Sonoran Desert



   When a baby boomer thinks of the word desert, 
often an image comes to mind of a
dry sandy landscape with no water and no trees. 
I have a feeling this comes from either
Gunsmoke or Death Valley Days of 1950’s TV.
   Yet the Sonoran Desert in the Santa Cruz Valley of Southern Arizona has more trees than any other desert in North America and is characterized by large cacti and other succulents. 

It’s the
of the Sonoran
Desert that
makes Tucson
a truly unique
place to see.

Joaquin Ruiz
Dean of the University of Arizona
College of Science



   The Saguaro cactus is the classic cactus – a hero among plants, with its distinctive branched candelabra form silhouetted against the desert skyline. In late spring it is imperative that you drive to the Saguaro National Park to see the abundance of blooming Saguaro’s. A site not seen anywhere else in the world.

At night the saguaro is pollinated by bats and moths, and during the day by birds, including the white-winged dove. The cacti fruits are eaten by many birds, including the sparrow sized elf owl which nests in abandoned woodpecker holes in the trunks.

Saguaro CactusAnimals which make their home in this vegetation include the coyote, black-tailed jack rabbit, quail and the Arizona cactus mouse.

Typical vegetation of the Sonoran Desert is the organ pipe cactus along with a variety of other barrel and cholla cacti, the mesquite shrub, the palo verde trees.

The saguaro is an important plant for native people today as well as in years past. The fruit is used to make jams & jellies, drinks and the seeds, which are rich in fats can also be eaten. The dried out ribs of the woody carcass of the plant are still used to make fences, shelters and furniture. Please be aware that  although the Saguaro cactus is not endangered or a protected plant, Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of this species.  

Saguaro National Monument has evidence of prehistoric cultures dating back 12,000 years, over 260 migratory birds every year along with stark mountains, rocky canyons and sweeping plains.

If you only have one day to spend in the Sonoran Desert then it must be at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum which is on the west side of Tucson, about 36 miles from Green Valley

“Within the Museum grounds, you will see more than 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. There are almost 2 miles of paths traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert.”AZ-Sonoran Desert Museum Website



“Enough can not be said about the beauty, culture, and history of this area; and I haven’t even started to talk about the beautiful weather.”

Diane Moran