A Desert Dream-Come-True!

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Hi Friends!

What an amazing surprise we had on our recent visit to Arizona! Every year, in March or April, I love to spend  Spring Break visiting family in the Phoenix area. During my very first visit, over twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with the majestic Saguaro cactus. These beautiful giants only grow in the Sonoran Desert. Each time we hike in the desert, I always make the very same wish!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see my favorite cactus in bloom ~ just once in my lifetime?

The Saguaro typically blooms in May and June. Those are always busy months in my Midwest garden. I just love to be home tending my perennial and herb gardens in late Spring and early Summer. This Spring Break was a truly memorable one! Following a warmer Winter season in the desert, the Saguaro cacti are in bloom earlier than ever this year. So, we were able to enjoy these special blossoms for the very first time!

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We chose one of our favorite hiking places, the Usery Mountain Regional Park, to soak in all of the beauty of the Saguaros in bloom.  Ranger Brennan shared so much fascinating information about the Saguaros, along with great tips for the best hiking trails to see these long-awaited blossoms.  While the Saguaro flowers are usually very high on these tall cacti, Ranger B. told us to look for a Saguaro that had been touched by the frost, making one arm droop much lower.  If we could find one, we would have a chance to enjoy these special flowers at eye level. (Special thanks, Ranger B, for all the great tips!) Off we hiked, camera in hand, to make my dream come true!

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A Saguaro cactus must be at least 50 years old to make flowers. Production from bud to flower takes 10-14 days, depending upon the elevation and temperature in the desert. One Saguaro produces an average of 295 flowers, blooming two or three at a time, throughout May and June. Saguaros have a reproductive lifespan of over 100 years.

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The waxy, white, trumpet-shaped Saguaro flowers are about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter. Each flower lasts less than 24 hours. The flower blooms at night and closes by mid-afternoon. Since the pollen is large and heavy, the Saguaro flower cannot be pollinated by the wind. Saguaros have a very short time to attract pollinators!

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The Saguaros’ bloom time matches the northern migration time of their pollinators. The flowers are well-suited to the bats that come to pollinate the flowers at night. Rich in nectar, the strong flowers can withstand the bats’ weight. They bloom high above the ground near the bats’ flight path, and the blossoms emit a strong fragrance so that they are easy to locate in the dark.

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Saguaros continue to produce nectar in the morning and early afternoon. So, honey bees and birds come to pollinate the flowers during the day. The white-winged doves migrate from Mexico just in time for the Saguaro bloom in Arizona each year.

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As we hiked, we were overjoyed to find one Saguaro with a low-drooping arm. This was our chance to view the state flower of Arizona at eye level. What an amazing opportunity for a little ‘Morning Science’ lesson of our own!

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The droopy arm of the cactus was growing up toward the sun, with about 20 large buds. Earlier in the day, Ranger B. told us that he has even seen Saguaro cacti laying dead on the ground, with one arm still blooming prolifically! A dead cactus uses its stored moisture to nourish the flower blossoms. (Contrary to popular belief, the water stored in the Saguaro cactus is undrinkable and mildly toxic for humans.)

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Up close, the Saguaro flowers were all abuzz with pollinators. We had to wait in line for our chance to examine the blossom. It was such a thrill to touch the thick, waxy flower! We observed its center filled with yellow pollen. We could also see fruit beginning to form nearby.

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After the flowers are pollinated, they mature into ripe, red fruit. In June, a red ring first appears around the top of the growing Saguaro fruit. Soon the entire fruit ripens, splitting open to reveal its juicy, red pulp. Each Saguaro fruit contains up to 2,000 small, black seeds. This occurs during the driest time of the year, when rain has not fallen for over 100 days. So the ripe fruit will provide much-needed moisture and food for many desert creatures. Finches, woodpeckers, doves, and bats find nourishment from the fruits at the top of the Saguaro.  Javelinas, coyotes, and other desert mammals come to feed on the fallen fruit. Many people also enjoy eating the Saguaro fruit!

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The Native American, Tohono O’odham people have always harvested the Saguaro fruit. They continue this important tradition today. Using long poles, often made from Saguaro ribs, they pick the ripe fruit. June is the time when the Tohono O’odham people celebrate the beginning of summer and the new growing season. To bring rain, they drink a fermented juice, made from the bright, red fruit. (To watch a fascinating video about harvesting Saguaro fruit, click here.)

