12/02/2012

Little Apples in the Mountains

One of the beautiful evergreens in our area is called the manzanita. In Spanish, it literally means "little apples." Another name used is madrone and there are 106 varieties worldwide.  It's a shrub found at the higher elevations, probably 5,000 feet and above.  A native of the west, you can find this large shrub/small tree from Mexico to Western Canada. It's also found in the Mediterranean regions. Extremely hardy and drought tolerant, it's perfectly suited for our challenging high desert climate. The signature red bark and the small green leaves, make it easy to identify. In May you'll find it loaded with beautiful pink blossoms, similar to mountain laurel.  In the summer there are small berries which were made into a medicinal tea as a poison oak remedy years ago.

When I first discovered the bush while hiking in the mountains, I longed to dig up a specimen and put in my gardens.  That particular inclination was nixed, since it was on national park land, but after taking a Water Wise gardening class, learned it didn't transplant well anyway and was hard to propagate.  It also needs the higher elevations to survive. Our property was just a bit too low at 4,300 feet.  Fortunately High Country Gardens, a nursery in New Mexico has a hybrid that does well at our altitude.  Smaller than the wild ones and more of a groundcover, one now grows at the corner of a front flowerbed.  It has yet to bloom and has been there for two years now.  One can only hope it'll manage to produce some flowers next spring. 

Manzanita wood is extremely dense and makes a hot fire. It's not recommended for indoor use as the high temps can cause a chimney fire. The wood is the 7th hardest wood in the world and is sometimes called "mountain driftwood." The interesting twisted branches work great in aquariums and as bird perches for parrots and larger birds.  Manzanita branches grow into interesting shapes as it matures. 

Below you'll find an interesting caterpillar feasting on a manzanita which we spotted on a hike a while back.  My sister, Yvonne correctly identified the alien-like creepy-crawly on FaceBook this week as a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar and is North America's largest native moth. The moth is usually found in more easterly climes, but sometimes makes it as far as the Rockies. I think the manzanita is also perfect for the Christmas season as we decorate in reds and greens. It's a natural to deck the halls with.  Hmmmm. Where are my pruners? 


 
Manzanita Eating Cecropia Moth Caterpillar


 

No comments:

Positively encouraging

12/02/2012

Little Apples in the Mountains

One of the beautiful evergreens in our area is called the manzanita. In Spanish, it literally means "little apples." Another name used is madrone and there are 106 varieties worldwide.  It's a shrub found at the higher elevations, probably 5,000 feet and above.  A native of the west, you can find this large shrub/small tree from Mexico to Western Canada. It's also found in the Mediterranean regions. Extremely hardy and drought tolerant, it's perfectly suited for our challenging high desert climate. The signature red bark and the small green leaves, make it easy to identify. In May you'll find it loaded with beautiful pink blossoms, similar to mountain laurel.  In the summer there are small berries which were made into a medicinal tea as a poison oak remedy years ago.

When I first discovered the bush while hiking in the mountains, I longed to dig up a specimen and put in my gardens.  That particular inclination was nixed, since it was on national park land, but after taking a Water Wise gardening class, learned it didn't transplant well anyway and was hard to propagate.  It also needs the higher elevations to survive. Our property was just a bit too low at 4,300 feet.  Fortunately High Country Gardens, a nursery in New Mexico has a hybrid that does well at our altitude.  Smaller than the wild ones and more of a groundcover, one now grows at the corner of a front flowerbed.  It has yet to bloom and has been there for two years now.  One can only hope it'll manage to produce some flowers next spring. 

Manzanita wood is extremely dense and makes a hot fire. It's not recommended for indoor use as the high temps can cause a chimney fire. The wood is the 7th hardest wood in the world and is sometimes called "mountain driftwood." The interesting twisted branches work great in aquariums and as bird perches for parrots and larger birds.  Manzanita branches grow into interesting shapes as it matures. 

Below you'll find an interesting caterpillar feasting on a manzanita which we spotted on a hike a while back.  My sister, Yvonne correctly identified the alien-like creepy-crawly on FaceBook this week as a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar and is North America's largest native moth. The moth is usually found in more easterly climes, but sometimes makes it as far as the Rockies. I think the manzanita is also perfect for the Christmas season as we decorate in reds and greens. It's a natural to deck the halls with.  Hmmmm. Where are my pruners? 


 
Manzanita Eating Cecropia Moth Caterpillar


 

No comments: