Introducing 'Sky Island Orange' Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria canum var. arizonica)

'Sky Island Orange' Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), a High Country Gardens Introduction, is a Hummingbird Trumpet cultivar from seed collected in the Chiricahua Mountains.'Sky Island Orange' Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), a High Country Gardens Introduction, is a Hummingbird Trumpet cultivar from seed collected in the Chiricahua Mountains.
'Sky Island Orange' Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), a High Country Gardens Introduction, is a Hummingbird Trumpet cultivar from seed collected in the Chiricahua Mountains.

by David Salman, Founder and Chief Horticulturalist of High Country Gardens

Hummingbirds delight! Sky Island Orange' Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) is a notable plant introduction from the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. This wonderful Hummingbird Trumpet cultivar made its exclusive debut with High Country Gardens in the fall of 2015.

I selected this individual from a large group of plants, which were grown from seed collected in the high elevation pine forests of the Chiricahua Mountains. After culling the less vigorous potted plants, I transplanted the best remaining specimens into one of my test beds. Here, I observed the plants for several years and was amazed by the variability of this population. The original plant that is named 'Sky Island Orange,' was the longest blooming of the group. And its deep orange flowers are gracefully pendulous and very different from all the other plants in the bed.

Sky Island: A Unique Plant With a Unique Name

This fine cultivar was given its name by customer Lauren Melvan of Michigan, who insightfully recognized its connection with a unique part of the world. Some of the most fascinating features of North America's dynamic geology are the isolated mountains scattered across the southwestern states of New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico known as "sky islands.”

"Sky islands" are mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. The physical distance that separates these mountains results in a unique island of habitat. Some sky islands serve as refugia for forest species stranded by warming climates since the last ice age. In other cases, localized populations of plants and animals have evolved into unique species not found elsewhere, similar to oceanic islands, such as the Galápagos Islands (edited from Wikipedia).

The Chiricahua Mountains are one such sky island mountain range, straddling the very most southern edge of the New Mexico-Arizona border, and a stone's throw north of the Mexican border. With towering snow covered peaks rising up to nearly 10,000 ft in elevation, this mountain range is unusual among sky islands because four major regions intersect here: the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains, the Chihauhuan desert, the Sonoran desert, and the Colorado Plateau. The resulting diversity of flora and fauna is amazing.

 

Looking south to the high peaks of the Chiricahua Mountains from Sugarloaf Mountain in ArizonaLooking south to the high peaks of the Chiricahua Mountains from Sugarloaf Mountain in Arizona
Looking south to the high peaks of the Chiricahua Mountains from Sugarloaf Mountain in Arizona
The enormous rock spires at Chiricahu are another unique feature of these mountainsThe enormous rock spires at Chiricahu are another unique feature of these mountains
The enormous rock spires at Chiricahu are another unique feature of these mountains

The severe winter cold experienced in these mountains has given the plants of this sky island range excellent cold hardiness, with most perennial wildflower species hardy in USDA zones 5 and 6. I visited this remote region in May of 2010. I'll not forget driving across the vast desert and seeing the high peaks of the Chiricahuas still covered with deep snow.

The region has a fascinating history, too long to be recounted here. But, due to the region's isolation and vast, rugged terrain, it was home to the last of the unconquered Indian tribes in the United States-- the Chiricahua Apache, among whose members included the legendary warrior-chief Geronimo.

 

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