Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April flowers in the Sonoran Desert

Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindopuntia bigelovii) in bloom in the desert right now.  Oddly, this cactus produces no viable seeds despite flowering and only reproduces asexually by rooting broken cactus joints.
April showers bring May flowers!  Right?  Well not in the Sonoran Desert.  Its more along the lines of May drought kills April flowers.  But from March through mid April or so we can have a whole host of flowers depending on how much rain we received in the winter months before.  Even in years with relatively little winter rainfall the perennial plants will still normally produce flowers.  This winter we had several small rainfall events that amounted to only 2.75 inches which is slightly over half of our "normal" 4.5 inches of winter rainfall.  But so called normal rainfall is sort of an enigma in the desert...  Despite the lack of rain we still have had quite a showing of April perennial plant flowers. 

Currently in bloom are several species of cacti: Prickly Pears (Opuntia sp.), Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa), Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii), and Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus englemanii).  I am sure other species of cacti are also in bloom currently in other locations but I haven't visited them lately.

Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus englemanii)
Prickly Pear (Opuntia sp.)

Other more bush like plants are also in bloom right now: Mesquite (Prosobis sp.), Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), and the Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida).

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata)

Velvet Mesquite (Prosobis velutina)

Velvet Mesquite (Prosobis velutina)
In the next few weeks these flowers will die off with the increasing heat and begin to produce an abundance of seed and seed pods.  Over the next several weeks Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla), Iron wood (Olneya tesota), Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), and Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus sp.) will begin to flower during the Sonoran Deserts driest time of year.

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