Xeric Gardening with Native Plants

Fire Chalice or Zauschneria latifolia
Courtesy: Intermountain Native Plant
Growers Association, www.INPGA.org

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

As the days lengthen and gardeners dream of the planting season to come, I urge you to consider plants adapted to our desert climate. Perhaps there are dry corners where your irrigation does not reach. Or you tire of watching the rivulets of water that run down the gutter from trying to grow grass in the strip between sidewalk and road. These are ideal areas to experiment with drought tolerant plants.

As more of us have become aware of the need to conserve water, the availability of gardening resources has increased. Many local and mail order nurseries now have a good selection of drought tolerant or xeriscape plants.

Maple Mallow, Illiamna_rivularis
Copyright 2008 Jim Cane

The Intermountain Plant Growers Association labels nursery plants with a special tag as Utah’s Choice. Utah’s Choice plants are well adapted to the climate of the intermountain west and are a good starting point for choosing plants.

One of my favorite Utah’s Choice plants is Fire Chalice or Zauschneria latifolia. It is a spreading perennial plant that is covered in fiery red tubular flowers from midsummer til frost. Hummingbirds avidly visit this carefree, drought-tolerant plant.

Globe Mallow Flower
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Copyright 2006-2008 Jim Cane

Maple Mallow or Illiamna rivularis is another favorite perennial. This bushy, waist-high resident of the higher mountains does well in my garden here in Logan. It is in partial sun and gets weekly watering. It is covered in large, pale pink flowers through much of the summer.

Globe mallows, genus Sphaeralcea, are another useful xeric perennial. They require bright sunshine and tolerate heavy soils. Among our natives, they are unusual for their profusion of orange-colored flowers.

These are just a few examples of the wealth of possibilities. By choosing plants adapted to your environment, you take the garden path of less resistance. When you consider the rainfall, soil and sun exposure of your yard and choose plants adapted for those conditions, you struggle less and enjoy your garden more.

Globe Mallow Plant
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Copyright 2006-2008 Jim Cane

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association, www.INPGA.org

Also Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Jim Cane

Text: Linda Kervin & Jim Cane

Additional Reading:

Xeriscape Bloom
Copyright 2008 Jim Cane

INPGA: Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association, http://www.utahschoice.org/welcome

Wildland Nursery, Joseph, UT, http://www.wildlandnursery.com/

The Stokes Legacy

Randy Barker and Alice Stokes
at the Stokes Nature Center
Copyright 2007 Kim Barker

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Upon reading the biographies of Allen and Alice Stokes, I’ve started thinking about the word “community.” The Stokes were adopted Utahns. They moved here in 1952 so that Allen Stokes could take a teaching position at Utah State Agricultural College in the Dept. of Wildlife Management. They remained here until they died, Allen in 1996 and Alice just a couple of weeks ago at the age of 93. They both loved nature and took full advantage of their beautiful surroundings here in northern Utah. And they became deeply involved in the community in all senses of the word. As a result, the Nature Center where I work was named after them.

Alice and Allen met in 1944 . Alice was working for Dr. Aldo Leopold– the father of wildlife ecology– at the University of Wisconsin. Allen Stokes had taken a summer research job on nesting behavior and was helped along professionally by Dr. Leopold.

Perhaps it was partly due to Leopold’s influence that the Stokes were forever mindful of the natural community. Allen became a specialist in wildlife behavior within the context of natural communities. The Logan Herald Journal quoted Alice as saying : “ I believe that we should consider ourselves a part of the environment, the land, the communities of rivers, the animals, birds and the plants.”

The Stokes also had a strong sense of community in the social sense of the word. In Logan, Allen organized and led field trips for Bridgerland Audubon Society and eventually became a board member of the National Audubon Society. Utah State University presented Allen with the Bridger Award for Outstanding Contribution to Protecting and Appreciating the Environment of Logan and Cache Valley. They worked with the American Field Service to get Logan families to host foreign students. Alice helped establish classes for deaf children here in Cache Valley. She worked with a local organization, CAPSA, to build a Safe House for victims of Physical and Sexual Abuse. She helped expand the collection of the local library.

Alice Stokes
© 2007 Stokes Nature Center

They both participated in peace marches and rallies and vigils against the death penalty. Allen was a lifelong Quaker and Alice gradually converted. The couple helped establish a Quaker community in Logan in the 1970s which still meets today.

In 1996 the community who founded the nature center in Logan Canyon asked Allen and Alice for their name. Reluctantly, they gave permission, but Allen said “Only if you put Alice’s name first.” He died before the Center opened, and Alice switched the names so that his was first. Now, after 12 years, we remain the Allen and Alice Stokes Nature Center.

I never knew Allen, and I didn’t know Alice long enough. But through my work at the Center that bears their name I often come in contact with people that they influenced. It became obvious to me that the Stokes had a gift for inspiring people to do good things for both natural and social communities. Now, even though the Stokes are gone, that legacy endures. And what could be a better legacy than to instill concern for your community?

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.


Photos: Courtesy & © 2007 Kim Barker and Stokes Nature Center

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading

Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center, www.logannature.org

Bridgerland Audubon Society, www.bridgerlandaudubon.org

Alice Stokes’ Obituary, The Herald Journal,

A memorial service for Alice Stokes will be held at the Sunburst Lounge of the Taggart
Student Center, Utah State University, on Saturday, May 9, at 3 p.m. A
reception will immediately follow at the College of Natural Resources,USU.

