Nevertheless, deal with it for two days I must. So as I rode through that dusty, dry town for the first time, I was searching for inspiration and positive coping energy.
I found just what I needed by looking up.
The saguaro, a massive cactus and hardy survivor of the Sonoran Desert, has just the attitude I was looking for. How something so sturdy and strong can survive on 11 inches of water per year, I don't fully understand. It is a wonder to behold.
Certainly, there are other amazing plants that thrive in this hostile (at least to me) climate. There are several that I truly admire:
The oputnia, or prickly pear, whose precious polka-dotted paddles I adore:
And then there's this poor unfortunate thorny fellow, know by his friends as ocotillo but formally named fouquieria splendens. During the dry months, his branches are grey and lifeless but when the monsoon rains kick in, little green leaves spring forth.
Of course, I'm always drawn to sweet pink and white blossoms over deep green waxy leaves.
But among all these desert beauties, for me, the saguaro stands head and shoulders above the rest. Designed so cleverly to survive in this inhospitable place, I'm fascinated, for example, with the intricate pleats that expand, thereby allowing him to absorb extra water when it's available. As the water is slowly used, he gradually shrinks back down, and the pleats neatly hold the extra surface area in place. Very efficient.
Look at the photo below. See those itty bitty little bumps sticking out up there near the top? They will eventually develop into the long, upward-curving, iconic arms that make this cactus instantly recognizable for anyone who's watched an American western. The new arms will give the plant more blossoms and more fruit, thereby increasing its reproductive capacity. Very clever.
As if this impressive cactus isn't working hard enough to ensure his own survival, the saguaro offers shelter to others. A number of desert birds make their homes within the saguaro, using holes such as this one to nest deep inside. Very generous.
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