Alamo Lake State Park, AZ – Palo Verde trees and Burros

I did a little research on these interesting trees with green bark.

The Yellow, or Little Leaf, Palo Verde tree has green bark.  Palo means wood or stick.  Verde is spanish for green.  This variety of Palo Verde has tiny, little, leaves and the spring blossoms are yellow.  It can photosynthesize through its green bark, an important adaptation for a tree that will drop its leaves during the warm season and in response to fall cooling.  The tree will also drop stems and branches during a drought so it doesn’t waste what water it does get.

Palo Verde
Palo Verde

Palo Verde trees serve as nurse plants for Saguaro cacti by providing a canopy – in effect, a microhabitat – which offers warmth in winter and shade in summer.  The slower-growing, longer-lived cactus will eventually replace its one-time protector.

Saguaro with nurse-plant Palo Verde
Saguaro with nurse-plant Palo Verde

Burros were brought to this area in the late 1800’s by the miners.  They were used as pack animals.  Some burros escaped captivity and others were abandoned by the miners when they moved on to other areas to mine.  They have adapted well to the Sonoran desert and continue to multiply faster than the environment can feed them.  In order to keep the wild herds healthy, the BLM rounds up a certain number of them each year and allows people to bid on them to adopt them.  Bidders have to meet certain criteria in order to adopt them (to make sure they have the means and the land to house and feed the burros).

The 3 Amigos
We could occasionally hear a donkey braying in the distance from our campsite.  One morning the sound was really close and I was able to see him just as he walked over the hill, down into an arroyo.  Arroyos are creek beds that only have water in them during the rainy season or during flash-floods.  Anyway, we heard another Hee-Hee-Hee-Haw-Hee-Haw-Haw-HAAAAW and decided to go on a hunting trip.  With camera and walking stick in hand, we headed out into the Sonoran Desert.  The skies are blue and we had plenty of daylight left before we’d need to head back.  We also made sure we could always see the campground when we came up out of an arroyo.  We knew they couldn’t be far from the campground, though it was a little bit of a challenge to find the easiest way to go from peak to peak.  Some of the arroyos are, maybe, 30′ – 40′ deep and the sides are pretty steep with loose rock.  We followed the burro trails.  They look the same as the deer trails in other parts of the country, zigzagging across the terrain, with the occasional footprints and “road apples” (smaller than a horse’s but looks the same).  Burros usually don’t go straight down an embankment; they’ll take a diagonal.  Don wanted me to have the camera lens cover off at all times.  He just knew we’d startle them as we came up on top or looked over the edge.  Sure enough, there were the 3 Amigos!  They saw us before we noticed them of course.  The 3 of them quickly gathered, trotted away for a few seconds and looked back.
Feral Burros - Sonoran Desert
Feral Burros - Sonoran Desert

We watched them for a while.  Then, as we started walking away, another one startled.  He was the scrappy one (Zoro).  He held back from the other 3 and huffed at us.  I’m pretty sure he was trying to scare us off.  Don, as usual, imitated his threat back at him.  I don’t think the burro was impressed.  They kept their safe distance from us though.  When we got back to the computer to look at the pix, we could see that Zoro has one short ear.  Maybe he got huffy with a puma?  I bet he feels even braver now, since he survived whatever he tangled with.  Zoro is the one in front.  If you can zoom in, it’s his right ear that’s damaged.

One thought on “Alamo Lake State Park, AZ – Palo Verde trees and Burros”

  1. We learned from a sign that the very first europeans in the area were the spanish explores who were also looking for gold and silver in the 1500’s. They may have brought in the burro’s but even at that ,,,,,,these trails are only 500 years old. Jo also told me Arizona rounds up and adopts out 2500 wild burro’s and only 250 wild horses annually. And we haven’t seen a deer.

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