Death and Rebirth in the Desert

The desert and the native plants growing there never cease to amaze me.

Prickly pear cactus is a native plant used in a lot of landscaping in Tucson and the Sonoran Desert in general.

Yesterday I saw this large piece of prickly pear that had been broken off its main stem and roots by a late freeze followed by high winds (click to enlarge the picture):

Broken Prickly Pear

“Oh, well, that’s the way it goes,” I thought. But closer inspection showed something rather amazing: the dying plant was giving birth to new prickly pear cacti:

New plants arising from dying prickly pear

This is just another example of why hope springs eternal among gardeners (and plant lovers) in the Southwest Desert.


Another Challenge: Late Hard Freezes

This weekend I am in Tucson, located in the Sonoran Desert of the southwest, rather than the high Chihuahuan Desert in which Albuquerque is located. Many years ago I lived here for seven years, and although many things about the city have changed, the plants have remained pretty much the same. Palm trees, which do not grow in the Albuquerque area, are pretty much a staple of cities in the Sonoran Desert.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived yesterday was that the palm trees looked very strange: the centers were green, but the outer fronds were brown and looked dead. I did not recall ever seeing all of them look like that before (click to enlarge image).

Palm trees, Tucson 4/13/07

“What happened to the palm trees?” I asked.

“All the palms had been trimmed up this spring, but after that there was a late freeze that lasted several days.”

In all the years I lived in Tucson that had never happened. Fortunately, the palms seem to be recovering well.

I have certainly seen that happen to roses in Albuquerque, and I hope I have no pictures of that to show you later this season.

(There are some photos of roses with this type of damage, however, and an excellent discussion here.)