April 23, 2015

P is for Prickly Pear

The Prickly Pear cactus is a very well known and versatile cactus.

There are several different varieties of Prickly Pear cactus each growing to different sizes. The most common species in the Sonoran Desert is the Engelmann Prickly Pear which grows up to 5 feet tall and can grow to a width of 10-15 feet.

The Prickly Pear cactus has pretty flowers, but what it is really known for is its fruit. Prickly Pear fruit (also called Tuna) can be eaten, minus the thick outer skin. The fruit can be eaten raw, just chill in the refrigerator for a few hours, or it can be used to make jams, jellies and even candy. Even the cactus pads can be eaten.

Photo by

Pretty cactus flower

prickly pear


April 22, 2015

O is for Ocelot

The Ocelot is considered one of 3 rare cats that live in the Sonoran Desert and it is currently listed as endangered.

It is somewhat bigger than a large house cat and is often referred to as one of the most beautiful of cats.

The Ocelot is primarily a nocturnal creature and stays close to dense cover during the day. Sightings of this animal in the Sonoran Desert tend to be very rare. So rare in fact, that biologists investigate and keep track of any sightings.

Photo by Dagget2

Beautiful Ocelot
Photo by Karen McCrorey

Photo by Karen McCrorey


April 21, 2015

N is for Needles

N is for Needles... Cactus Needles.

The Sonoran Desert is full of different kinds of cacti and each has their own unique type of cactus needle.

You definitely don't want to touch the Teddy Bear or Jumping Cholla cactus. They will stick to you if you do. If you find yourself trying to get a piece of cactus off of yourself, another person or even an animal, you will want to avoid touching the cactus as it will leave just as many cactus needles (stickers) on you as there are on the person or animal it is currently stuck to. 

Some cactus needles are as thin as a strand of hair. They are so thin that you can barely even see them. But even though you may not be able to see them, you will most definitely feel them.

Photo by

Photo by

Photo by

Photo by


April 20, 2015

M is for Monsoon

When people think of the desert they think of a place that is hot and dry. It's true, the Sonoran Desert is hot, but it is what we like to call a "dry heat."

During the summer months the daily temperatures reach over 100 degrees. But there is some respite. Summer in the Sonoran Desert is the season of the Monsoon. A season of high winds, high heat and thunderstorms.

The heat of the day starts early in the morning and builds until you feel like you just can't take the heat for much longer. But then in the afternoon, the clouds gather and start to build over the mountains. The storm is coming.


August 24, 2010

The monsoon is just getting started

afternoon monsoon

A storm is brewing

August 5, 2010: The approaching storm


L is for Ladder-backed Woodpecker

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker is a beautiful looking bird. It is black and white and the male has a red spot on its head. They like to nest in cactus and if you put out a bird feeder, one of these woodpeckers will most likely show up.

I always smile when I see one, but when I was younger they always managed to make me mad. Maybe because due to the Ladder-backed Woodpecker, I never got to sleep in.

When I was a teenager, I was just like any other teenager. I loved to sleep in. I especially looked forward to sleeping in during the summer months when I was off from school. But no matter how much I looked forward to sleeping in, it never failed that I would always be woken up early by the sound of the Ladder-backed woodpecker pecking non-stop at the metal on the swamp cooler. The sound is like a miniature jackhammer that never ever stops.

Ladder-backed woodpecker
Photo by George Scott

Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2-20111114
Photo by Kenneth Cole Schneider


April 19, 2015

K is for Kit Fox

When I was a young girl and learning about the animals that live in the Sonoran Desert, I always picked the same animal as a favorite. The Kit Fox.

The Kit Fox is the smallest and rarest member of the dog family. It has very large long ears and fur on the soles of its feet.

They are mostly nocturnal and due to their coloring they blend quite well into their natural environment. They rarely have to drink any water as they get what they need from the food that they eat.

Other than at the Arizona Desert Sonoran Museum (a zoo for desert life), I have never seen a Kit Fox in the wild. 

How could I not choose this animal as one of my favorites? Isn't it just the cutest?

Photo by Mark A. Chappell

Photo by


April 16, 2015

J is for Javelina

Javelinas (pronounced ha-va-LEE-nas) are not pigs. They are actually collared peccary.

If you see a javelina be prepared to see more than one. They live in big family groups. The average group size is 10 or less, but a few herds have known to number up to 53 animals.

You are most likely to come across a javelina during the early morning and evening hours. They are creatures of habit and can be found walking the same path at the same time of day, every day. So much so that a neighbor put up a "Javelina Crossing" sign in her yard. They don't have very good eyesight but they do have great hearing and sense of smell. If you come across one you will want to keep your distance and not make any sudden movements or loud noises.

Javelina are nosy. They like to get into everything and are famous for dumping over the garbage cans and making a huge mess.

One night, my brother left the front gate open. I woke up in the middle of the night to see shadows moving outside the sliding glass door. A large group of javelinas were rooting around the front patio. I watched them until they all went out the gate. The largest one of the group was the last one to leave. I opened the front door and quickly slammed the gate shut. As soon as I did that, the giant one turned and butted that gate over and over. He was so angry. That is the closest I have been to an angry javelina. I was very lucky that there was a gate between us.

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Javelina and her babies
Photo by Amythestsparkles


April 15, 2015

I is for Ironwood

The Ironwood tree is found only in the Sonoran Desert. It is one of the largest and longest-lived of the Sonoran Desert plants. Its wood is among the densest in the world and it sinks in water. This tree is known as a "nurse tree." Many different animals and plants live and grow under its protection.

When I close my eyes and remember, I can see the Ironwood seeds littering the ground, but I cannot recall ever seeing an Ironwood tree in bloom. I hope to see this tree in bloom someday. From what I have seen in pictures, the Ironwood is a very pretty tree when in bloom.

Photo by Doris Evans

Ironwood Blossoms
Photo by Ken Bosma


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