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What a wonderful, dream-come-true hike in the desert!

We feel so blessed to have experienced

this amazing bouquet of desert beauty up close.

(Hmmm…  I wonder what the Saguaro fruit tastes like?

Perhaps we can taste it on our next visit to the Sonoran desert!)

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Thanks so much for walking through the desert with us.

I have two other beautiful places to share soon.

Each time we visit Arizona, there are always exciting, new discoveries awaiting!

Sending sunshine!

♡Dawn

           P.S.   What interesting flower have you dreamed of seeing one day?

 

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40 thoughts on “A Desert Dream-Come-True!

  1. Oh Dawn, I love seeing your special hike in the desert seeing the Saguaro in bloom! How special this was for you! I’ve always wanted to see the desert in bloom. Your morning science lesson is so interesting and informative. I will return to see more of your links. Your photo of the bee buzzing around the blossom is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your special time with the beautiful blooming Saguaro. I’m looking forward to more of your special visit to Arizona.
    I’ve always wanted to visit Provence while the fields of lavender are blooming. Maybe one day. ♥

  2. Warm, sunny thanks, Martha Ellen! It was so unbelievable to see the Saguaro in bloom. 🙂 I have waited so long for this special dream to come true! We were so fortunate to view the Saguaro flower at eye level. Often they are 50-70 feet high, blooming atop the arms of the Saguaro! So, I waited in line behind all of the bees for my turn to touch the flower. 🙂 You would really enjoy Springtime in the Arizona desert. Lots of colorful blossoms everywhere before the temperatures soar. I have some beautiful new places to share soon!

    I love your dream of visiting the lavender fields of Provence! I missed them while driving through Provence with a dear friend long ago. I can only imagine the lovely scent and colors. Hold fast to your dreams, dear Martha Ellen! Thanks so much for visiting today. ♡

  3. Hi Dawn! What a special blessing for you on this trip to be able see, touch, and smell the Saguaro cactus flowers! That must have been quite a sight in person….the pictures are beautiful! Interesting that bats are pollinators. I don’t think of bats as being desert creatures…maybe because we have them here. I’m with Martha Ellen on the lavender fields of Provence. That would be a dream come true! I had always wanted to see the tulips of Holland, Michigan and we went there for our anniversary several years ago. Now, on to YOUR beautiful gardens! Hope you had a wonderful visit with mom and dad. xo….Karen

  4. Heartfelt thanks, Karen! It was such a memorable experience! The desert in Springtime is truly lovely. Our highest temperature was 98 degrees. Lovely breezes kept us cool. The tiny, yellow blossoms of the Palo Verde tree looked like bouquets of sunshine everywhere we walked. I *might* have hugged a Saguaro (very carefully, of course!).

    It sounds like we must all plan a special trip to visit the lavender fields of Provence! ❤ What a wonderful adventure that would be!! A friend visited a lavender farm in Michigan last summer. It sounded so lovely! Ever since I read A Fine Romance, I have dreamed of seeing the Springtime blossoms in the English countryside. Counting the days until our Tea Party!! ♡

  5. Loved your visit to the desert. Thanks for taking us along. After a very mild winter, spring came very early here also. While I certainly don’t have those magestic saguaro, seeing the cactus in bloom is one of my favorite sights. The prickly pear have yellow bloom, but some catus bloom a beautiful magenta.
    I think we are all with Martha Ellen on this one!

  6. Warm thanks, Chris! The prickly pear were in full bloom in Arizona, too. So pretty! I took so many photos of cacti in bloom. I would love to try some small watercolors of Southwest plants. Hope you and your family have been safe from all of the terrible storms in Texas, Chris! We are thinking of all the people affected by all of the severe Spring weather.

    Seeing the lavender fields of Provence in bloom would definitely be another amazing dream-come-true! Does lavender do well in Texas? I have tried several varieties in my garden over the years. It struggles with our Midwest winters, though. Hope you and your mom are enjoying nice hours in the garden! ♡

  7. Hi Judy! So true! When we spotted that Saguaro, I danced across the desert to have the chance of a lifetime to see and touch the flower! I waited patiently for all of the pollinators to do their important work. It was truly a dream-come-true! We were very grateful for all of the information and tips that Ranger B shared with us on that warm, sunny morning. Now I’m happy to be home for busy Springtime days in our Midwest garden. My favorite month is just around the corner! Wishing you happy days in your garden, Judy! ♡

  8. Heartfelt thanks, Marcia! We were so surprised that the Saguaro were blooming in mid-April. It made our trip extra-special! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit during your busy, busy, busy days! Have a good weekend, dear Marcia! ♡

  9. Spanish lavender (lavandula stoechas) does best here. Takes the heat and is drought tolerant. I used to buy my lavender from High Country Gardens online, but they are no longer the same company and sadly it is evident.
    My yard and gardens have never looked more beautiful thanks to my mother! She works out there everyday!!

  10. Your yard sounds just beautiful, Chris! Such a blessing… in so many ways. I’m so glad that your mom is with you and enjoying many happy hours in your garden! It’s wonderful that you found just the right lavender for the growing conditions in Texas. Until we visit the lavender fields in Provence, a group of Girlfriends might enjoy the lavender fields of West Texas! 🙂 Hugs!

  11. Dawn,
    This was such an interesting post. I had no idea about the life and blossoms related to this cactus. The drooping arm of the cactus looks like it was purposely reaching out to you to show you its bouquet. What a wonderful hike you must have enjoyed.
    xo,
    Karen

  12. Thank you so much, Karen! I will always treasure our walks in the desert this Spring! The Saguaro blossoms were so unexpected… and wonderful! (My ‘One Little Word’ for 2016 is blossom. A wonderful bit of serendipity! 🙂 ) It’s the little things that make life sweet! Have a great weekend, dear Karen! ♡

  13. Thanks ! I am so happy to see them in bloom ! We were there at the beginning of March but they didn’t even had buds then so I wondered what their blooms would look like, now I know !

  14. Oh, Gwennie! I’m so glad that you stopped to visit to enjoy the Saguaros in bloom. I know how much you love succulents. 🙂 Your photos from your Arizona trip are so wonderful! It has been so long since I visited the Petrified Forest. It’s already getting warm in the Arizona desert. In mid-April, we were visiting as the temperatures reached 96, 97, and 98 on consecutive days. I will always treasure the chance we had to experience the Saguaros in bloom!! I just love sharing this special gift of nature with everyone! ❤ Wishing you happy days in your garden, Gwennie! ♡

  15. Wow! All I can say is Wow!
    You have really taken some magnificent photos of these elusive blossoms, Dawn. I’m so happy for you that you were able to witness this blossoming and that the Saguaro’s arms reached out it’s embrace for you take these photos. Love this.

  16. What a wonderful post Dawn! I know so little about cactus, and just loved seeing the blooms and learning about all of the insects, birds and animals that utilize this wonderful plant. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos too! It looks like you had an amazing trip.

  17. Such kind words, Penny! Heartfelt thanks. I know you can understand how excited I was to see these blooms, after 25 years of Spring Break visits with my parents! Such a happy surprise! I often hug a Saguaro when I visit. I think you are right, Penny! This time a Saguaro hugged me back!:) Such a sweet thought! Just one more day of April showers, and then we can get busy in our gardens again. Happy weekend! ♡

  18. Oh, thank you, Julie! These giants of the desert are such fascinating plants. The only place Saguaros grow is in the Sonoran Desert. I love to photograph them, since each one is unique. I always shared the wonderful children’s book, Cactus Hotel, with my students. It tells the story of how important the Saguaro is to so many creatures in the desert. Thanks so much for visiting today, Julie! Happy weekend! ♡

  19. Can’t wait to see your Saguaro photos, Gwennie! I’m so happy that you were able to travel all the way from Belgium to visit the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Wishing you sunny, Springtime days, Gwennie! ♡

  20. Dawn, I am so happy for you! What an exciting visit. I heard from a friend that the desserts have been warmer this year. It’s good to hear that you’re visit lined up perfectly with the blooms. The “drooping arm” looks like it’s extending a bouquet. What an extraordinary plant. Thanks for sharing all these fun facts. It makes me appreciate it all the more.

    Ah, nature. There is always something wonderful to see and explore. xo

  21. Heartfelt thanks, Alys! The Saguaro flowers were such a wonderful surprise! We felt incredibly lucky to come upon flowers at eye level, so that we could observe the blooms up close… and even touch them. Such fleeting beauty! We knew that morning was our best chance to see the blossoms, for they would close by mid-afternoon. Ah, yes! It’s really interesting to explore plants in an environment so different from the Midwest!! There is so much to discover!!

