Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Stop-Action Quince, Part 3

Quince week 6 © Tyler Storey Our intrepid quince is a strikingly bright apple-green color. We can't actually see that bright green color because of the light tan fuzz on the developing fruit; it's pubescent. Nope, that doesn't mean it's become a teenager. In reference to plants, the word pubescent indicates the presence of fuzz, or soft short "hairs." Although it doesn't show much, the leaves of the quince are also slightly pubescent.

Pubescence is a valuable trait in desert-native and desert-adapted plants. Intense sunlight, lack of moisture, and drying winds are three of the constants in a plant's effort to survive in the Desert Garden. Pubescence, the presence of short dense hairs, helps with all three. As small as they are, the hairs provide significant shade to the plant surface, each one casting a tiny little shadow and reducing the direct exposure to sunlight by around 50 percent, depending on the plant. Additionally, the fuzzy surface slows the wind velocity over the surface of the plant, helping to prevent the loss of scarce moisture from the plant tissues. Of our great native species, Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) come to mind as markedly pubescent plants.

The little hairs on our little quince rub off easily and we could remove them to see what would happen, but I suspect that would result in a stop-action of an entirely different kind.


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