with small, lance shaped foliage. In early summer it blooms with bright red, orange, or yellow tubular flowers. This can be found in the entrance garden.

The Columbine (Aquilegia) is a native perennial flower. We have many different species in the garden, and all of them can be easily recognized by their distinct spurred pedals. The spurred pedals attract humming birds. One species, the Rocky Mountain Columbine is the state flower of Colorado. While the flowers are edible and sometimes eaten with fresh greens the roots and of columbine are poisonous. This can be found all throughout the gardens.

Woodland sage (Salvia nemosa) is an herbaceous perennial. It is distinguished by its long inflorescences if bright purple flowers. It is very popular in home gardens due to its easiness to grow and propagate. This can be found in the herb garden.

Wood’s Rose (Rosa woodsii) is a native deciduous shrub. It has thorny, woody stems what put off dark green, pinnately compound leaves. In the fall the leaves turn a beautiful shades or red and yellow. It has pink flowers that last anywhere between one day to a week. In August it produces mature fruits that are an important source of vitamin C for forest animals. This can be found in the herb garden.

Photos cited:

Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,


Wildflowers Galore! June 22, 2011

Cheddar pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) is a low growing perennial with evergreen, blue/gray foliage. In mid spring it blooms with beautiful, bright pink, terminal flowers. The flowers have a scent of cloves. Cheddar pink can be found in the triad garden.

Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is an introduced perennial. It has a small group of basal leaves succeeded by a long central stem that is topped with a daisy like flower. The flower has 15-20 white pedals with a bright yellow center. The Ox-eye daisy is know to grow in very large colonies, and can be found in the McAllister garden.

Large-Flowered Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora) is a perennial composite flower. It has alternately arranged deeply lobed leaves. At the peak of each stem is a solitary, yellow composite flower made up of about 15 ray florets surrounding many disc shaped florets. The margin of each ray floret is notched giving it a rugged, unsymmetrical look. It can be found in the pollinator garden.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is a native perennial Penstemon. It puts off numerous spikes covered in showy purple tubular flowers. It attracts many different pollinators, but especially humming birds due to the tubular flowers. It is a very popular plant in high elevation gardens due to its ability to tolerate drought and other harsh conditions. It can be found in the pollinator garden.

Common blanketflower found in the wildflower meadow is a native perennial herb in the sunflower family. It has lance shaped basal leaves. Each flower has a center of brown florets surrounded by yellow ray florets. It can be found in the wildflower meadow.

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a rhizomatous perennial with hairy stems. They have distinct blue tubular flowers originating from the leaf axis. It has strong medicinal properties and is used as an anti-inflammatory or antispasmodic.

June 8th, 2011

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is an herb with large, feathery, fern-like leaves. In May/ June when blooming it has large clusters of small, creamy, white flowers. Sweet Cicely has a potent fragrance of licorice and has many culinary uses. It can be found in the herb garden.

Spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculate) is a parasitic orchid. It has a plump, dark red stem  with tiny, white spotted whit orchid flowers. Although it does not create its own photosynthate, it parasitizes photosynthate from fungus that is symbiotically growing on surrounding tree roots. It can be found on the nature trail.

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) is a very drought tolerant perennial. Woody at the base, at the top of the plant is panicles of small bright red flowers. Its flowers are often eaten in salads. It can be found in the McAllister garden.

Image citations:

Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,

Richard Old, XID Services, Inc.,

William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International,


Spring blooms in the garden

Despite the recent dryness this week (May 30-June 4), there are many drought tolerant species of plants that are currently in bloom in the gardens.

Turkish speedwell (Veronica liwanensis) is a small mat-forming perennial. It is great as a ground cover due to it fast growth rate and propensity to grow in harsh climates. When the weather gets warm it produces an abundance of tiny blue spike flowers that bloom again later in the summer during the monsoons. It can be found facing the Horticulture Center behind the turf demonstration area.

