Desert Vegetation

A rich variety of some 2,000 plant species produces a photo opportunity everywhere you look. In the springtime the desert comes to life with an amazing display of colorful wildflowers and blooming cactus which carpet the desert floor and hillsides. Once you visit the desert, you will be amazed at the variety of cactus.

The giant Saguaro cactus:

The symbol of the desert southwest, Saguaros have a relatively long lifespan, some living more than 150 years. Their first side arm may appear any time from 75–100 years of age to increase the plant's reproductive capacity (more arms lead to more flowers and fruit). These cacti can grow from 40 to 60 feet tall.

Other cactus:

Prickly pear (common in all 50 states) comes in a variety of shapes and colors. The barrel cactus always leans to the south so you can use it as a compass if you ever get lost. Pin cushions, organ pipe, teddy bear cholla, the infamous jumping cholla cactus, and many, many more are prevalent throughout the area. The unique flowers of each cactus bring much beauty to the desert.


Agave plants:

These popular, ornamental succulents (not cactus) have large, thick, fleshy, spiny leaves springing from the root, each ending in a sharp point. They are slow-growing, flower only once via a tall mast-like stem, then die, thus the nickname “the century plant.”


Palo Verde trees:

Spanish for “green wood or stick,” these deciduous trees are abundant in the desert and turn the hillsides into a striking yellow landscape in the springtime.