Wild (or Tree) Tobacco.
by Ralph A. Fisher, Sr.
It grew early in the spring in the corner of our flower bed at the Mesa Manor Apartments, a 46-unit complex that my wife and I were resident managers of; and being too pretty for a weed I decided to let it grow, just to see what it would mature into. We had just recently made the flower bed in front of our living quarters and had brought in several yards of new soil, so it was either the seed of an odd plant contained in the delivered load of soil, or that some bird had deposited while in passing.
Tender care, ample water, sunshine and a spreading of fertilizer from time to time made the plant grow taller and it retained a very rich green color, with broad leaves and rather tender limbs. It thrived through the long dry summer of 161 days that set a new record for Arizona; in fact grew so fast and tall that I added stout stakes to support it and tied it secure.
During mid-summer I talked with my friend Dr. B. Ira Judd, the professor of Agronomy at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona and explained to him about the strange plant.
In the past Dr. Judd, our son Ralph (former student of Dr. Judd) and I had enjoyed desert field trips and had been provided information about countless desert wild grasses, plants and flowers by the professor.
Dr. Judd suggested that I mail some leaves for study and if blooming, a flower or two. This I did. “Your plant is Nicotiana glauca, Wild (or tree) Tobacco,” stated Dr. Judd during a telephone conversation later. “The average height is under six feet, but with the one in your yard it may be considerably taller due to the fertilizer and plenty of water,” advised the professor.
By late June the plant flowered with beautiful yellow trumpet-shaped blooms that later developed into bean-sized seed poda, these turned light brown, each filled with small black seed smaller than grains of black pepper.
It created a great deal of interest among our sixty or more tenants that summer and for their visitors. By early autumn it reached the height of 14feet, eight inches, topping out over the second floor deck and was secured to the safety rail of the deck, providing the tenants a chance to examine the flowers and to take countless snapshots.
During the latter part of September a sudden storm (classified later as the first tornado ever to strike the Mesa area) that had strong winds blew the tall plant loose of the ties and tore the roots free of the soil. I saved a number of the seed and planted a few in the bed of our new apartment location in Phoenix later, and grew several plants not quite as tall as the original plant.
Where our delightful visitor came from is an unanswered question, but the stranger in the flower bed proved a welcomed guest and like Topsey, Just Grew.
Dr. Judd later visited us at Mesa Manor to see the Wild Tobacco tree and advised us that many were growing along the marsh of the Verde and Salt Rivers of Arizona, but that we would not find any as tall. We later explored the marsh of the Salt River below Saguaro Lake and found a few Nicotiana glauca, none over six feet tall however.
On any trip during the summer along the Verde or the Salt you too, can enjoy the beautiful Wild Tobacco tree in bloom.
by Flora McKinney Hefti
Gambling is not for me but if I were given a lot of money it would pay for a lot of things. First of all a better house for reading, writing and sewing. This apartment is big and close to stores and church but the machines can run only when they will not disturb neighbors. I would buy a new typewriter. This one is still going after thirty years but is not spacing too well. The sewing machine needs a new light and the kitchen stove and fridge have problems after thirty years of good service. TV and radio could do with a bit of attention. Then I would pay for a few items on my list that are not that important. Comfortable shoes to replace some that are not and glasses that shade in the sunshine. Donations to church and friends who need supplies and maybe a trip now and then. But for the most part I would like to keep it a private affair and carry on as usual in my giving business.
by Flora McKinney Hefti
My favorite things are so many, I like to wear things forever like the old ladies in Boston who were asked where they got their hats and they said they had always had their hats. I make do with all my duds till they are used up in patchwork. This week I had a new idea for some old nylon net from a dress cut into strips and with a large wooden hook I crocheted round pot scrubbers. The plumber told us not to use metal ones and this is the answer. I have a favorite skirt that was too short. I made a jersey top for it and now it is long enough to wear again. My friends may be tired of my clothes but I change around and get different mix and match combinations. They have not mentioned it so I will carry on.
This edition of The Golden Argosy is produced for friends in Amateur Journalism
Martin M. Horvat
Stayton, Oregon 97383