The only thing about riding a bike from Portland to Phoenix is that in-between there is something called... NEVADA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Urban Ecology, Las Vegas

Finally escaping from the hotel and its labyrinth lobby around 12:30 today, a walk around town brought many plant-centric surprises. A date palm growing just outside the front door littered the ground with fruit. A dioecious plant, we found both males and females. Further on, small date palms were growing up in untended sections by sidewalks -palms as weeds? Truly a desert oasis! Rosemary was sculpted as a giant hedge along another sidewalk. Beside date palms and fan palms, a pine with long needles bundled in pairs was common. The predominantly pavement-sealed ground (endless wide roads, sidewalks, and parking lots) was broken by gravel patches, bare sandy ground, and scattered patches of manicured grass.


  1. Date palms are weed like we have two of them in our yard. More interesting is where where did they come I don' think they are native to Nevada or AZ. I would guess that a lot of the plants in this desert where introduced when they detoured the Colorado river to the deserts of So. Nev and Az. What is native and what is not? Certainly the cacti the palo-verde tree the AZ state tree. The veriity of cacti in the area is a study into itself. many have been around for eons whats new whats not? We have a road runner(s) that live in our neighborhood, strange birds. Glad you took a day off to recoup sounded like you needed a break.
    Miss Chris eave an day in our Detroit home with you and family.
    Your travels tomarrow will take you past Hoover damn. The scenery gets better as you get into Az at least for a while. Enjoy your day and the views on the way. Keep us posted on when you may arrive and if you need anything.
    our love Nana&Papa

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    2. Very interesting! I didn’t know that palms were not native to our desert areas. They seem so “natural” there! I looked up date palms and found the following info:

      The Genus Phoenix and Its Characteristics
      As a group, there are about 13 different species of Phoenix. All are members of the Date Palm group. Their natural distribution ranges from the Canary Islands across northern and southern Africa into the Middle East, far south Europe, and Asia. Plant size ranges from small to massively tall. Some are single trunk and others are clumped (suckering) with more than one stem. All are pinnate or feather type palms. In most areas, Phoenix live in rather arid conditions while a few species tolerate much more humid environments. All are pinnate or feather type palms. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards by 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.

      Perhaps some seeds were initially distributed in Las Vegas by birds coming from these areas? As the city was being developed, no doubt people imported them. Is the palm considered invasive? It doesn’t seem like it would impose problems in the natural landscape, but I don’t really know? Of course, one could argue that an “urban ecology” is not natural…

      Here in Portland, English Ivy is an invasive plant that causes ecological problems (Kevin knows ALL about this!). It was first introduced as an ornamental during colonial times and is still widely present in MANY landscapes (and forests!).

      For those who aren’t familiar with English Ivy (Hedera helix): it is an aggressive invader that out-competes native species for light, space, water and nutrients, thus establishing an “ivy desert”. Disrupting the natural succession and regeneration of natural areas, ivy also makes trees more susceptible to toppling and blow-down due to the weight of the climbing vines. It strangles trees, and also leads to collapse of canopy. Its shallow root system increases erosion, makes slope failure more likely, and can also harbor undesirable vermin. Starlings, English house sparrows, and robins disperse the seeds by eating the berries.

      Oh, I forgot to add that Laura probably also knows ALL about English Ivy! She and Kevin, I am confident, know ALL about the invasive species in our area (as well as other areas). ;)

  3. More great pictures! ;) I love that last picture! The pattern of the dirt next to the grassy bunches and the sidewalk... very cool!
    Have a good ride today and enjoy the sunshine & warmer temps!

  4. Great observations, they remind me of the "edges" principle in permaculture.