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Sonoran DesertPhotography in Sonoran DesertSaguaro and life in desert environmentSaguaro National ParkOrgan Pipe Cactus National MonumentExplore Organ Pipe Cactus NMChiricahua National Monument

Sonoran Desert, Arizona

Sonoran Desert is one of four distinct deserts in North America; the other three are Great Basin, Mojave, and Chihuahuan. Approximately one third of the Sonoran Desert is located in southern Arizona and California, with the rest extending south into Mexico. Because of its warmer temperatures and two rainy seasons delivering on average 12 inches of rain each year, the Sonoran Desert supports a greater diversity of plants and animals than the other three N. A. deserts. It is considered one of lushest, most biologically diverse deserts in the World, and often referred to as a "garden desert". Here, one can find more than 600 plant species, 200 of which are annuals (mostly wildflowers).

Saguaro cactus in Sonoran desertAlong with the giant symbol of the American Southwest, the saguaro cactus, there are more than 50 types of cacti, including hedgehog, barrel, prickly pear, fishook, cholla, and teddybear. Only the Sonoran Desert can boast to have tree-sized cacti, and desert plants that grow tall and densely enough in places to be called a forest. Jojoba and palo verde trees are also found among the cacti. Dryer portions of the Sonoran Desert are inhabited by the creosote bush and mixed scrub, with many plants being able to tolerate silty or salty soils.

The amazing shapes and textures of the desert plants, together with rugged landscapes of exposed bluffs and deep canyons, make this area a mecca for nature photographers. November through April is the most pleasant time to visit, with daytime temperatures reaching 19-28 C (67-83 F). Peak flowering time for most annuals and perennials is from March to early April. The best time to photograph blooming cacti is from mid April to late June. Be aware that displays of annual wildflowers is rainfall dependent, and varies greatly in intensity. Inquire about local conditions before going on a trip. Avoid summer months when temperatures in the desert are often above 35 C. Try visiting the area in October, when the weather becomes mild again. link to Arizona gallery, page 2

Image: desert landscape with saguaro, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

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Last modified:
11 January, 2011