Y alan's sonoran sampler
From its vast holdings in northern (old) Mexico, the Sonoran desert stretches its spiny fingers into the crags of southern Arizona. The landscape is bizzare and as different from anywhere as it could be. That's what I like about it. Here is a collection of my own photos and semi-accurate information...

Since I am more of a fan than expert of desert plants and animals, do not take my words here for being factual. They are a mixture of my own warped observations, things I have read, or stuff I just may have made up. Be sure to check out the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens for the real "dirt".

Creative Commons LicenseAll of these images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. This means you may use any of the images here under this conditions specified (give attriibution, none commericial use), you do not event need to ask for written permission. Just use it!
VIEWS..... like something from another planet
Sonoran Mix Try to find a representative view, and you find another, and another, and...
Superstition Mountains The Supes' loom over the town of Apache Junction, keeping secrets of angry Apaches, foolish gold seekers, dazzling canyons.
Headless Saguaro Picaho peak is beautiful, but not worth losing your head over.
Canyon Lake A lake? in a canyon? in the desert?
Fish Creek Canyon Its out there past the end of the paved roads, slicing through the heart of the Superstition Mountains. Down in the bottom, are views you would not believe in a desert.
Boulder Canyon Trail Globe mallow, brittle brush, saguaro... what more do you need?
Goldfield Mountains Physically part of the Superstition Mountains, the lesser known Goldfield Mountains lack trails to its cactus studded peaks. All the better.
Four Peaks Clever named... it has, well, 4 pointy peaks! The summit is over 7000 feet in elevation and up close, the northern most peak looks less pointy. You might find amethyst here but if you take them home, you have been trespassing!
Ballentine Trail Snaking up the eastern flanks of the Mazatzal Mountains, are lonely rock and sagura sentinels
Aravaipa This treasure of a canyon has a year-round running creek full of all kinds of wild life, and fortunately, few humans.
Dangerous Trails The trail signs warn of desert dangers (extreme conditions, lack of water) as well as the human ones, in this case, proximity to a shooting range!

PLANTS..... that have their "finer" points
Aloe (or not) This cousin of the agave saved my life one 105 degree March afternoon when my water ran out. When squeezed, the leaves yielded generous drops of water. (Note:I have been told told, "Aloe is native to Madagascar and parts of Africa. Out of the ~300 species, only 3 are medicinal and the majority are poisonous. As a matter of fact, one of the chosen method of suicide in Africa is to rub Aloe glandulosa on your skin. You will be dead in an hour. The plant you show in this picture is a Dudleya species. They are rare and, I believe, protected. The moisture content in their leaves is marginal too and may cause the 'eater' to vomit.")
Barrel Cactus Don't go for those tall stories about lopping off its golden head and finding water-- the cost in energy outweighs the yield. Besides, the living barrel is more useful as a compass- it leans to the south.
Brittlebush Drab and dull most of the year, in the spring it bursts into a golden flame of flowers that light up entire mountain flanks. See the fine detail of the bright yellow flower.
Century Plant It may not take a century, but this agave will save its life energy for one climactic burst of growth. It blossoms, disperses seed, and dies. Take a close look at its well-engineered form which can hold precious water
Cholla Respect the cholla. Its balls of barb-spiked needles will seem like they jump out and attach to your body (the movement of air adjacent to one seems to be enough to launch them into flight). They will not let go. Carry a hair comb for flicking them off. Other types grow chains of fruit
Globe Mallow It's bright orange bulbs provide a nice complement to all those darn yellow flowers. Look for its pale purple cousin.
Hedgehog Cactus The hedgehog's magenta flowers are my favorite spring time indicator.
Manzanita Far away it looks pliable and green. As you try to bushwhack through a thicket, you realize its copper tinged branches are steel tough.
Oak Not exactly your somber gentle giant of the east, these oaks are bent and gnarled under the strain of western wind, heat, and general scorn.
Poppy So bright, it almost smiles. Also comes in an orange flavor.
Saguaro Stick out your arms (only if you are older than 75) or curl up in their embrace. They grow alone and in clumps. Sometimes they appear confused. Others have been cross bred with broccoli. See more of a 'technical' description as well as the excellent resources and photos from Saguaro National Monument on The Life Cycle of the Saguaro Cactus.
Ocotillo Technically not even a cactus, because it has leaves, the Ocotillo spreads its spindly arms across the sky. See what Reg Manning has to say about it.
Pin Cushion You almost might step right over this little fellow; it thrives in rock wedges where you cannot imagine finding a place to root.
Staghorn Cholla Many branches of the staghorn cholla grow in crazy directions- usually the flowers are yellow but this red variety grows in my yard. See closeup of pollen grains on the flower.
Prickly Pear Flower A closeup view of the bright yellow flower on one of the most common cactus varities, Opuntia

CRITTERS..... who make it their home
Timber Rattlesnake Even if you've never heard it, the sound of a disturbed rattler reverberates instinctively chills up and down your spine.
King Snake Red on black don't look back... I always get it wrong!
Collared Lizard Black collars make for formal desert wear.
Desert Owl This careful desert citizen has built a home in a mature saguaro located near a housing development.
Bear (feet) Prints I saw a large brown bear scavening berries on the Mogollon Rim north of Pine, but did not get my camera out quickly enough. I did find his large foot prints nearby.
Hummingbird A gizzilion beats per minute go their tiny wings.
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flits among the Indian Paintbrush