"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Leaf of the Day: Cat's Claw Acacia Pods

We are back from a great 10 days input of art, culture, nature and ..well.. Las Vegas. What can you say about Las Vegas? ...
We travelled from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, to Winslow, to Flagstaff to Grand Canyon North Side and then Las Vegas. Landscape glorious, skies high and wild, colours stunning, history fascinating and time zones confusing.
High spots: Albuquerque, museums; Santa Fe, everything; Winslow, the fabulous La Posada hotel: Flagstaff, the Lowell observatory; Grand Canyon, everything and Jacob Lake Hotel; Las Vegas ...Hmmmmm, well the Bellagio fountain is lovely.
In ten days we hardly scratched the surface of this wonderful area. We didn't get to Taos, or Bryce Canyon or the high Mesas, there is still so much to see and go back for, so a return visit is inevitable.
I am going to try to write a little about the experiences that have stayed with me and from the perspective of a a first timer! My enthusiasm may seem naive to seasoned travellers of the South West and some may be weary of desert and mountains but you cannot imagine how I loved those big skies and huge vistas.. Florida roads can seem very claustrophobic sometimes. I am from English flat lands but flat lands with views.
I saw many new and different plants, took a million photos of rocks and did very little drawing! ..so it's catch up time... retro posting to follow.

I didn't manage to bring much back from the trip to draw but these lovely pods survived 6 suitcase packing and unpackings. They are from the Cat's Claw Acacia. Albuquerque was our first stop and the Albuquerque Natural History museum is fabulous. The displays, exhibits and information are top class and the murals are stunning. It's worth a visit just for those.
Adjacent to the museum there is a small planted area of interesting trees and shrubs, with name tags detailing the flora of the region and some nice pods!
Amongst them were Arizona ash, Velvet mesquite, Choke cherry, Claret cup cactus, Western desert willow, Skunkbush, Paper flower and the curiously named Whirling Butterfly. There is some homework for me to do.

This Cat's Claw Acacia was amongst them. Acacia greggii . It is a shrubby bush with strong, curved thorns, which earn it the even more expressive names of tear-blanket, devil's claw, and wait-a-minute bush. It has pretty round leaflets and these lovely big curved pods.



The seeds were ground by the Native Indians for flour and the wood is so dense that it was used as an excellent coal substitute. It's a fine protective shrub and gives shelter to some animals and birds and bees love the fragrant flowers. I can do no better than quote from Donald Culross Peattie writing about this bush in his excellent classic " A Natural History of North American Trees". The two volumes are becoming favourites of mine. I do like people who write with some passion about their subject.
"Desert cats claw is the most detested and roundly cursed of all trees in the Southwest for its ferocious armament of spines tears flesh and clothing of all who venture within its grasp. ....its flattened and hooked talons curl under the skin or the cloth, making extraction worse than penetration.
Yet it is this hostile little tree that yields that white ambrosia known as Uvalde honey, the most celebrated in Texas."
Apparently the Uvalde honey is a mixture of this and another acacia shrub called huajillo, the two trees blossom time overlaps in April "when the bees are most active..compounding a confection that is unequaled for fragrance and taste."
I wish I had come across some as I am very fond of honey.

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Cat's Claw Acacia Pod


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes I got your email. I was just making sure of a few links. I had one brief but impressive visit to the west and I am thinking of leaving for there when FL is finished with me. Would you host me at a visit to Leu or Mead Garden?
Peace,
P.