Musings of a roaming nature nerd

Vegging Out

Salgoo. Progla. Bacemo. Parflo. Pluser. No, these are not the characters and places of a recently discovered Dr. Suess book- though I would love to see how Salgoo manifests from the imagination to paper! These six letter codes represent just a few of the plants that prickled and prodded their way into our hearts this season. Six weeks of intimate involvement generally allows one to nickname, in friendly terms, those they come to know. We do it with people and we do it with plants. Therefore not only do these codes help in shortening lengthy Latin from Baccharis sarothroides to Bacsar, but they add a playful element to otherwise quite tedious work!

Each plant plays a role in the ecosystem and potentially in the lives of our surveyed birds of interest. Tiny Bell’s Vireos bury themselves deep within the safe thorny branches of Propub and Progla. Bright Yellow Warblers glean insects from the slender twigs of Bacsar. Laughing Gila Woodpeckers nest in the excavated remains of Salgoo. Flashy Summer Tanagers sing out from the tops of Popfre, towering above the riparian corridor filled with Sciame and Typdom.

On the left: Propub, Prosopis pubescens, or Screwbean mesquite. On the right: Progla, Prosopis glandulosa, or Honey mesquite


Tiny Pluser and towering Popfre.


Although I was not gleaning, nesting or singing (well maybe occasionally singing), I found my favorite plant of the bunch to be the Acagre (Acacia greggii or Cat’s Claw Acacia). We came across very little of it, but when we did it insisted that we “wait a minute” and take a look, as it grabbed our clothing and skin with its hooked cat-claw like thorns.  Nicknamed the “Wait-a-minute Tree,” it doesn’t greet in the most polite manner, but it certainly does demand attention and I found its little trick kind of interesting. Its presence in lowland habitat also indicates dramatic yet natural changes in the area. In order to germinate this small tree needs scouring flash floods to scarify and saturate the ground. With the dammed and controlled flows along the Colorado, huge floods rarely make such an impact on the land anymore. Therefore when one finds an Acagre it’s a sign that some natural processes are still sneaking their way into the heavily managed landscape.

Vegetation surveying is difficult and monotonous work. But when all is said and done, discovering how much my personal understanding of this amazing ecosystem has improved, makes all the prickles, heat and discomfort a little more worthwhile!

Acagre, Acacia greggi, or Cat’s claw acacia


An abridged version of our 2011 plant list:

Progla-  Prosopis glandulosa-  Honey mesquite

Propub-  Prosopis pubescens-  Screwbean mesquite

Anecal-  Anemopsis californica-  Yerba Mansa

Typdom-  Typha domingensis-  Southern Cattail

Salexi-  Salix exigua-  Coyote Willow

Bacemo-  Baccharis emoryi-  Emory’s Baccharis

Bacsar-  Baccharis sarothroides-  Desert Broom

Pluser-  Pluchea sericea-   Arrowweed

Cyndac-  Cynodon dactylon-  Bermuda Grass

Tamsp-  Tamarix sp.-  Tamarisk species

Salgoo-  Salix gooddingii-  Goodding’s willow

Popfre-  Populus fremontii-  Fremont Cottonwood

Acagre-  Acacia greggii-  Cat’s claw acacia

Parflo-  Parkinsonia florida-  Blue Palo Verde

Paracu-  Parkinsonia aculeate-  Foothill or Yellow Palo Verde

Sciame-  Scirpus americanus-  Three-square Bulrush

DYC-  Damn Yellow Composite-  (If you know the plant below, please let me know!)

This DYC grows abundantly in moderately wet areas of the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge, yet it even confounded the local biologists.


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