Yesterday I took my daughter to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum located in the outskirts of Tucson and I was in awe of the colorful cactus in bloom. It is more verdant than ever in Arizona given the winter’s heavy rainfall and snow in the mountains that has run down the hills into the valley bringing it to life. Spring has come early in the desert and the vibrant, illustrious blooms prove that life in the desert can be anything but dull.
Take a walk with me.
There is something magical about the mighty saguaros lacing the mountains and landscape of Tucson akin to trees in a forest of Northern Minnesota. These majestic cactus are everywhere and they are amazing. Some live to be in hundreds of years old and it can take up to a hundred years to grow an arm. In the spring time, the saguaros bloom on top with beautiful flowers which are known as the state wildflower of Arizona. In all my years of visiting Arizona, I have never seen a blooming saguaro before.
There are several kinds of cactus in the desert. The round barrel cactus, the prickly pear cactus, saguaros and the many species of cholla cactus that look like round pieces of sausage and some even jump at you if you get too near.
Cactus have an amazing ability to survive the high heat and drought of a desert. Cactus have an extensive, but shallow root system that enable them to absorb water just a half-inch or so below the surface. In the spring months of April through May, cactus are in full bloom and filled with color.
Cactus also have an important ecological benefit by storing water, fruit and flowers for the hungry and thirsty birds and animals of the desert. The prickly pear cactus is a favorite treat of the javelinas and also makes a delicious jelly that is sold in the market. Inside a prickly pear, there is a vast supply of water but getting it out without getting cut is tricky.
Even this desert primrose (not a cactus flower but can live in the desert) was beautifully in bloom. I couldn’t resist another photo of this innocent, delicate flower.
It is often a myth that the desert holds no life or color. Contrary, I find the desert filled with an astounding amount of color and life. It is a birders paradise and also offers a unique ecosystem that is quite extraordinary. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with the peace and beauty of the desert. A place so different from my own.
If you go:
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is an amazing place to see all the flora and fauna of the desert. It is located about 12 miles outside of Tucson and requires at least 3 hours to see all the sights. To learn more, visit their website here. If you bring kids, be sure to pay $1 to buy the animal paw print stamp booklet. It is loads of fun!