Introducing Zauschneria canum var. arizonica Sky Island Orange

New Plants For Fall 2015

Zauchneria_latifolia_SKy_Island_Orange'Sky Island Orange' is a new hummingbird trumpet cultivar from seed collected in the Chiricahua Mountains, an exclusive introduction from High Country Gardens.

Hummingbirds delight! Here is a notable new plant introduction from the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, 'Sky Island Orange.' This wonderful hummingbird trumpet cultivar is making its exclusive debut with High Country Gardens this fall. I selected this individual from a large group of plants 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.

A Unique Plant With A Unique Name

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

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments…One of the key elements of a sky island is separation by physical distance from the other mountain ranges, resulting in a ‘habitat island’…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-s.-to-high-peaks-of-Chiricahua-Mts.-from-Sugarloaf-Mt.Looking south to the high peaks of Chiricahua Mountains from Sugarloaf Mountains.

And 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.

Huge-Rock-Spires-ChiricahuThe enormous rock spires at Chiricahu are another unique feature of these mountains.

Text and Photos by David Salman

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