Mystery Flora: Flowers of Old Jerome


Whilst picking photos for my post on Jerome’s geology, I stumbled across these lovelies. My old camera couldn’t do them justice, but it tried.

Mystery Flowers I

They were growing against a sort of cliff at Gold King Mine. I liked how they looked against the patterned rock. Wish I could tell you what the rock is – I think it’s sedimentary something-or-other, but it’s hard to tell from an awful photograph, and I wasn’t good enough with geology back then to do field identification of anything other than basalt and sandstone. It could be tuff, it could be something else – Jerome’s full of some pretty wild rocks.

I remember these flowers well. They were friends of my youth. They liked growing up on poor soils in dry, sunny places, as I recall. Once the purple blooms fell off, they’d grow little fruits that looked like peas, or tiny green tomatoes. We’d pick them and serve them up to various dolls and stuffed animals. We were careful not to eat them ourselves, especially after the Incident with my neighbors and the loco weed beans. (Everybody lived, although the parents nearly had heart attacks.)

Mystery Flowers II

There’s something about these that suit old Jerome. I think it has to do with clinging on to life, even thriving in a modest sort of way, despite the harsh environment. Not to mention the crazy politics*….

 

*Yes, I will be linking Mano Singham’s post every time I talk about Arizona. Bloody tragedy, what the fuckwits currently in power have done to my old home state. I’m hoping the right-wingers destroy themselves in an orgy of insanity, leaving the way clear for the sweet sensible liberal enclaves currently embattled to stage an overthrow. It’s a shame such wonderful geology and interesting botany are in the hands of assclowns with no appreciation for either, much less the human beings whose lives they’re so busily destroying.

Comments

  1. rq says

    Deadly Nightshade. Not sure on the species, but here’s the family:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanaceae
    Tomatoes and potatoes are all part of this family, which is more obvious during their flowering phase (they have very similar blooms to this one, tomatoes in yellow (mostly) and potatoes in white (mostly)). I believe belladonna is in this same group, too, as is mandrake and peppers (the bell kind). A diverse group of non- and toxic plants.
    This one specifically (the wildly growing one) was one of those plants against which my parents warned us very strongly, especially against eating the berries, some of which turned a bright red when ripe and looked delicious. We were even made to wash our hands after touching the plant and/or berries, but I’m not completely sure they are THAT poisonous. Probably depends on the species.
    I think they’re native to North America.

  2. aspidoscelis says

    A nightshade, yes. To be more specific, silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium. It is toxic, but I’m not sure exactly how dangerous it is.

  3. otrame says

    Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is extremely toxic, though it varies from specimen to specimen. The berries and roots are the most dangerous but even a single leaf can kill an adult. Other nightshades aren’t as bad, but all have some danger and should be handled with care.

  4. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    EWWWWW!!!! Silverleaf Nightshade is my weed enemy! Spiny so you can’t pull them without gloves, beloved by birds who poop the seeds all over the place. And the rhizomes spread into clumps.

    OTOH … The Incident With My Neighbors And The Loco Weed Beans … sounds very interesting.

      • aspidoscelis says

        Some trivia on locoweeds:

        The toxin in locoweeds (genera Astragalus and Oxytropis) is swainsonine, which primarily disrupts the nervous system – hence causing critters to be “loco”. However, it isn’t produced by locoweed, but by endophytic fungi. A few Astragalus also accumulate selenium from the soil, which is necessary in small quantities but toxic at higher levels.

        Most locoweeds do not have swainsonine and are not (or at least, not significantly) toxic. However, identifying species of Astragalus and Oxytropis is often difficult, so even if you’ve got a handy list of which are toxic and which aren’t, you might not be able to tell if any particular plant is safe. The gist is, don’t eat ‘em.

  5. tajparis says

    That Sci Am article was quite interesting. I lived in AZ for a few years, but I made it to Jerome only once. I took the scenic route back to the Phoenix are from Sedona, so it was just a pass through really. It was quite a spectacular drive, and one of the most interesting towns I’ve been to. I always intended to go back, but never got around to it with my work schedule.