Southwestern Deserts

November, 2003
Regional Report

Local Buzz

First Baby Condor Goes for a Spin
The first baby condor hatched in the Arizona wild (in recent recorded history) tooks its first flight in November. It jumped from its nest and rather ungracefully flew 500 feet to the ground in a remote area of the Grand Canyon. The parents weren't around at fledging time, and observers were concerned about the chick's well-being, but Mom returned and took charge. Both parents were bred in captivity and released as part of the effort to save this endangered species.

Favorite or New Plant

Teddy bear cholla
Teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) is a treacherous plant. Its new growth easily detaches, and these sections are strewn on the ground below the parent plant. They cling to anything unfortunate enough to come near, including shoes, pant legs, and skin. The spines are arranged in a crisscrossing mish-mash (not a botanical term, but descriptive). This makes attempts to remove any of the offending stickers challenging and sometimes comical to the observer, never to the stricken person. I saw someone accidentally kick a piece of teddy bear cholla that was no bigger than a fat thumb. It stuck to the end of his shoe and no amount of wild hopping or scraping with a stick would dislodge it. It also poked through to stab the unlucky hiker's toes, and since the spines are slightly hooked, he couldn't take the shoe off without a tremendous amount of howling.

Even so, this native cactus is exquisite when its golden spines are backlit by the sun. Native birds love to nest in its protective arms, evidently immune to its dangers. Plant where you can enjoy its beauty but not where people or pets are likely to bump into it. Use tongs to pick up the sections when they drop.

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