“Everything that survives in the desert
either stings, pokes, bites or eats meat”

The Arizona Desert
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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.
Desert Wildlife
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Coyote - The howl of the coyote is a symbol of the old west. He is cunning, sly and intelligent

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The coyote is an important check on natures scheme of things, preying on weak or deseased creatures

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Two young coyotes watch as we play the 15th hole at Red Mountain

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A bobcat perched on a Saquaro Cactus

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The Bobcat does most of his hunting at night, looking for rodents and rabbits

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Babies are always so cute

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The Salt River wild horses are the historic and majestic creatures roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest in Mesa, Arizona

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Salt River Horses are a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild

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Salt River Horses the pride of the community, a symbol of the free spirit of Arizona and the American West

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The Javelina (Pronounced Have-ah-leena) is the only native pig-like animal in America. However, it is not a true pig

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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

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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

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The Snow-white Egrets grace many lakes and ponds

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The Desert Cottontail
He spends his life in peril as almost every carnivore preys on him

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A Desert Cottontail has no defense except to dash into the nearest clump of thorns where the predator cannot follow

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Round-tail Squirrels remain very active in the hottest weather and eat seeds, fruits and insects

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The Squirrels often beg food from the golfers. Joan & I gave this one a walnut

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Gambel Quail are very common in the desert and both male and female are plumed

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Quail chicks can run as soon as they are hatched - resembling tiny dust bunnies with legs

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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.

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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

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Hummingbirds love our desert flowers

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The Owl

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The Woodpecker

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The Bald Eagle

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Bald Eagle

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Hawk

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Zebra-tailed Lizards are the speedest of all lizards but are food for Road Runners, snakes and tarantulas

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Zebra-tailed Lizards are adapted for running at great speeds and can grow another tail if it loses his to a preditor

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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

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Scorpions can be dangerous but the sting is not worse than that of a bee although many people suffer alergic reactions

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Most of the scorpions we see are about this size

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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

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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

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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.
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The Saguaro Cactus (Pronounced Sa-WAH-row) is the largest cactus in the U.S.

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The Saguaro grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, California and Sonora Mexico

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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

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The Saguaro can grow as high as 50 feet and weigh 6 to 8 tons

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A Saguaro will be 65 years old before it forms its first arm

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The largest Saquaros, with more than 5 arms, are estimated to be 200 years old

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The arms can number over 25

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THE SAGUARO HOTEL
The Saguaro provides shelter, food, water and refuge for many desert denizens

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The Saquaro Cactus provides food and shelter for many desert denizens

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The Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker make their home in the Saguaro Cactus by chiseling out small holes in the trunk

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Once they leave, they don't re-use the same nest, but other birds do, such as owls, finches, cactus wrens and purple martins

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Saguaros flower in May and June, producing many buds near the tops of the stem and main branches

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The Saguaro blossom is the State Flower of Arizona. The flowers are visited by bats, bees and doves

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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

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These fruits and seeds are eaten readily by many birds, mammals and insects

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The Saguaro is smooth and waxy but the ribs have clusters of stout, 2-inch spines

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When the Saguaro absorbs water, the outer pulp can expand like an accordion, increasing its weight by up to a ton

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The Saguaqro can cover a wound with a resin-like substance which hardens into a permanent scab. These hardened holes are called "boots."

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"Damage caused by frost, insects or other factors can disrupt the apical meristem and the Saguaro develops a crest instead of arms (mostrose growth)

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Even after dying, a Saguaro still offers an interesting appearance

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Even after dying, a Saguaro still offers a place for birds to nest

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Causes of death can be frost, insects or lightening. Because this cactus has no arms, it may have died young

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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

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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

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A lamp made from a Saguaro rib

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A lamp made from a Saguaro rib

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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.
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The Teddy Bear Cholla - Don't be fooled by its soft, fuzzy appearance

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The Teddy Bear Cholla has pods with very sharp barbed spines that detach easily when slightly touched

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The dangerous barbed pods of the Chain Cholla and Teddy Bear Cholla

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The name jumping cholla comes from the ease with which the sharp barbed spines detach when slightly touched, appearing to have "jumped"

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The barbed spines of the Cholla quickly embed themselves into whatever touches them

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The Teddy Bear Cholla has yellow-green flowers

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Cholla segments can be found littering the ground allowing the Cholla to form dense forests of the same plant

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The Chain Cholla grows with drooping branches of chained fruit that grow longer every year, sometimes getting as long as 2 feet

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The fruit chains hang amidst dangerous barbed spines that detach easily when slightly touched

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Staghorn Cholla and Buckhorn Cholla often occur together and are hard to tell apart

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Staghorn Cholla and Buckhorn Cholla have thin branches that arise from the ground or from a short trunk

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Flower of the Staghorn Cholla

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Flower of the Buckhorn Cholla

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As a Staghorn Cholla ages it becomes very woody

Prickley Pear
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.
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There are about a dozen species of Prickley Pear where the pads vary in width, length, shape and color

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The fruits and the pads of most prickly pears are edible

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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

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Great care must be taken when harvesting and preparing the pads and the fruits

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Prickly Pear Cactus vary in height from less than a foot to 6 or 7 feet

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Most Prickly Pear cactus have yellow, red or purple flowers, even among the same species

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"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.
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Cactus in Bloom

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The beautiful white flower will last ony one day

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The beautiful pink flower will last ony one day

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This little cactus looks dried out but it is blooming

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Cactus flowers come in a variety of colors

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Golden Barrel Cactus grows faster on its shaded side. Therefore it usually leans southwest and is sometimes called a Compass Cactus

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Barrel Cactus flowers range from yellow to pink. They are eaten by birds and other animals

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Ferocactus, meaning fierce or wild cactus are always cylindrical or barrel shaped and are usually among the largest cacti

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Organ Pipe Cacti
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Organ Pipe Cactus is the second largest in the U.S. (next to the Saguaro) growing as tall as 23 feet

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Wildflowers Color The Desert
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Bougainvillea - These vibrant, blooming plants are hardy and can stand up to heat and drought. They can bloom all summer.

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The Bougainvillea flower

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Daisy

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The Sonoran Desert is the greenest desert in the world

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Yucca Plant - Can you say tequila?

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Ocotillo - Small 2 inch leaves will grow from the stems when there is enough moisture

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Ocotillo leaves

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Ocotillo - Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the stems from March through June.

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Ocotillo flower

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Desert Trees
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Palo Verde tree - Palo verde means "green stick" in Spanish; all parts of the these woody legumes are green: their trunks, branches and leaves.

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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.

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The Palo Verde tree has the tiniest leaves of any tree

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The blossoms of the Palo Verde tree

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The ironwood tree (Olneya tesota) is also known as desert ironwood, palo fierro and tesota.

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Mesquite Tree - Grows as a small shrub in shallow soil or as tall as 50 feet (15 m) in deep soil with adequate moisture

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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.

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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

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Joshua Tree - It will take around half a century for a Joshua Tree to reach full size

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The average lifespan of a Joshua Tree is said to be about 500 years

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Amazing Sunsets
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