Arizona pink phlox (phlox grayii) has a small mat of evergreen foliage throughout the year, and produces small, bright pink, nickel sized flowers in the spring. They also bloom again in the summer when monsoons roll through. They can be found in front of the Entry Garden.

Heartleaf bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) are perennials that produce tall stalks full of clustered flowers. It has heart shaped foliage that is usually evergreen, but in the winter can turn a purple. It can be found in the shade garden.

Little leaf pussy toes (Antennaria microphylla) is a mat forming perennial. It has small grayish leaves and white or pink flowers that bloom May through August and resemble cat toes, hence the name. They can be found along the ground cover demonstration area facing the Horticulture Center behind the grass demonstration area.

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) has dark green/purple, variegated leaves. Its foliage is sprawling and creates a good ground cover. In spring, it grows large panicles of purple flowers that attract bees. It can be found in the Triad Garden.

Image Citations:

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA,

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service,

Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute,

Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte,


Wednesday, May 25: Finally we are seeing high temperatures in the 70s and lows in the 40s. The plants are responding with some lovely blooms. The list below is just a taste of what you will see this week in the gardens.

Blue flax (Linum lewisii) is a perennial plant with small, simple, blue flowers that bloom in early spring. Navajo use flax flower medicinally to treat headaches and heartburn, as well as using the roots and stems to make string, cords, mats, baskets, and nets. Blue flax can be seen along Willow Wash.

Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) has nodding pink flowers blooming in early spring. In mid-summer the flowers give rise to wispy seed heads that resemble smoke.  It is used medicinally to treat pain and stiffness. Prairie smoke can be found in the Triage, Ground Cover, Water Conservation, and Mixed Conifer Gardens.

Woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is a creeping perennial with deep veined leaves, dark green, leaves. It blooms in early spring with small white flowers. It provides tasty fruits in the early summer. One place they can be found is in the Herb Garden.

Golden banner (Thermopsis montana) is a common wild flower to the area that grows quickly after snow melt, and blooms by the early spring. It has clustered yellow pea-shaped flowers that host Queen Alexandra’s sulphur butterfly. It can be found by the Mixed Conifer Garden.


Wooton’s Ragwort (Senecio Wootonii) has thick fleshy basal leaves with small yellow ray flowers.  It grows mostly in woodland areas and can be found in the Mixed Conifer Garden.


Northern Arizona weather can be unpredictable. Today, May 19, I am looking out my office window and witnessing a late spring snow storm. Luckily the plants that are currently in bloom are adapted to withstand the variable temperatures at this time of year.

Arizona valerian (Valeriana arizonica) is a non-woody perennial, beginning to bloom in the McAllister Garden. Besides its showy pink flowers, valerian is known for its pungent odor and the sleep inducing chemicals found within the roots.

Catmint (Nepeta faassinii) is a member of the mint family. Its green foliage is topped with spikes of purple or white flowers blooming first in the spring, and continuing to bloom throughout the entire season. Some varieties are extremely attractive to cats and can give them a sense of euphoria. This can be found in the Herb Garden.

Creeping barberry (Berberis repens) has small, compound, leathery green leaves with some leaves turning a rust color in the winter. It also produces tiny, fragrant, yellow flowers proceeded by purple fruits.  Creeping barberry can be found outside the Horticulture Center.


Evergreen candytuf (Iberis sempervirems) is a low- growing perennial with dense clusters of small, white flowers that bloom in early spring. In warm climates its foliage is evergreen, but in very cold climates it is semi-evergreen. It can be found on the paved path to the Horticulture Center.

Purple grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are named for their small purple flowers that resemble clusters of grapes. They bloom in early spring and are known for their intoxicating fragrance. They can be found in the Herb Garden.

Image Citations:

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service,

Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte,

Richard Old, XID Services, Inc.,

The Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens,

Theodore Webster, USDA Agricultural Research Service,


Broad-tailed hummingbirds have arrived!

We have put out our feeders and are seeing many broad-tails visit despite a chill in the air.

Interesting Fact: The male broad-tail makes a whistle-like trilling sound with its wings as it flies through the air.