Give Me The Simple Life

Linda Burton posting from Phoenix, Arizona — Why do cactus plants have thorns? I always thought it was to protect them from being gobbled up by hungry desert animals. But in studying the plants and animals of the desert in which Phoenix sits, I’ve read that those thorns, or spines, have evolved over time as a water-saving adaptation. It’s a matter of living simply.

The beautiful Sonoran Desert is a lesson in simplicity, in paring down to the essentials. It’s about taking what you have and making the best use of it; adapting in a practical and simple way.

Consider the saguaro (suh-WAH-row), the trademark of Arizona, a “tree” that can live for two hundred years and grow as tall as fifty feet. How does it survive scorching desert heat, frigid nights, precious little rain? It’s a “water tower” – a storage tank that can hold gallons and gallons of water. As it expands and grows, every branch, or arm, adds to its storage capacity.

And the saguaro doesn’t exist just for its self. It provides a home for much desert life. Woodpeckers and flickers peck out nesting holes in the saguaro, making a new home every year. It’s a safe place for raising babies, and it doesn’t hurt the saguaro, because it heals itself by growing a shell around the injured tissue. When the next year comes, the woodpeckers and flickers make new holes, but their old nests make good homes for other birds, bats, pack rats, lizards, insects and spiders. Talk about recycling!

There are many opportunities for observing desert life in Phoenix, from residential yards to the incredible Desert Botanical Garden, 145 acres housing more than 50,000 plants. Five trails get you up close and personal with cacti from around the world, and exhibits highlight desert wildflowers, conservation, desert plant adaptation and ethnobotany. On top of that, it’s simply a beautiful place to be.

It’s open every day till sunset from October through April; attend Music in the Garden on Fridays from 7-9, and watch for special events such as the current spring butterfly exhibit, continuing till May 13. Just off E McDowell Road on N Galvin Parkway, near Papago Park and the Phoenix Zoo.

Kids, read 101 Questions About Desert Life by Alice Jablonsky; everyone, learn more about the Sonoran Desert at the Center for Sonoran Desert Studies: