Sonoran Desert Experience…thru “lens & pen!”
Hi … I’m Cyndy Warnier, the Program & Development Director here at Spirit in the Desert. I am the shutter-bug of the photos you see on our website. I am also a lover of the desert, and along with my husband, Al who also works here and is an arborist, study the desert through my lens as well as through forums to learn about its unique flora and fauna. So, from my “lens & pen”–welcome to a “Sonoran Desert Experience!” Each month I will post an article, with pictures-of course, about life in this beautiful and diverse desert. Birds, mammals, reptiles…even an arachnid or two, plus a variety of plants whose botany is specific to Arizona’s portion of the Sonoran Desert–and all whose existence are endangered. Our registration lobby features many of my photos in a variety of matted sizes, as well as on 5×7 photo cards, complete with blank insides or nice mix of all-occasion prose. You can always “take away a bit of the desert” in my pictures to remind you of your stay at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center.
Samantha Munsey of Tucson Life, shares her 10 tidbits about Arizona’s “Sentinel of the Desert” – the Giant Saguaros! Early May to June is blooming time and you don’t want to miss it. Here are a few things you might want to know about these white dazzlers and why they’re so important to our Sonoran Desert.
- Peak blooming is from early May to early June…But don’t let that time frame fool you. You can find saguaro blooms for more than half of the year
- They have a short lifespan…Saguaro flowers bloom typically at dusk and remain open till about mid-morning the next day. By the afternoon the flower will start to wilt, and that’s it for that bloom.
- A single saguaro can produce as many as 100 flowers in a season…That’s a lot of flower power, nuff said.
- They get a little help from their friends…The saguaro flower relies on a number of desert dwellers to help with the pollination process — this includes bees, moths, hummingbirds and white-winged doves. As these creatures get nectar from the bloom they become covered in pollen, which is then transported and deposited into other flowers.
- But their bestie for life is the bat…lesser long-nosed bats and saguaro flowers have co-evolved together — making them a match in pollination heaven. The night blooming schedule of these beautiful buds is an ideal time for bats, who use their brush-tipped tongues to extract large quantities of nectar from the flower. The bright white visibility of these flowers also makes it easy for the bat to spot as they move along the dark desert sky.
- They smell delightful…Saguaro flowers are often describe as having a pungently sweet melon scent. Bats and other wildlife can’t get enough.
- It’s the official state flower of Arizona…This brilliant bloom was designated Arizona’s state flower in 1931. It joins the ranks of other Arizona state symbols including the cactus wren, turquoise, and bolo tie.
- They turn into fruit…Once a saguaro flower has been pollinated, it matures into fruit that splits open when ripened – reveling bright red pulp. Each piece of fruit contains about 200 small back seeds. The fruit provides nutrients for wildlife and has been harvested by the Tohono O’odham people and their ancestors the Hohokam. Saguaro fruit is typically harvested between mid-June to early July. Tools used to pick these bright red gems usually involve a long pole made out of saguaro ribs — so you can knock down the fruit from the top of the cactus — and a bucket. If you wanted to head out and pick some saguaro fruit for yourself just be sure to get written permission beforehand; saguaros are fiercely protected under the Arizona Native Plant Law.
- They’re edible…You can eat the fruit raw or boil and strain it to make a sweet syrup that can be used for jellies and candies. It also makes a delicious sweet homemade wine!
- You can find them all over the Sonoran Desert…You’re apt to see them almost anywhere throughout the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, including urban and foothills neighborhoods, as well as in road-side scenery on Interstate 10 and 17. Saguaro National Park in Tucson is a paradise of blooms. Highway 74, going west to Wickenburg and then Hwy 60 continuing west in La Paz Valley and Lake Alamo State Park is loaded with Saguaros. The Tonto Mountains surrounding the Cave Creek and Carefree towns, and Picacho Peak are Saguaro havens. And you can enjoy boating, picnicking and nature walks at Lake Pleasant and the surrounding mountains which are filled with Saguaros.
No matter where you roam in the Sonoran Desert, in May and sometimes all the way through June, the blooms on the Giant Saguaros will capture you with their beauty! Whether you are hiking or doing photography, each saguaro has its own features, some lean, some have many arms, some stand straight, others have arms that beckon you. But always, please, remember, these are protected and so are the many mammals that either have their nests in the Saguaro, or enjoy their nectar and their fruit. Be respectful, leave no trace, take home memories of our treasure in the desert…because you won’t find them anywhere else in the world!