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Thu, Feb. 27

Native Plants of the Southwest (27) - Kendrick Peak

Kendrick Peak from Snow Bowl on San Francisco Peaks

Kendrick Peak from Snow Bowl on San Francisco Peaks

Trail 22 on the south side is a little shorter and offers a lot more shade. A loop formed by Trails 39 and 40 on the west side give you a glimpse of fire recovery with quite a few aspens making a stunning comeback. Trail 22 is drier, lacking surface water. In order to improve your chances of finding water on the loop, hike a little earlier in the season, probably May. This will reduce the flowers you might find. Hiking either route in a day, eliminates concern over the water supply, as you should be able to carry all you need. Bear in mind that either route involves at least 2,500 in elevation gain. This is a significance ascent, but the trails are easy to follow and by spreading the elevation gain over a distance of about five miles, it's steady going. There are no "killer" sections of tortuous switchbacks.

The views extend from the Grand Canyon to the other major peaks in the area such as the San Francisco Peaks and Bill Williams Mountain. There is a Forest Service lookout on the top. Depending on the season and who is on the job, you may have the opportunity to engage in some interesting conversation and get an update on how things are going regarding the fire season. There is also a cabin where Trails 22 and 40 join in a meadow about ¼ mile from the top. The cabin was once used by the fire lookout staff member. The current lookout tower has beds, so the cabin is no longer used by Forest Service staff. It's home sweet home to only a few rodents these days.

Both trailheads are a little tricky to find, in spite of the convenient access, being close to Flagstaff and accessible by roads suitable for passenger cars, at least after the snow melts. The Pumpkin Trailhead is probably easiest to find off Interstate 40. Take Interstate 40 to exit 178 between Flagstaff and Williams. Go north a 1/4 mile to a "T" intersection with old Route 66, turn left (west). Go 1/2 mile to Forest Rd. 141 (Spring Valley), turn right (north) and follow the signs to the Pumpkin Trailhead. It is about 16 miles to the trailhead. Spring Valley Rd. becomes dirt 5.8 miles north of Rt. 66. Go another 4.6 miles to Forest Rd. 144. Continue north 1.7 miles to Forest Rd. 171. Stay on this road 2.8 miles to a 90 degree turn south to Pumpkin Center. Turn left and go 0.9 miles east to the trailhead. Trail 22 off Interstate 40 starts the same. Spring Valley Rd. curves left at 7.7 miles. Stay north on Rd. 194. This splits to the left after a while. Stay right on 786 but there is no sign. Continue to a T intersection with Rd. 100. A sign directs you left (east) 0.8 miles to an odd intersection with Rd. 171. Turn left then immediately right on Rd. 190. You're now going north. Continue for 0.4 miles to the trailhead. It is about 15 miles to the trailhead from Interstate 40. You can also take Hwy. 180 northwest from Flagstaff to Forest Rd. 193 (10 mi past the Snow Bowl turnoff). Turn left on 193 and go 3.3 mi. to Forest Rd. 171. Turn right and go 2.1 miles to Forest Rd. 190. Turn right and go north 0.4 miles to the trailhead.

The number and variety of plants to consider this time of year on Kendrick Peak is off the chart, from ferns to fir trees and from wildflowers to rosebushes. Plants that have been presented on other hiking destinations will be seen here too, like running into an old friend. According to the person in the lookout tower, Subalpine Fir only grows in a couple spots in Arizona, so we don't want to miss the opportunity to talk about this "smallest" species of Fir trees. Meadow Rue is always a delight to see, tall and delicate with "hula skirt" flowers, according to a graduate student in botany I worked with at Arizona State University. Roses are a favorite of so many people and the stand on Kendrick peak is quite beautiful. We also ate a number of rose hips left from last year. Finally, Butterfly Milkweed is gorgeous with its unusual orange coloration, thickly covered with butterflies. It's like seeing two glorious sights for the price of one.

Subalpine Fir, Abies lasiocarpa (Pine Family)

