Living conditions are harsh among the cinders in the volcanic terrain that spreads northeast of Flagstaff. But for one plant they're an irreplaceable home. The Sunset Crater penstemon, or Penstemon clutei (pron. cloo-tee-eye), lives nowhere else.
That selectivity has made the plant rare only 36 wild clumps are known to exist. The Center for Plant Conservation has made it an officially "sponsored species" with its own endowment.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Southwestern Cloudscapes
The climate and varied topography of the Colorado Plateau shape many aspects of the natural world, including some on spectacular display high overhead.
During dry times of year, lenticular clouds often form over southwestern mountains. Formed where high ground pushes up large standing waves of air, they have very clearly defined shapes and appear to stay in place even as the wind blows.
Roadrunner images are almost impossible to avoid in the American Southwest. Thanks to the famous mid-century cartoons by Chuck Jones, this distinctive bird became one of a select group of creatures known as much through its animated presence as through real animals. The real thing doesn't say "beep beep" but it is a pretty intriguing character too.
Flagstaff, AZ – Pitch black and cool year round, lava tube caves might seem like an inhospitable place to call home. But scientists are discovering that lava tubes shelter a surprising variety of organisms, some of which live nowhere else on earth.
A lava tube forms when molten lava flows over the ground, then cools and hardens from the outside in. The hotter, inner lava flows away and leaves behind a tube-like cavern. Lava River Cave near Flagstaff, the longest known lava cave in Arizona, stretches a mile underground.
Flagstaff, AZ – Ever wonder what happens to the millions of gallons of motor oil drained from our cars each year in the course of repairs and maintenance? When treated carelessly, it's a major source of pollution to waterways. The EPA estimates that as much as 40 percent of the nation's oil pollution may come from improper disposal of used motor oil by shade-tree mechanics.