My new book Dawn Comes Early takes place in Arizona Territory. When Kate Tenney first arrives she hates the dry, barren land, but nothing is what it seems at first glance. Beauty—whether we’re talking about the desert or people—often reveals itself slowly and only when we look for it. Today, I want to take you on a desert tour through Kate’s eyes.
Arizona State Flower: Saguaro
The tallest cactus in the world, the saguaro can grow to almost seventy feet. It also has a long life and doesn’t sprout arms until seventy-five years or older. Night blooming white and yellow flowers appear April through June. Pollinated by bats, the blossoms have a waxy feel, fragrant aroma and are sturdy enough to hold a bat’s weight. The flowers will turn into ruby fruit by summer.
If you fall in a cactus patch, you kin expect
to pick stickers.
This cactus grows red, yellow or purple flowers. The plant spreads along the ground and ranchers often used them as living fences. The plant kept man and livestock from crossing over.
Ranchers also burned off the spines during droughts and fed the water-filled pads to livestock. Flowers bloom April through June and produce edible fruit.
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
The last cactus to bloom in the calendar year, orange, red or yellow-green flowers appear in July or August. Indians used the spines as fishhooks .
It’s commonly believed that the Barrel Cactus holds water and can save stranded travelers from dying of thirst. This is a myth. It actually contains alkaline juice; drinking it could give you the trots and possibly hypothermia.
Surprise is a near-sighted porcupine
fallin’ in love with a cactus.
This spiny plant grows red tubular flowers and its honey-scented nectar attracts hummingbirds. The plant sheds leaves during dry spells to preserve water and grows leaves during rain.
This cactus was also used as living fences by ranchers to keep out man and beast.
Century Plant (agave)
Consider yourself lucky if you come across one of these in bloom. So called because they bloom “once a century” the plant actually lives for about twenty-five years.
It blooms only once but the flowering spike grows so large and so fast it saps the energy from the plant, which then dies.
In the book Kate has an unfortunate run-in with cactus. Anyone have a cactus tale to share?
Available in Print and Ebook