    How is your new garden growing this Spring? It must be so exciting to enjoy all of the changes you have made! While we were away, our garden really sprung up! I’m happy to be home and to begin gardenkeeping at long last. May 15th is our safe planting day. I’ll be watching the forecast for nighttime temperatures, with hopes of planting as soon as possible! This week, magnolia, quince, forsythia, lilacs, daffodils, and tulips are in full bloom in our garden. It’s such fun to watch the foliage grow taller each day. Spring has finally arrived in the Midwest! Wishing you a delightful, sunny weekend, Alys! ♡

  22. Oh, thank you, Lynn! It was so wonderful to finally experience these beautiful blossoms after all these years!! We thought of you often during our visit.:) We spent time in Tucson, visiting family, too. Wishing you a nice weekend, dear Lynn! ♡

  23. Dawn, you’ve enjoyed the best of two worlds: the up-close beauty of the desert and now your beautiful mid-western garden at home. It’s amazing the rate at which things grow this time of year. Fingers crossed for warmer temps. I know you’re itching to get out there and plant.

    My garden is full of anomalies this year thanks to the amazing rains. So many seeds lied dormant but have now sprung to life. Love in a mist, sweet peas, violas, pumpkins, all self-seeded volunteer plants. The sweet peas have taken over a corner of the front garden and I’m happily sitting back and watching them grow. It’s been an amazing year. All the new native plants are in bloom, and the hummingbirds love them. It’s an historic year in my garden (not to sound too dramatic…LOL). Thanks for your interest, Dawn. xo

  24. So true, Alys! I am so happy to hear that raindrops are making your California garden flourish this year! On my first visit to your blog, you were writing about carrying buckets of water from your bathtub to try to save your trees. I realized then what a special friend of the earth you are! All of the native plants you have added to your garden because of the long drought will keep your garden healthy, happy, and oh-so colorful. It must be so much fun to see all of the surprises popping up after the rain! Enjoy Mother Nature’s celebration! (“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ ” ~ Robin Williams)

    I’m planning to plant Sweet Peas this year, in honor of sweet Alys!! Watching them bloom in your garden reminded me of just how much I miss them. I planted them during my early years as a gardener, but haven’t planted them for so long. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration, dear Alys. 🙂 Enjoy nature’s party in your garden!! ♡

  25. Hi Ericka! Aren’t they amazing flowers? We were so lucky to see the Saguaros bloom this Spring! I think of you often and hope all is well. Thanks so much for visiting today, Ericka! ♡

  26. Hi Brenda! We were so fortunate that they were blooming during our visit this time. It was a wonderful surprise!! I had to wait in line behind all of the bees to get a close look! 🙂 Have a good week in your garden, Brenda! ♡

  27. I love that quote, and I miss Robin Williams. Thank you, Dawn. You have a keen memory and a way of saying the nicest things. Thank you. I’m looking forward to seeing your spring garden grow, and wish you all good things with your time in the soil. 🙂

  28. I always think of that quote when the garden is bursting with Springtime color, Alys! I have always been a collector of wonderful quotes. 🙂 I’m planning to get busy in the garden this week. Can’t wait! Sending hugs and gentle showers all the way to California! ♡

  29. We were in Phoenix, too, for a quick visit the first weekend in April for a wedding. We got to spend a day into the evening at the Desert Botanical Garden which I thoroughly enjoyed. The desert IS an amazingly beautiful place and I love the adobe architecture, but I am glad to live where I do where the seasons change more dramatically.

  30. Hi Cathy! Springtime in the desert is so lovely! I love the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, too. There is so much to learn about the fascinating plants that grow in the Sonoran Desert! The Papago Mountains make a perfect backdrop for all of the plants. This time, we visited an amazing botanic garden near Tucson. I can’t wait to share our photos! In mid-April, temperatures in Phoenix reached 96, 97, and 98. Today they are expecting their first 100 degree temperature. It’s going to be a long, hot summer there!! It’s fun to visit in the Spring and Fall. I’m also thankful to have four distinct seasons here in the Midwest! Thanks so much for visiting today, Cathy! It’s always so nice to hear from you! ♡

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