The Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona is the greenest desert in the world teaming with wildlife. In the Sonoran you can witness coyotes or an occassional bob cat watching from a cautious distance. You'll see road-runners, rabbits, tiny geckos, egrets and Gambel quail with their baby chicks that look like little dust balls blowing across the landscape as they scurry along seeking refuge in the shade of bush.
Coyote - The howl of the coyote is a symbol of the old west. He is cunning, sly and intelligent
The coyote is an important check on natures scheme of things, preying on weak or deseased creatures
Two young coyotes watch as we play the 15th hole at Red Mountain
A bobcat perched on a Saquaro Cactus
The Bobcat does most of his hunting at night, looking for rodents and rabbits
Babies are always so cute
The Salt River wild horses are the historic and majestic creatures roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest in Mesa, Arizona
Salt River Horses are a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild
Salt River Horses the pride of the community, a symbol of the free spirit of Arizona and the American West
The Javelina (Pronounced Have-ah-leena) is the only native pig-like animal in America. However, it is not a true pig
The Javelina has black and gray bristles, tusks and a snout for rooting out insects. It eats the fruits and pads of the prickly pear cactus and also lizards and snakes
The Road Runner is a majestic bird with their crown and long tail. They are fast enough to make a diet of lizards and snakes and it also makes them very difficult to photograph
Egrets grace many lakes and ponds
The Desert Cottontail
He spends his life in peril as almost every carnivore preys on him
A Desert Cottontail has no defense except to dash into the nearest clump of thorns where the predator cannot follow
Round-tail Squirrels remain very active in the hottest weather and eat seeds, fruits and insects
The Squirrels often beg food from the golfers. Joan & I gave this one a walnut
Gambel Quail are very common in the desert and both male and female are plumed
Quail chicks can run as soon as they are hatched - resembling tiny dust bunnies
Mourning Dove is a common native distinguished by a mournful cooing sound. Doves must have water every day and sometimes fly great distances to find it.
Doves and pigeons feed their young a milky liquid called pigeons milk formed in the parent's crop. This nest is in the artificial tree on our porch
Hummingbirds love our desert flowers
The Bald Eagle
Zebra-tailed Lizards are the speedest of all lizards but are food for Road Runners, snakes and tarantulas
Zebra-tailed Lizards are adapted for running at great speeds and can grow another tail if it loses his to a preditor
Tarantulas are the largest of American spiders. Their bite is painful but not serious and only bite if annoyed. They are beneficial as they eat many insects during their nighttime prowling
Scorpions can be dangerous but the sting is not worse than that of a bee although many people suffer alergic reactions
Most of the scorpions we see are about this size
The Diamondback Rattle Snake is the largest rattlesnake in the Sonoran Desert. It does not have to coil to stike and does not always rattle a warning
Mountain Lion, or Puma or Cougar, can weigh up to 200 pounds. It stalks its prey and can leap a distance of 20 feet or more. Man is his worst enemy
Mountain Sheep live in the desert mountain areas. Their concave hoofs make for sure footing on rocky terrain where it is difficult for prediators to follow
The Saquaro Cactus
The Saguaro Cactus (Pronounced Sa-WAH-row) grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, California and Sonora Mexico. It is the largest cactus in the U.S. and will be 65 years old before it forms its first arm. The Saguaro provides shelter, food, water and refuge for many desert denizens. When a Saquaro dies its rib wood is lightweight but strong and has many uses.
The Saguaro Cactus (Pronounced Sa-WAH-row) is the largest cactus in the U.S.
The Saguaro grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, California and Sonora Mexico
The Saguaro begins life as a shiny black seed no bigger than a period. It grows in the shaded, moist habitat of a nurse
tree or shrub
The Saguaro can grow as high as 50 feet and weigh 6 to 8 tons
A Saguaro will be 65 years old before it forms its first arm
The largest Saquaros, with more than 5 arms, are estimated to be 200 years old
The arms can number over 25
THE SAGUARO HOTEL
The Saguaro provides shelter, food, water and refuge for many desert denizens
The Saquaro Cactus provides food and shelter for many desert denizens
The Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker make their home in the Saguaro Cactus by chiseling out small holes in the trunk
Once they leave, they don't re-use the same nest, but other birds do, such as owls, finches, cactus wrens and purple martins
Saguaros flower in May and June, producing many buds near the tops of the stem and main branches
The Saguaro blossom is the State Flower of Arizona. The flowers are visited by bats, bees and doves
When pollinated, the flowers split open to reveal a bright-red, juicy pulp. The succulent fruits each contain 2,000-4,000 small, black seeds
These fruits and seeds are eaten readily by many birds, mammals and insects
The Saguaro is smooth and waxy but the ribs have clusters of stout, 2-inch spines
When the Saguaro absorbs water, the outer pulp can expand like an accordion, increasing its weight by up to a ton
The Saguaqro can cover a wound with a resin-like substance which hardens into a permanent scab. These hardened holes are called "boots."
