Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

April 17, 2015

Plants of Sedona


by Paul Cooley

Max Licher enriched the Sedona Westerners with his knowledge of the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon flora at the hiking group's monthly meeting on the evening of April 9th at the Elks Lodge. As a result of Mr. Licher's presentation, the Westerners present were assured of having a greater understanding of the various plants surroundings them the next time they embark on a hike in the Red Rock Country.

Mr. Licher informed the audience that there are about 1200 species of native and naturalized plants in the Sedona - Oak Creek Canyon area which constitutes what he refers to as the Amendment 12 area. The Amendment 12 area was so designated by the US Forest Service when it began managing federal forest land in place of trading it, he stated. There are about 4,000 plant species in all of Arizona.

Max Licher.

Licher stated that Arizona ranks fourth behind California, Texas and Florida in the diversity of plant life existing within its borders. He also explained that naturalized plants are plants that were not native to an area, but were brought into the area and established themselves without spreading beyond control into other areas. An example of this he said were some of the plants brought into the West Fork Area by the early settlers that continued to thrive, but did not spread beyond the initial area of planting.

"Myths" that Licher dispelled were the following: (1) Sedona is not a "desert" environment, as a desert is partially defined by the fact that it receives less than 10 inches of annual precipitation, he says that Sedona's average is 18 inches and Oak Creek Canyon's average is 30 inches (Cottonwood is 12, Beaver Creek is 15 and Montezuma's Castle is 13); (2) The Desert Willow is not in the Willow family but in the Begonia family; (3) The Desert Willow is native to Arizona; and (4) Purple Sage is a name that is applied to four completely different plants. Thus the need to have standardized names for plants, that is part of the function of the Southwest Environmental Information Network, or SEINet, database, to which Licher is a contributor.

In demonstrating the diversity that can occur in a single family of plants, Licher showed a slide of several members of the Sunflower family, some of which have "showy" flowers and some that don't. He elaborated that "showy" flowers act to attract daytime pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, whereas "non showy" flowers depend on the wind to spread their pollen, not insects or animals. One example of a "non showy" flower in this family is the Ragweed.

The Juniper, Mr. Licher stated, has four main species in the Sedona - Oak Creek Canyon Area. They are a part of the Cypress family and are the Utah Juniper, Redberry or Arizona Juniper, the Alligator Juniper and the One Seed Juniper. A problem involving pollen allergies, Licher related, is that the various species of Junipers do not all produce pollen at the same time, and therefore the period at which Juniper pollen is in the air is a prolonged one, starting in the early Spring and ending mid May. The berries of some Juniper species are juicy and edible, but only if you like an after taste similar to varnish.

Licher is an architect by trade, practicing in the Sedona area. He grew up in Southern California and has spent thirty years studying plant life. According to the Northern Arizona University Deaver Herbarium web page, Mr. Licher's accomplishments include being one of the coordinating botanists for the Plant Atlas of Arizona Project (PAPAZ); making contributions of many images to the Southwest Environmental Information Network, or SEINet, database; and working on an annotated checklist of the plants of Oak Creek Canyon and the Red Rocks area of the Verde Valley, Arizona. Licher stated that along with his wife Clare, he is also involved with distilling essential oils from local native plants.

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