The Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections, bisected by Interstate 10 and the city of Tucson. Saguaro West-Tucson Mountain District hosts a variety of Sonoran Desert plants and animals against the backdrop of the Tucson Mountains. Saguaro East-Rincon Mountain District, which is the park we did, has a vast saguaro forest and is located at the foot of the Rincon Mountains. There is an 8-mile drive that winds slowly through the saguaro forest and offers an intimate look at the variety of species found in the Sonoran Desert.
The saguaro has been called the “monarch of the Sonoran Desert, supreme symbol of the American Southwest, and a plant with personality”. It begins life as a shiny black seed no bigger than a pinhead, produced along with tens of thousands of other seeds yearly by a single saguaro, and as many as 40 million in the lifetime of the cactus. Odds for survival are slim, but those that do grow very slowly at first, and, actually, quite slowly during its lifetime. By the end of a year, it might attain a height of 1/4″, after fifteen years maybe 12″. At 30 years it starts to flower and produce fruit. It might reach a height of 7′ after 50 years, and at 75 it might begin to sprout branches or arms. At 100 years, it could be 25′ tall, and by 150 years it can max out 50 feet and weigh over 16,000 pounds.
The natives of the Sonoran Desert, mainly the Indian tribe Tohono O’ogham, have used products of the saguaro cactus. In the summer the plant produces juicy fig-like fruits from which the Indians make jams, syrups, and for religious ceremonies, wine. The Tohono mark this time of year, the harvesting of the Saguaro fruit, as the beginning of their new year. In addition to the fruit, the Indians use the strong woody ribs of the cactus to build fences and shelters.
Among the other 25 species of cacti found in the desert are hedgehog cactus, barrel, fishhook, teddybear cholla and prickly pear. The ocotillo, pictured above will sprout leaves within days of a rainstorm, desert marigolds bloom in the spring and the summer and the mesquite tree, common desert tree provides shade for any number of wildlife.
A fascinating part of our country!
Today’s recipes include sesame ginger salmon which I found in a blog called Damn Delicious,who in turn adapted it from a blog called how sweet it is. To be honest, Jan and I have been making the asparagus recipe for so many years that we have forgotten our source. Kudos to whoever we got it from. Goes with everything! We use the skinny asparagus as they can take the broiling better than their bigger cousins. Enjoy!