Fuzzy Flowers and Sunscreen….

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I absolutely love spring.  Some years, spring never arrives.  Sometimes spring goes missing and winter turns right into summer.  But not this year.  We have had beautiful weather and I have enjoyed being outdoors.  

But, all good things must come to an end.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I do like the summer, but you will find me inside much more often then outside.  Sometimes I wonder if some of my plants would rather be inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

Did you know that May and June are the most stressful months for plants in the desert southwest?  Well, it is.  Although the hot summer temperatures cool down in the evening, the daytime heat coupled with the extreme dryness of our climate is quite stressful for plants.  When the monsoon season arrives in July, the increased humidity and rain bring relief to the plants.

So, what is a plant to do when it cannot escape indoors from the heat?  Well, I would love to show you one example of what some shrubs do to deal with the dry heat.

To really see what I am talking about, look closely at the photo below…

love spring

love spring

Can you see it?  Can you tell what helps to protect the flowers from the sun?  

Hint: Look at the little hairs on the petals.

love spring

Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) and all other Leucophyllum species have tiny hairs on their flowers, stems and their leaves, which help to deflect the sun’s rays and helps to reduce the amount of water lost to the air. It is these tiny hairs that give the leaves a gray-green color.

love spring

Drive down any street in the Desert Southwest and you will see these beautiful shrubs throughout the residential landscape.

love spring

Even though I have worked as a horticulturist for over 10 years, I am still amazed at how plants adapt to their environment. 

By the way, you may be thinking that I took these close-up photos to show the tiny hairs covering the blossoms, but actually, my goal was to show how beautiful the flower was. It was only after I downloaded the pictures that I saw the tiny hairs.  

It makes you wonder what else you may find just by taking close-up pictures of plants….

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
16 replies
  1. Rosie@leavesnbloom
    Rosie@leavesnbloom says:

    I love taking macro photos as there are tiny little features that we just don't see too clearly when we just look at a flower. This morning I was walking past one of my acer trees and thought there was something wrong with the new leaves but when I looked I could see tiny little hairs – I've never seen that before on an acer.

    I know that citrus trees close their pores at noon time to prevent water loss from their leaves and thus prevent stress.

    Have a lovely weekend Noelle 🙂 Rosie

  2. Ami
    Ami says:

    It surely is amazing to find out how plants adapt to their environment. I love macro pictures too! Sometimes, we can find much more in the photos than in person 🙂

  3. Elephant's Eye
    Elephant's Eye says:

    Our yellow pincushion protea comes in two varieties. On the Kirstenbosch side of Table Mountain, lots of winter rain, it has blue-green leaves. Where we used to live on the sunny Camps Bay side of the mountain, your furry grey leaves. Built in sunscreen for the sunny side of the mountain!

  4. Annelie
    Annelie says:

    Great! Thanks for sharing. Funny sometimes what one can discover from photos that one might have missed otherwise. Happens to me all the time.
    That Texas Sage has a fantastic color. I have Russian Sage that is much lighter in the blue. The humming birds like it.


  5. Brad
    Brad says:

    Beautiful flowers and the little hairs are really fascinating. I guess they need some defense if they are gonna bloom at this time of year in the desert.

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