Arizona Road Trip Jan-Feb 2016 Part 8
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Arizona Road Trip Jan-Feb 2016 Part 8
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Miscellaneous (1)

Resin from Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa)

The common desert shrub called brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is also called incienso because the stems were used as a source of incense. I have admired this beautiful desert shrub throughout my 40 year teaching career, but I never knew the exact source of the incense. I just assumed that the dried stems were burned. Since I became interested in ants several years ago, I occasionally noticed small droplets of amber-colored resin near the nests of harester ants. I always wondered where these resin droplets came from. While following honeypot ants on Superstition Mountain in January 2016, I noticed the unusual resin droplets under brittlebush. Then I noticed sticky resin droplets exuding from the stems. Finally, I realized that these golden yellow droplets were the source of the incense from brittlebush. Native Americans (Oodham & Seri) used the fresh sticky resin as glue, to hold points on arrows and harpoons. It was also used as a sealer for pottery vessels.

Sticky resin droplets exuded from the stems of brittlebush (white arrows).

Dried resin (right) collected under brittlebush on Superstition Mountain.

Triangle Leaf Bur-Sage (Ambrosia deltoidea): A Dominant Shrub

Triangle leaf bur-sage (Ambrosia deltoidea) is one of the most common (dominant) shrubs on the gravelly slopes of the Superstitions. It is a low gray shrub that looks a little like brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) from a distance, except it has inconspicuous flowers and bur-like fruits. The upper slopes are dominated by the latter shrub.

Red Chytrid Fungus On Stems Of Filaree (Erodium cicutarium)

For years I have noticed the reddish coating on stems of the ubiquitous, naturalized weed called filaree (Erodium cicutarium), but I never identified the fungus. It also occurs on other species of filaree in San Diego County. To my surprise it is Synchytrium papillatum, a chytrid fungus in the order Chytridiales, phylum (division) Chytridiomycota. Under close examination, the stems of filaree are covered with masses of minute red pustules (sporangia) containing zoospores and reddish fluid.

Harvester Ants (Messor) & Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) in Anza-Borrego

Harvester ants (Messor pergandei) & husks of Erodium cicutarium (blue arrow) in Anza-Borrego.