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A Very Unofficial Guide To Arizona Plants

This year marks the 11th year that I have lived in Arizona
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We have spent a lot of the time here out in the desert four wheeling and hiking. I have many names and references for the different cacti and plants in the area. Some of my names for the cactus might even be semi-official, but I will leave that to you to find out.

Saguaro Cactus

(See Also:Saguaro Cactus on Wikipedia)

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The Saguaro Cactus is the cactus that everyone thinks of when they think of Arizona. I have to tell you though, they don’t usually have just two arms. They usually have tons of arms all the way around. I really would like to know where the idea of them only having two arms came from! They grow very slowly,  so any time you see a tall cactus you can tell that they have been around a long time! We have been lucky enough to find this extremely tall saguaro cactus out in the desert. Our estimate is that it is over 50 feet tall. (The girl standing next to it is about 5’1″.) Amazing!

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Jumping Cactus or “Teddy Bear” Cholla Cactus

(See Also:Teddy Bear Cholla on Wikipedia)

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From far away these cactus look cute and fuzzy. Closer up, you can tell that all of the fuzzy-ness is extremely prickly-ness. Also if you look close up, at the bottom of these cacti (and a few feet away from it!) there are lots of loose balls of pokery that can blow around and will literally “jump” onto anything that moves within a few feet of it. Anyone that walks around the desert regularly can tell you that at one time they have had one of these jump onto their shoe or skin. We find them on our truck tires pretty often and try to get them off before they decide to take off onto us! Having pliers, tweezers or two sticks is usually the easiest method of pulling them off of things.

Paddle Cactus or Prickly Pear Cactus

(See Also:Prickly Pear Cactus on Wikipedia)

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These cacti are interesting looking, and very tasty! Here in Arizona you can find Prickly Pear Candy, Jelly and Drinks. The Queen Creek Olive Mill has a great Prickly Pear Lemonade that I have been craving lately! I love the different shapes that the paddles of this cactus sometimes form into. Not only do they look like paddles but sometimes you will see them shaped as mittens or hearts. Check out my Arizona Valentine’s Day Card Printables here. They feature a heart-shaped prickly pear paddle that I photographed last weekend while we were out in the Jeep.

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Ocotillo Plant

(See Also:Ocotillo on Wikipedia)

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I only know the real name for this cactus because there is a main street near me named Ocotillo as well as many other places. This interesting looking plant looks dead most of the year, but sometimes it blooms and is green with beautiful orange flowers at the top of each of it’s branches.

Barrel Cactus

(See Also:Barrel Cactus on Wikipedia)

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There are a few different kinds of barrel cacti that we see in Arizona, but my favorite looking ones are the ones with the neat fish-hook spines. They are curved like fish-hooks but also textured so that they feel like the bumpy side of a zip-tie. These can grow tall, but there are many small ones around too, usually hiding out around the rocks just waiting to bite you. My favorite picture of a barrel cactus was the main picture above, it looked like an Easter Egg as we were driving by. It’s one Easter Eggyou don’t want to put in your basket though!

Other Arizona Plants

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There are many many other cacti and plants in Arizona, I only touched on a few of my favorite pokey ones. Be careful with any random bushes or plants you may see while you are out in the desert. Many of the plants look like regular bushes (like the one pictured above) and then as you get closer or go to trim it you find that it too has thorns everywhere. It’s the same story with tumbleweed (dead or living) and many other weeds, decorative plants and trees. The desert tries to protect itself, so you should do the same by always looking out for spikes and pokey plants. Other than the dangerous plants and creatures in the desert it is a beautiful place full of neat things you can look at and find and great four-wheeling and hiking trails. 11 years after moving here I still love exploring new places and finding different things to do outdoors here, as long as it’s not 112 degrees!

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Great Places to Visit in Arizona:

Papago Park in Tempe

The Queen Creek Olive Mill

Sedona, Arizona


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