Welcome to our project members that joined in January
February 2021 EcoQuest:
Monarchs, Milkweeds and Mystery
Project members, red alert!
Monarch butterflies are in severe decline, with numbers from 2020 showing the lowest ever recorded in the West. The number reported in January 2021 was less than 2,000 butterflies.
Much of this decline can be tied to loss of milkweeds, the plant genus that monarchs depend on for reproduction. Other factors likely include loss of nectar plants, destruction of overwintering habitat and climate change. Experts are saying we may only have the next 12 months to ensure this population survives the next winter. Our observations can provide data for ongoing research that can help unravel the mysteries of monarch milkweed preference and decline.
This month’s EcoQuest is a collaboration with
Great Milkweed Grow Out (GMGO), a monarch and pollinator conservation initiative at
Desert Botanical Garden.
January EcoQuest Results
The January EcoQuest searched for cheeseweed (Malva parviflora).

Cheeseweed (Malva parviflora) is considered both an edible and medicinal plant and a problematic weed. This plant can be a vector for various viruses that impact crops, can crowd out native plants and is considered invasive in certain regions. It grows well in sites with disturbed soils, like vacant lots, alleys, and roadsides, which has landed it on ADOT’s list for maintaining right of ways. Near urban parks, playgrounds and sports fields, it can even be a trip hazard. Surprisingly, this plant has not been observed in abundance on iNaturalist.
Data for these plants is lacking in metro Phoenix.

With this EcoQuest we were able to nearly double the amount of existing observations and locate cheeseweed near farmland, where it could pose a risk to crops. We also see that it truly can be found in a variety of locations, from urban residential areas to exurban communities and natural areas.

Totals: 118 observations by 26 observers
Most Observations: 31 observations by @wbarrett

January 2021
Post your iNaturalist observations to social media and use #ecofloraphx for a chance to be featured. Click the photos to see the observation on iNaturalist.
Endangered northern harrier sighting.
Hummingbird fledgling nestled in an aloe.
Northern flicker perched on a rooftop.
Tuesday, Feb. 23 | 6-7:30 p.m. MST
Can you believe it? The Metro Phoenix EcoFlora is celebrating its one-year anniversary!

Join us for a review of the past year, member recognition and exciting announcements about what's in store for year two.

We are also pleased to announce our guest speaker: Dixie Z. Damrel.
Dixie (MS in Plant Biology, Arizona State University) is the curator of the Clemson University Herbarium (CLEMS), as well as curator of the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary Herbarium (SBAC), both in South Carolina. While a graduate student at ASU, she worked with Dr. Donald Pinkava and Dr. Leslie Landrum to compile the Phoenix Flora Database (1997-1999), an online database that encompassed the vascular plants within a 40 mile radius of the capitol building in downtown Phoenix.
This Flora has helped provide a baseline for the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project and can guide our efforts into the future.

In Arizona, Dixie also worked for the US Forest Service as field botanist for the two million acre Tonto National Forest and established an herbarium for the Tonto National Forest Terrestrial Ecosystem Survey team. She additionally worked for six years as assistant curator of the Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium in Phoenix.
Additionally, she received a Fulbright award in 2015 and spent that spring working at the Sarawak Biodiversity Center in Borneo (in Malaysia) and visiting tropical herbaria in Southeast Asia.
We are excited to hear from Dixie and learn about how the Phoenix Flora was created and how Floras are important for understanding changes in biodiversity.

You don't want to miss this!

Everyone is welcome, even if you are not a project member or participant.
Feb. 9 | 3-4 p.m. MST

In this EcoQuestions session, hear from Dr. Kim Pegram and Natalie Melkonoff of Desert Botanical Garden, who are working to conserve monarchs through native plant propagation, research on monarch and milkweed ecology and outreach in the community.

Dr. Kim Pegram is the Program Director of Pollinator Conservation and Research.
Kim directs the Great Milkweed Grow Out (GMGO) initiative at the Garden, developing impactful programs and research on monarchs and pollinators. Her current research is focused on how monarchs interact with milkweeds, and specifically which milkweeds monarchs prefer, and which milkweeds are the best for monarchs. 

Natalie Melkonoff is the Plant and Insect Ecology Program Coordinator.
Natalie coordinates the activities of GMGO, expertly creating new growing protocols for native milkweeds and pollinator plants, coordinating the propagation and outreach activities. Her research is focused on milkweed physiology and how milkweeds support insects such as monarchs and beneficial insects.

Join this EcoQuestions session to learn more about monarchs and their current situation, milkweed species and the conservation efforts of Great Milkweed Growout (GMGO) at Desert Botanical Garden.

EcoQuestions are presentations and Q&A sessions with scientists, experts or community members focused on the monthly EcoQuest topic.
Feb. 25 | 1-4:30 p.m. MST
Are you interested in the conservation work happening in our area?
Attend the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance's 2021 virtual All-Partners Meeting: The Central Arizona Regional Conservation and Open Space Conference. Share your current work, collaborate and strategize around the ROSS, and network with colleagues as we build the basis for the conservation future of Central Arizona.
Curious about our one-year anniversary guest speaker? Step into her world through this article from Clemson University.
Check out this article from The Xerces Society to understand more about the current state of western monarchs and the next steps in their protection.
Project member @thegardenhound has done it again. You may remember their journal creation about "Heimlich," the queen caterpillar rescued from the cold. This time, they have created a journal entry filled with the journey of attempting to germinate various seed types in hopes of learning to recognize seedlings that sprout in the yard.
What We Do | In collaboration with Desert Botanical Garden and the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA), the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project is making plant science meaningful and open for everyone, while we learn about the biodiversity of our urban desert home.
Let's be social.