The 2021 City Nature Challenge is almost here to get us out from in front of our computers and NETFLIX binges and into our neighborhoods, parks and even our downtowns. From April 30-May 3, people from around the world are about to join in a chance to document their local nature using the iNaturalist app.
Let’s think for a moment past the never ending documentaries on television on how our planet is dying and get out and smell some nature and help document what is beyond our front door. There are native trees like Desert Willow, Mountain Mahogany and Bigtooth Maple. None of these trees blew over in the hurricane winds of last Labor Day Weekend! Then there are all the wildflowers starting to poke their heads up, such as White Sand, Snowball Sand and Desert Sand Verbenas, Common Yarrow, Desert Rock Peas, Horsemint Giant Hyssop, Northern Water Plantains and our state flower, the Sego Lily. Many of our local nurseries in the state have expanded their native plant selections and it’s fun to discover what will grow in our yards each year. And less we forget the evil garden weeds also vying for garden space, ones that fool us with their flowers and take over the yard like: Common Mallow, Bindweed, Henbit, Morning Glory, Prickly Lettuce, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. And don’t forget on your adventure to note Dandelions and grasses such as the evil Crabgrass, Hare Barley, Junglerice and Perennial Ryegrass. I have a newer IPhone that has Google Lens on it, where I just click on the lens icon, point at the plant and viola! it tells me what I’m seeing.
The City Nature Challenge asked you to take pictures of what you find and share with fellow nature lovers and tree huggers. The Natural History Museum of Utah and over a dozen other organizations throughout Northern Utah are in on this event to help us all document our wild neighbors outside our homes.
As a side bar, I know there are urban foresters around the state who help cities and counties with advice and help in planning more indigenous flora. I drove by a school last week where they were planting a long row of small pines along a fence line and I gasped when I recognized that the fir was not a native plant and a tree which would require much water and have short roots-making them susceptible to being blown over in high winds. If you weren’t living in the tri-city area along the Wasatch mountains back in September of 2020, you missed hurricane winds that yanked out 100-year-old trees all over our valleys. My all-time favorite tree nicknamed ‘Thor’ came out ok. This male Fremont Cottonwood doesn’t give off cotton and is located just north of The Bagel Project at 753 S. 500 E. He was planted in 1857 by Peter Beck Hansen. History has it that Brigham Young told his followers to ‘forest the valley’ when they got here, and thus Thor was planted and thrives to this day with deep, deep roots to the artesian well in the neighborhood (where you can get water 24/7 at the park on the corner of 800 So and 500 E