The Desert Botanical Garden

Chihuly SculptureI visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ this past week for the first time. My old friend Gerry Moore from Millville dropped by for a short visit, and he had wanted to make sure this was on our list of destinations.

Admission is not cheap – $22 per ticket; however, Liz was able to pick up a pair of complimentary tickets courtesy of our local public library.

I had a difficult time paring down the images for this gallery, as I took close to a hundred pictures. Of course, I had to use the Chihuly sculpture that graces the entrance. For the gallery I selected images that are a bit different from the cacti I can photograph all day long in the local desert.

It was a perfect day for the trip, temperatures were still in the low 90’s after the recent rainstorm that cooled the valley off – albeit in exchange for higher than normal humidity.

The Garden is huge, and continually expanding. Even at $22 a ticket, it is well worth the visit. The flora exhibited encompasses desert plants from all over North, Central and South America. Cactus are unique to the Western Hemisphere, their closest counterpart being Aloe-like plants from Europe, Asia and Africa.

The most common specimens were Aloes and Agaves. Both are succulents, and adapted using similar forms but with different approaches for survival.

I never realized how many types of Agave there were – so many ways to experiment with tequila!  Both Agaves and Aloes grow in the familiar shapes, but there are also trees. But only Agave has been turned into liquor – and one has to only but admire the ingenuity of the person that looked at that plant and said to himself – I can make liquor!

Almost the entire Agave plant can be used for sustenance in one manner or another – not including tequila.  The roots are toxic, but can be made edible if roasted for three to four days – how hungry was the person that discovered that?

One section of the Garden is devoted to local habitat, and featured the local tribes that resided in this region – the Apache and the O’odham. The native peoples discovered methods to exoist and thrive in an inhospitable environment, finding food sources in the most unlikely places.

Many cacti are edible, or have edible parts. They are sources of hydration for both tanacious wildlife as well as hungry humans. Usually hugh in anti-oxidants and vitamins – with a good source of Saguaro fruit and Barrel Cactus, one does not require water in the Sonoran desert.

With certain exceptions (such as the Sahara, the Mohave, and Antartica) most deserts are not barren landscapes. Deserts are areas with lower than typical rainfall, where plants and animals have adapted. Foliage will lay dormant, waiting to take advantage of any precipitation and blossoming almost immediately after a rainfall.

Cactus store water in the raint season for use during drought. The trees have adapted, also.  The Palo Verde and other trees with gree trunks use the bark in lieu of leaves to generate sustenance from sunlight. Leaves are smaller, increasing productivity. Roots are shallow, in due to the rock and clay earth beneath.

At the Garden, the diversity of desert trees and succulents was apparent, displaying nature’s will to adapt and survive. For instance, the Saguaro are uniquely desiged to grow in the Sonoran Desert, and will not grow elsewhere. It reinforces the fact that no matter how hard man works to destroy the environment through greed and callousness, life will find a way. As a species, Homo sapiens might surely find a way to self-destruct, life itself will continue.



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