Monday, December 23, 2013

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson, AZ)

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) has a special place in my heart. This was my fifth visit, and any fear that I might be bored—especially since I’d just been there the summer before—were quickly allayed.

Founded in 1952, the ASDM encompasses 21 acres of Sonoran Desert west of Tucson. According to their website, there are “two miles of walking paths, 16 individual gardens, 1,200 native plant species and 56,000 individual plants.” If I had to venture a guess, I’d say most visitors, especially families, come for the animals. Others, like me, come for the plants.

Last year, I wrote three detailed posts about the ASDM (see links at the bottom). Please check them out to see the full range of botanical sights that await visitors.

The current post covers some of the same territory but I’m mainly focusing on sights I hadn’t shown you before. This post looks at agaves at the ASDM.

131203_ASDM_224

Right at the entrance are beautiful specimens of ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’). This is the hybrid I planted at our house this fall.

131203_ASDM_228

The landscaped areas around the buildings are excellent examples of what can be done using native plants.

131203_ASDM_001

131203_ASDM_003

In container: saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) and ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

131203_ASDM_004

131203_ASDM_016

Our lord’s candle (Hesperoyucca whipplei)

Now let’s step out into the desert for some natural scenery before we return to see more examples of xeric landscaping. 

131203_ASDM_102

The natural areas are dominated by the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). You can see the entire spectrum from young plants to stately specimens in their prime to dying and dead cacti. Each life phase has its own special beauty.

131203_ASDM_121 131203_ASDM_219

 131203_ASDM_041 131203_ASDM_042

131203_ASDM_112 131203_ASDM_114

131203_ASDM_116

131203_ASDM_117

131203_ASDM_108

Near the Ironwood Gift Shop there even is a rare crested saguaro I’d never seen before:

131203_ASDM_182

131203_ASDM_181 

One favorite native is the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). In the rainy season it’s covered with small green leaves, and in the spring and early summer you can spot its brilliant orange flowers from quite a distance. In the winter, though, it looks like a collection of fiercely spined dead sticks.

131203_ASDM_115

131203_ASDM_122

131203_ASDM_123

Another plant that never fails to attract attention is the boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris). This Baja California relative of the ocotillo can grow to a height of 60 ft. At the ASDM you can see a few larger specimens and many juvenile plants.

131203_ASDM_044

131203_ASDM_048

131203_ASDM_046

Here are some more photos I took along the trails:

131203_ASDM_130

Great horned owl

131203_ASDM_135

Opuntia sp.

131203_ASDM_045

Cactus Garden

131203_ASDM_120

Barrel cactus (Ferocactus sp). and prickly pear (Opuntia sp.)

131203_ASDM_110

Palo verde (Parkinsonia sp.)

131203_ASDM_111

Palo verde (Parkinsonia sp.)

The Desert Garden and the plantings in the gallery/restaurant complex showcase regional and climate-appropriate plants that thrive in Tucson.

131203_ASDM_158

Palma virgen (Dioon edule)

131203_ASDM_159

Slipper flower or candelilla (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

131203_ASDM_167

Totem pole cactus (Lophocereus schottii)

131203_ASDM_171

Javelina sculpture

131203_ASDM_177

Plantings near the Ironwood Gallery

131203_ASDM_179

 Astrophytum ornatum and Euphorbia resinifera

131203_ASDM_186

Rock fig (Ficus palmeri)

131203_ASDM_195 131203_ASDM_196

LEFT: Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia ‘Santa Rita’)   RIGHT: Rain chain and barrel

131203_ASDM_215

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) leaving out after recent rains

131203_ASDM_217

Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoria-reginae)

131203_ASDM_220  131203_ASDM_221

Cardon with babies (Pachycereus pringlei), sometimes called the “saguaro of Baja California”

131203_ASDM_246

Cowhorn agave (Agave bovicornuta)

Arizona is a wonderland of natural treasures, and to me the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum—together with the adjacent Saguaro National Park—ranks right up there in the top 5 with the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Vermillion Cliffs and the ruins of the Ancestral Puebloans.

RELATED POSTS:

2 comments:

  1. Just last night we were talking about another trip through the desert. I need to visit the ASDM, can't believe I've never been. Great photos and I'm glad you're doing an agave post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You must visit the ASDM. It's quite different from the Desert Botanical Garden, and yet they're really two sides of the same coin. The setting in the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson simply is stunning.

      Delete