Posts Tagged ‘conserve water’

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Leafing again: the strange case of the ocotillo

August 6, 2010

One of the odder native residents of the Sonoran desert is the ocotillo bush. It typically consists of several spindly branches, vertically striped and spiny, up to 20 feet tall, that are leafless for long periods, only to sprout thick lines of small leaves within a few days after a rain.

Ocotillo branches with few leaves

Ocotillo branches with few leaves

Its desert adaptation of dropping leaves and playing possum is so complete that ocotillo plants for sale, in their leafless phase, with their branches tied in a bundle and roots bare, look thoroughly dead.

Ocotillo branches with many leaves

Ocotillo branches with many leaves


In the spring, they produce numerous red tubular blossoms at the ends of the branches that attract insects and birds of many species. They make great landscape plants because of their sparse sculptural look, and extremely low water requirements, and striking seasonal changes.

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A thorny issue

June 23, 2010

Related to the last post, it is amazing how many kinds of thorns, bristles, hooks, spikes, prickers, sharp edges, pointed leaves, pointed branches, as well as claws, scales, fangs, spines, and hooves you find in the Sonoran desert, and generally in the arid western USA.

In a contrary kind of way, almost all of these indicate that there’s probably a nice, juicy, succulent hunk of flesh nearby.

But you’ll get hurt if you try to get at it!

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Plant your own desert landscape

June 30, 2008

There are obvious as well as more subtle things to consider when planting a landscape around your desert home.

Not surprisingly, the number one limiting factor in the desert is water.

Domesticated cactus

Domesticated cactus

The number two limiting factor is shade. Some desert plants can’t tolerate any, some need it.

Other factors such as temperature, predators, and wind vary by specific location.

Interestingly enough, as well as enduring brutal heat, many parts of the North American desert reach temperatures below freezing at least a few days a year. The thorns and armor on many desert plants attest to their predators, ranging from insects to grazing mammals.

See what the experts have to say about useful and well-adapted plants that conserve resources:  www.amwua.org:plants_index.html

With a little knowledge, you can enhance your landscape naturally.