Multi-lingual plant ID signs share the bounty of the neighborhood forest

Multi-lingual plant identification signs were just installed in the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Forest to help folks learn more about the rich Sonoran Desert life around them, and different ways they could deepen their understanding and collaboration with that life to help more take hold and succeed.

Each sign features a featured native plant’s name in English, Latin, Spanish, and O’odham; the ideal Rain Garden Planting Zone for that plant; and a QR code that when scanned with the camera of a smart phone, will pull up a webpage with more information on that plant such as its flowering season, its harvest season for ethnobotanical uses (parts of the plant used by people for food, medicine, crafts, etc.), harvest techniques, ideal planting season, landscape cultivation tips, plant’s characteristics, and the plant’s ecological benefits. See here for an example of the webpage the QR code links to on the Desert Ironwood tree sign.

These signs were created with funding from the University of Arizona Campus Arboretum, sign production by the University of Arizona sign shop, research and coordination by undergraduate student Jaime Rike and Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Forester Brad Lancaster, and further coordination by Campus Arboretum Director Tanya Quist.

The signs are in recognition, and support of, the high value of the Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Forest to the Tucson community, and how it functions as a satellite of the Campus Arboretum. The Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Forest extends throughout the public rights-of-ways of the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood, with the majority of the vegetation planted by neighborhood volunteers in annual plantings and stewarded by the adjoining property owners and Neighborhood Foresters volunteers. The bulk of this vegetation is freely irrigated with passively harvested rainwater and street runoff, which grows larger healthier plants to better shade/buffer us from our hot climate and the urban heat-island effect, while also reducing downstream flooding. Native plants are emphasized as they are the best adapted to our local climate, soils, and wildlife. Planting and stewarding species with high ethnobotanical value such as the production of food, medicinals, livestock fodder, and craft materials are prioritized.

Our hope is that we will continue to add more plant signs throughout the neighborhood over the years (we are currently working on an additional ten signs), as funding and resources become available. It is also our hope that this will lead to more neighborhood forests acting as satellites of the Campus Arboretum. This phase of the program has funded the creation of ten signs in total.

July 2022 an additional ten signs were installed by U of A campus arboretum interns.

See if you can find all twenty signs (can be a fun scavenger hunt with kids)—they’ve been installed within a two-block radius of University Blvd and 9th Avenue. To help in your search, the ten signs identify the following plants:

Blue palo verde tree
Canyon hackberry tree
Catclaw acacia tree
Desert ironwood tree
Foothills palo verde tree
Screwbean mesquite tree
Velvet mesquite tree
White thorn acacia tree

Chuparosa shrub
Creosote shrub
Desert hackberry shrub
Mormon tea shrub
Oreganillo shrub
Wolfberry shrub

Barrel cactus
Engelmann’s prickly pear cactus
Mammillaria cactus
Staghorn cholla cactus

Agave murpheyi