Many Native Shrubs Adapted For Conserving Water



The Roundup had an editorial on April 24 entitled "Xeriscape a water-wise alternative." The editorial stated that "outdoor watering accounts for about 40 percent of all water use." Then on Saturday, April 28 I went to the Water-Wise Landscape and Garden Festival at Julia Randall Elementary School parking lot. It was informative, although mostly commercial.

There are native upland trees, shrubs and herbs in the Payson area that do not need supplemental water other than that which nature supplies. Following is a list of such native shrubs that would certainly qualify for a water conserving landscape. After all, they have been here for centuries without the Payson Water Department.

One common shrub, at this elevation and just past bloom, is Desert Ceanothus with bone-white flowers and a fragrance that is almost overpowering. It doesn't really grow in the desert so should probably better be called woodland Ceanothus. In California many species of this genus are called California Lilacs.

The hardy, ubiquitous Manzanitas are probably the most well known shrubs of the area. One, the more common shorter species, has already bloomed and now has green berries. The other, usually taller and later blooming species, has fuzzy twigs.

One member of another genus, Garrya, is fairly common and called Wright's Silk Tassel. It has dark bluish purple berries eagerly sought by birds. The other species of Garrya, less common but with more spectacular "silk tassels," is a beautiful shrub called Quinine Bush.

One of the few common deciduous shrubs in the area is Squaw Bush or Skunk Bush, once used in basket weaving. The leaves are brightly colored in the fall. A closely related handsome shrub is Sugar Bush with shiny oval leaves unlike all others in this Sumac group.

The Birchleaf Mt. Mahogany and the Cliff Rose are both colorful local shrubs in the Rose Family with picturesque plumes even in fruit.

And speaking of plumes, the female Desert Broom is a delightful mass of silky white in the fall. They are frequent along the Beeline most of the way to the Valley.

Hollyleaf Buckthorn has bright red berries, without which some people may confuse it with scrub oak.

Then there are five other characteristic plants of the area, not really shrubs, but worthy of a place on your lot. There are several species of Agave that grow at this altitude. Then there is Nolina or Beargrass, not very impressive in bloom but at least it would add some water-saving texture.

Perhaps one of the most unique local plants is Sotol or Desert Spoon. The stout floral stem may be 15 or more feet high and reminiscent of a gigantic plume on a drum majors cap.

And lastly there are two Yuccas that may already be a part of your landscape. The Soaptree Yucca, with its very narrow leaves, may have its pure white lily-like flowers on a 10 to 15 foot stem. It seems that very few of these flowers get pollinated in this area so that the capsule fruits are somewhat rare. The Banana Yucca, a common local feature, is just now coming into bloom the first week of May, with its 3- to 4-foot floral stems and thick, sharply pointed leaves. It will produce fleshly fruits about the size of sweet potatoes that are edible for both humans and javelinas.

There are many other native shrubs well adapted for conserving moisture.

Max Partch, Payson

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