Bumblebee Queens of Spring

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Bombus bifarius,
Copyright © 2008 Don Rolfs

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

When crocuses are pushing through the snow in your garden, you might see another sign of spring: the flights of bees. Other bees may fly in spring, but few are as early or as boisterous as bumble bees. Utah is home to more than a dozen species of bumble bees, all of who belong to the genus Bombus (which in Greek means buzzing). All have a combination of black and yellow markings on their bodies. Some also have orange bands. Unlike honey bees that pass the winter warmly clustered in hives, bumble bees overwinter as solitary queens, dormant under a few inches of loose soil or leaf litter. These queens are quiescent all winter until warming soil beckons their reawakening to start their colony.

From March to May, watch for a behavior called nest searching, when the big, burly queen bumble bees fly low over the ground, stopping often to investigate holes in the earth or in building foundations. Bumble bees nest in small, insulated cavities, such as abandoned rodent burrows or bird houses. Once the queen finds a suitable nest site, she is out and about, foraging for pollen and nectar to provision her offspring. After a few days she will have sufficient food to begin laying eggs. Like all bees, her offspring progress through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. In just under a month, her daughters develop into adults, each chewing free of its cocoon.

Bombus griseocollis Queen
Foraging on Hedysarum
Copyright © 2008 Jamie Strange

These daughters take over foraging and nest construction duties, leaving the queen to remain in her nest and continue to lay eggs and incubate her brood. Workers are often much smaller than their mother, so don’t expect to see many big bumble bees again until autumn, when next year’s queens start the cycle anew, searching for mates and a spot to spend the winter.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Photo: Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Don Rolfs & Jamie Strange

Text: Jamie Strange, USU USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit

Additional Reading:

ID a Bumblebee, http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=10749

Cambrian Explosion

Zacanthoides grabaui
From the Spence Shale
in the Wellsville Mountains
Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Paul Jamison

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

A remarkable period in Earth’s history took place about 525 to 545 million years ago. We know about it, because essentially all the basic body plans of all the major animal phyla suddenly appear in the fossil record. We see brachiopods, trilobites, mollusks, echinoderms and many other hard shell creatures for the first time. We also see the appearance and diversification of different types of soft-bodied creatures. This bio-geologic period is called the “Cambrian Explosion.”

Occurring over the course of 20 million years, it wasn’t exactly an explosion in the sense that the Big Bang was an explosion. But, never before, and never since, has there been such a dramatic emergence of animal diversity and diverse animal phyla. It’s the single most significant evolutionary transition period seen in the fossil record.

To pay homage to this early flowering of complex life forms, you can visit a site near Burgess Pass in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. The rock here, known as Burgess Shale, contains one of the most diverse and well-preserved fossil records ever found of the Cambrian Period. The dominant fossils are arthropods but others are also found in great abundance such as worms, crinoids, sea cucumbers , and chordates. The Burgess shale contains fossils of soft bodied animals as well as those with hard parts. Soft bodied fossils are extremely rare. When an organism is completely soft, the body usually rots away before it can become fossilized. It is likely that the Burgess animals were buried quickly by a mudslide and their soft parts immediately preserved in oxygen-free conditions.

Another famous site where evidence of the Explosion is clearly seen is in the Yunning Province of China. The Chengjiang Fossils also provide stunning evidence of the Cambrian explosion. The hard and soft body fossils here are even 5 to 10 million years younger than the Burgess Shale.

In all there are about 40 other sites around the world with fossils as well-preserved as the Burgess shale. And three of these sites are in Utah. In Millard County, Wheeler Shale and the overlying Marjum Formation, are exposed throughout the House Range and nearby mountain ranges west of the town of Delta, Utah. Certain layers of the Wheeler Shale contain abundant trilobites and other shelly fossils. The Wheeler Shale and Marjum Formation also contain a diverse collection of soft-bodied fossils, including many of the same taxa found in the famous Burgess Shale.

Other sites with Burgess shale type preservation include the Weeks formation also in the House Range and Spence Shale in the Wellsville Mountains west of Logan.

Utah’s Cambrian fossils can be found in museums around the world. For information on where to see them in Utah, check our website, wildaboututah.org.

Thanks to Paul Jamison and Val Gunther for providing expertise on Utah Cambrian fossils.
And thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting the research and development for today’s program.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.


Photo: Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Paul Jamison

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

How to see Utah Cambrian fossils:

In Utah

University of Utah, College of Mines and Earth Sciences
135 South, 1460 East, Rm. 209, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
Phone (801) 581-7209; Fax (801) 581-5560

Museum of Natural History in Brigham City (call 435.723.6420 for an appointment)
Thanksgiving Point The North American Museum of Ancient Life http://thanksgivingpoint.org/experience/museum-of-ancient-life/

On the web

University of Kansas Natural History Museum http://www.kumip.ku.edu/cambrianlife/Utah-Online-Fossil-Exhibits&Collections.html

The Virtual Fossil Museum

University of Utah, College of Mines and Earth Sciences Fossil page

Sources & Additional Reading

Hagadorn, J.W., 2002, Burgess Shale-type localities: The global picture, in Bottjer, D.J., et al., eds.,Exceptional Fossil Preservation: A Unique View on the Evolution of Marine Life: Columbia University Press, New York, p. 91-116.

Marshall, Charles R. 2006. Explaining the Cambrian “Explosion” of Animals. Annual Review Earth Planet Science. Vol 34: 355-384,

Interesting Reading:

Paul Jamison ’82 Collects Fossils on behalf of Art and Science, Utah State Magazine, Summer 2006, Vol 12 No.2,