"Damage caused by frost, insects or other factors can disrupt the apical meristem and the Saguaro develops a crest instead of arms (mostrose growth)
Even after dying, a Saguaro still offers an interesting appearance
Even after dying, a Saguaro still offers a place for birds to nest
Causes of death can be frost, insects or lightening. Because this cactus has no arms, it may have died young
The Saguaro is supported by a ring of 12 to 30, vertical wooden ribs, which can often be seen still standing after the Saguaro dies and the flesh has fallen away
Saguaro rib wood is lightweight and fairly soft. Native Americans used it to make drill sticks for making fire, crosspieces for baby cradles, splints for injured limbs and as wattle in the construction of wattle and daub houses
A lamp made from a Saguaro rib
A lamp made from a Saguaro rib
A Saguaro at sunset
The Cholla Cactus
The Teddy Bear and Chain Cholla (pronounced CHAW-yah) have "pods" with very sharp barbed spines that detach easily when slightly touched. The barbed spines quickly embed themselves into whatever touches them, hence the nickname Jumping Cholla. Don't be fooled by the soft, fuzzy appearance of the Teddy Bear Cholla or the branches of chained fruit that hang amidst the dangerous barbed spines of the Chain Cholla.
The Teddy Bear Cholla
- Don't be fooled by its soft, fuzzy appearance
The Teddy Bear Cholla has pods with very sharp barbed spines that detach easily when slightly touched
The dangerous barbed pods of the Chain Cholla and Teddy Bear Cholla
The name jumping cholla
comes from the ease with which the sharp barbed spines detach when slightly touched, appearing to have "jumped"
The barbed spines of the Cholla quickly embed themselves into whatever touches them
The Teddy Bear Cholla has yellow-green flowers
Cholla segments can be found littering the ground allowing the Cholla to form dense forests of the same plant
The Chain Cholla looks like a tree and is the largest of the cholla species
The Chain Cholla grows with drooping branches of chained fruit that grow longer every year, sometimes getting as long as 2 feet
The fruit chains hang amidst dangerous barbed spines that detach easily when slightly touched
Staghorn Cholla and Buckhorn Cholla often occur together and are hard to tell apart
Staghorn Cholla and Buckhorn Cholla have thin branches that arise from the ground or from a short trunk
Flower of the Staghorn Cholla
Flower of the Buckhorn Cholla
As a Staghorn Cholla ages it becomes very woody
Prickly Pear Cactus vary in height and their pads vary in width, length, shape and color. The fruits and the pads of most Prickly Pear cacti are edible. Their fruits are used for nectar and sold under the name tuna. Their pads are cooked and eaten as a vegetable and sold under the name Nopalito.
There are about a dozen species of Prickley Pear where the pads vary in width, length, shape and color
The fruits and the pads of most prickly pears are edible
Prickly Pear fruits are used for nectar and sold under the name tuna
. The pads are cooked and eaten as a vegetable and sold under the name Nopalito
Great care must be taken when harvesting and preparing the pads and the fruits
Prickly Pear Cactus vary in height from less than a foot to 6 or 7 feet
Most Prickly Pear cactus have yellow, red or purple flowers, even among the same species
"Bye, Bye" little Prickly Pear Cactus
More Desert Cacti
Desert cacti bloom in a variety of colors and shapes. The blossoms of many cacti usually last only one day.
Cactus in Bloom
The beautiful white flower will last ony one day
The beautiful pink flower will last ony one day
This little cactus looks dried out but it is blooming
Cactus flowers come in a variety of colors
Golden Barrel Cactus grows faster on its shaded side. Therefore it usually leans southwest and is sometimes called a Compass Cactus
Barrel Cactus flowers range from yellow to pink. They are eaten by birds and other animals
Ferocactus, meaning fierce or wild cactus
are always cylindrical or barrel shaped and are usually among the largest cacti
Organ Pipe Cacti
Organ Pipe Cactus is the second largest in the U.S. (next to the Saguaro) growing as tall as 23 feet
Wildflowers Color The Desert
Bougainvillea - These vibrant, blooming plants are hardy and can stand up to heat and drought. They can bloom all summer.
The Bougainvillea flower
The Sonoran Desert is the greenest desert in the world
Yucca Plant - Can you say tequila?
Ocotillo - Small 2 inch leaves will grow from the stems when there is enough moisture
Ocotillo - Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the stems from March through June.
Palo Verde tree - Palo verde means "green stick" in Spanish; all parts of the these woody legumes are green: their trunks, branches and leaves.
Palo Verde are large shrubs or small trees that offer spectacular displays of yellow blossoms. Along with saguaro cacti, they are popularly featured in art depicting the Sonora Desert.
The Palo Verde tree has the tiniest leaves of any tree
The blossoms of the Palo Verde tree
The ironwood tree (Olneya tesota) is also known as desert ironwood, palo fierro and tesota.
Mesquite Tree - Grows as a small shrub in shallow soil or as tall as 50 feet (15 m) in deep soil with adequate moisture
Mesquite Trees form a rounded canopy nearly as wide. They may have one or multiple trunks with a multitude of branches that cast a light to deep shade.
Mesquite Trees have spikes of flowers in spring and summer that form a flat pod of beans 2 to 6 inches long. Many varieties form thorns
Joshua Tree - It will take around half a century for a Joshua Tree to reach full size
The average lifespan of a Joshua Tree is said to be about 500 years