Welcome to our project members that joined in February
March 2021 EcoQuest:
Wildflower Wonders
Wildflower season is a cherished phenomenon in the Sonoran Desert. Blanketing the desert floor with impressive shapes and colors, these ephemeral wonders have specific requirements that allow them to flourish. Observing wildflowers can provide information on populations and how environmental conditions, such as lack of rainfall, extreme temperatures or longer periods of heat, could be impacting them. These observations also give us a chance to slow down and appreciate the artistic characteristics of these short-lived wonders.
This month’s EcoQuest is in collaboration with the Vision Gallery and
February EcoQuest Results
Monarch butterflies are in severe decline, with numbers from 2020 showing the lowest ever recorded in the West. The February EcoQuest searched for monarch butterflies and milkweed plants, providing data for ongoing research that can help unravel the mysteries of monarch milkweed preference and decline.

Dr. Kim Pegram, Program Director of Pollinator Conservation and Research at Desert Botanical Garden, reports on the EcoQuest results:
"Our Great Milkweed Grow Out team is excited to see all the reports of milkweed and monarchs during the February EcoQuest. As expected, most of the observations of milkweed were Asclepias subulata (known as desert milkweed or rush milkweed). It has become a common landscape plant and is the easiest to find from nurseries. It was great to see them scattered across the area - all of these patches of habitat are crucial for monarchs and other pollinators as they make their way across the desert. We were excited to see monarch observations - and even caught sight of a caterpillar in one of the A. subulata observationsThere were a few pupae that are hard to distinguish from queen butterfly pupae. 
From a research perspective, several groups are working to model the distribution of milkweeds and suitable habitat in Arizona, and these are valuable data they will use. Also, the second half of February coincided with the start of the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge, which is run by scientists looking to understand the movement of monarchs through the west in the spring. Some of your monarch observations looked like they were picked up by the challenge!"

Thank you all so much for participating! Continue to log monarchs and milkweeds if you can!

Totals: 161 observations by 22 observers
Most Observations: 38 observations by @thegardenhound

Mar. 16 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, hear from Aimee Ollinger and Mary Meyer, the artists behind the Vision Gallery's Approaching the Natural exhibit. Their work reminds us to take a moment to appreciate the small details, shapes and colors of the natural world.

For millennia, humans have tried to replicate nature through scientific and artistic means. However, the fallible nature of human hands never allows us to fully capture the intrinsic beauty of nature. Artworks by Aimee Ollinger and Mary Meyer continually approach the natural, with their splendor lying in the artists’ reinterpretation of the organic forms. Ollinger’s embroidery and mixed media work seeks to understand the macroscopic and microscopic by controlling the entropic nature of various organic forms. Meyer’s reliefs and wall sculptures attempt to understand the symmetry in nature and how the forms relate to and are similar to the human body.

See Approaching the Natural at the Vision Gallery, March 6th - April 10th 2021.

EcoQuestions are presentations and Q&A sessions with scientists, experts or community members focused on the monthly EcoQuest topic.
March 2021 | 7-11 a.m.
Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to our park’s ecosystem health. Join the Desert Defenders program to help find and remove these plants. These invasive species pulling events will focus on removal of invasive plants by pulling, bagging and disposing.
In February, the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora celebrated its one-year anniversary. We hosted a virtual event with a review of the past year, member recognition and exciting announcements for the coming year. Our guest speaker, Dixie Z. Damrel, was a wonderful story teller and let us know all about the Phoenix Flora
and what it means for EcoFlora today.
Congratulations to the top observers of the year!
The Metro Phoenix EcoFlora now has a merit system! Earn rewards for your observations, including stickers, buttons, tee shirts, books, Desert Botanical Garden tickets and more. Virtual badges are also awarded so you can show off your observation accomplishments. To claim your merits, simply fill out the merit system form.

Observations that count toward merits are those that have been made since the beginning of the project on Feb. 6, 2020. Merits will begin being awarded at the level you have achieved as of March 1, 2021.
Open to project members only, while supplies last.
Our target species list is now complete. This is a list of plant species that we have records for in metro Phoenix, but have NOT observed on iNaturalist.
There are 1,440 species and we want to know if they can still be found here.
You have officially been challenged to find these species in Metro Phoenix!

We have also completed the draft of the non-recorded species list.
This list is comprised of species that have been seen in iNaturalist,
but do not appear to have vouchers in the herbaria. This list can give us a glimpse into what new species may have been introduced to the metro Phoenix area.

These lists are important steps for understanding biodiversity in metro Phoenix.
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.
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