In the woods and around town, crusty growths cling to bare rocks, hang from tree branches, and hug the ground. Painted in shades of dusty green, sulfur yellow, and pumpkin orange, these subtle organisms are lichens, hardy colonizers of some of the harshest environments on Earth.
Flagstaff, AZ – We all learned in elementary school that evergreen trees don't lose their leaves. Most conifers, including majestic ponderosa pines, are evergreens. By staying green all year long, these trees can photosynthesize anytime conditions are good. They don't have to spend valuable energy adding leaves once the weather warms.
Look closely at a detailed map of a southwestern forest, and you'll see numerous places labeled as "parks" or "prairies." They're openings in the woods, from the size of a baseball field to miles in extent, where the soil is generally too wet or too dry to support trees.
Flagstaff, AZ – The 1960s were a time of conflict. Among the decade's lesser-known controversies was one that took place in Arizona, where Daylight Saving Time was designated for the first and only time in 1967.
The idea wasn't new. Ben Franklin was an early proponent of adjusting clocks for long summer days so that evenings have more daylight and mornings less. Various U.S. states and cities tried out Daylight Saving Time beginning in World War One.
Flagstaff, AZ – It's tough, spare, and spiny, but the common mesquite tree is a nutritional wonder.
Ripening in summer, the dangling seedpods of mesquite trees are an important food source for humans and animals. They're rich in sugar and protein, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. During the Ice Age, camels and mastodon ate them. Today, deer, foxes, coyotes, and even packrats do.
Flagstaff, AZ – One hundred years ago, a 22-year-old tenderfoot and new graduate of the Yale Forestry School arrived in eastern Arizona. He came by wagon from the railhead in Holbrook. His job? To serve as assistant forester of the new Apache National Forest in the White Mountains. His name? Aldo Leopold.
On his trusty horse, Jiminy Hicks, Leopold rode for two summers through the verdant high-country forests. He learned quickly from the Southwest's places and people, and was soon promoted to supervisor of New Mexico's Carson National Forest.
Flagstaff, AZ – For more than three centuries, the Puye Cliffs of northern New Mexico were home to hundreds of people ancestors of the present-day residents of Santa Clara pueblo. The soft volcanic rock of the cliffs was easily carved into rooms, handholds, and ledges, while the mesa above provided flat, fortified ground for buildings and gardens.
Flagstaff, AZ – Some nature enthusiast watch birds, others chase butterflies, a growing number look for this countries finest trees. Since 1940 a non-profit group called American Forest has sponsored the national register of big trees. It lists the largest known specimens of over 800 American trees.
Lightning is a given during the Colorado Plateau's summer monsoon season. But it's not the only kind of electricity that comes from the heavens.
St. Elmo's Fire is a peculiar phenomenon that infrequently, but memorably, shows up at the margins of thunderstorms. It forms when the atmosphere's highly charged electrical field comes into contact with grounded objects. As molecules in the air are ionized, they emit a bright blue, violet or green glow.