Desert Wildflowers

When I left my house on Saturday morning it was snowing, but here I am in southern Arizona for my spring break, where at this time of year the daily high temperature is around ninety and the air smells of orange blossoms. This is also the time of year when all the desert wildflowers are in bloom – click on any tile below to bring up a slideshow with captions.

Hedgehog Cactus

There are many kinds of cactus around here besides the famous saguaros – prickly pears, barrel cacti, various kind of cholla. My favorite one is the hedgehog cactus (genus Echinocereus), and I couldn’t resist stopping to snap a couple photos of them while out on the Christmas Bird Count.

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They don’t grow more than a foot or two tall, but something about the little round clusters of stems is really aesthetically appealing for some reason. And in the spring they’re even more gorgeous (this is a photo I took a couple years ago)…

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Hooray for cacti and their big showy flowers. Just don’t ever try to pick them.

The Desert in Bloom

Southern Arizona has had a LOT of rain this spring – a lot more than usual, thanks to tropical storms pushing their way up here from Baja California.  The result?  Beautiful desert flowers.

Hedgehog cactus flowers are my favorite cactus flowers here; they’re so big and showy and colorful.

Mexican golden poppies are always a treat.

Like many desert plants, ocotillos drop their leaves during dry periods and look suspiciously dead, only to turn lush again almost overnight when there’s enough rain.

I also got a new life bird on the walk where I snapped these photos – an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  I have yet to visit Arizona without seeing at least one new bird species!  Anyway, tomorrow we leave for the Chiricahuas, where with any luck I’ll get a couple more.  It’s Sunday now, but I’m scheduling this post to appear on Tuesday, so hopefully by the time you read this I’ll have seen Yellow-eyed Juncos and Mexican Jays!