Extending from Alaska to the Southwest, Subalpine Fir is under investigation by botanists to better understand its relationship to other species of Fir, such as Abies bifolia. The southern populations, such as those scattered across Arizona are often grouped as variety arizonica. As its common name implies, it is found in isolated populations among Fir and Aspen toward the boundary between forest and alpine habitats. The higher the elevation, the smaller the tree. In Alaska, the trees may be 40 meters tall. At timberline in Arizona, they look more like shrubs. Obviously, the severe weather at timberline limits growth of woody species. This is commonly discussed when Bristle Cone Pine Trees are described. Subalpine Fir, though retains its pointed top, where the purple, seed-bearing cones will be found, offering food for birds and rodents. Fir cones are not found on the ground, like spruce, pine, and douglas-fir cones, since they disintegrate on the branch, releasing their many winged seeds. Unlike spruce, the needles sit flat on the branch. Unlike pines, the needles are single. Unlike douglas-fir, the cones stand upright. Unlike its closest relative, White Fir, the seed cones are purple instead of green. On Kendrick Peak, they grow in a mixed-conifer habitat and stand no more than five meters tall. The bark is grayish brown, smooth until it becomes fissured in old age. The needles are flat, single, and point upward. The tip of each needle is notched or rounded, often described as blunt. If conditions are right, cool and wet, Subalpine Fir may be found at lower elevations like in Oak Creek Canyon. No matter where you see it, Alaska or on Kendrick Peak in Arizona, it signals cool conditions and that's a welcome sight for any hiker in the summer.

Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed Family)

Milkweed pollination involves transporting pollen in sacks rather than single grains. Butterflies apparently find this species of Milkweed a great find, since every time I see it, it is covered with butterflies. They almost obscure the unusual, bright orange flowers. As they flutter away with my approach, it's like seeing one bouquet ascend, leaving another bouquet behind, two for one. This species of Milkweed is unusual in another way, its sap is not milky. I see it every time I hike Trail 22. It grows in the open, with Ponderosa Pines, below 9,000 feet. In "Wildflowers of the Western Plains: A Field Guide" by Zoe M. Kirkpatrick, she suggests this species wins the prize for the showiest Milkweed. She tells of a sighting in Texas on a gray, cloudy day in June. She spotted one growing in a dry creek bed. Her first thought was that she was seeing a "burning bush," so startling was the sight of the flowers covered with butterflies, bees, and flies. It stands nearly a meter tall, so if it is in full bloom, there is little doubt, that it would evoke a most memorable sight. Once you see it, you won't soon forget it.

Wood's Rose, Rosa woodsii (Rose Family)

Roses may be the most recognized of flowers. The family is large and this species, as with the family, is widespread. It may be found across the United States and Canada from coast to coast. Yet, in spite of its recognition, you may be surprised to know that roses do not have thorns. Ann Epple in "A Field Guide to Plants of Arizona" calls them thorns but her casual use of botanical terminology is understandable, considering her book is not a work of technical precision. However, it is no more difficult to refer to all those sharp things on its stem by their more accurate name, prickles, as do the authors of "Woody Plants of Utah." Thorns are pointed stems like in Pyracantha, another member of the Rose Family. Cacti bear spines. Roses bear prickles. Ouch! This particular species forms thickets along Trail 22 near the base of Kendrick Peak. The fragrant flowers bear five pink petals, the basic floor plan of Rose blossoms. Each flower has quite a few stamens in the center of the flower. Horticulturists modify these stamens into petals so that the Rose from the florist appears to have many petals, when in fact it has only five. The rest of them are petaloid stamens. If you dig into the rose from the florist, you'll find half petals-half stamens near the heart of the flower. You might purchase the rose before you dig into it, as your inquiry into its morphology will not leave it in very good shape. You might also wait to investigate its inner workings, after you give it to a loved one and don't tear into one, someone gives you, at least not right away or while they look on. You may have some explaining to do and, in spite of your most valid botanical curiosity, others are not likely to appreciate the cost involved. Good luck. In addition to interesting flowers and armature, Rosa, has a very useful fruit, hips. They are nutritious and somewhat fleshy. They often persist into the next year, when they will be dried out, but remain every bit as healthy, not tasty, just good for you. Why is that? Healthy foods don't often taste very good?

Fendler's Meadow-Rue, Thalictrum fendleri (Buttercup Family)

I came to appreciate Meadow-Rue on a botanical field trip with the Forest Service in New Mexico. Sylvia, a graduate student teaching the lab for Flora of Arizona, invited me along. My wife and I enjoyed camping, so we packed up and started investigating. Meadow-Rue, said Sylvia, has flowers that look like hula skirts. I didn't need a further explanation, sure enough, the stamens on the male flowers hang in clusters that look like grass skirts from Hawaii. Ann Epple describes them as tassels. The female flowers, found on different plants, don't look the same, but the leaves are a dead give away. They are fern like, delicate, divided several times into roundish leaflets. The plants, though herbaceous, are tall, often standing two meters high, especially in ideal growing conditions, wet canyons. They may be found on hill sides at higher elevations too, which is the case on Kendrick Peak. In that case, they are much smaller. But that's where I first learned about them in New Mexico, in a canyon with plenty of refreshing water flowing by. The flowers are not large, nor are they considered showy, that is colorful. They're just different and easy to remember, like poking around the mountains in search of new plants, especially with people you care about.

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