North America has four major deserts: Great Basin, Mohave, Chihuahuan and Sonoran. Though all are defined primarily by their aridity, their different temperature and precipitation patterns have created distinctly dissimilar biotic communities. The Sonoran Desert as currently defined covers approximately 100,000 square miles and includes most of the southern half of Arizona, southeastern California, most of the Baja California peninsula, the islands of the Gulf of California, and much of the state of Sonora, Mexico. It is lush in comparison to most other deserts. Two visually dominant life forms of plants distinguish the Sonoran Desert from the other North American deserts: legume trees and columnar cacti. It also supports many other life forms encompassing a rich spectrum of some 2,000 species of plants.The amount and seasonality of rainfall are defining characteristics of the Sonoran Desert. Much of the area has a biseasonal rainfall pattern, though even during the rainy seasons most days are sunny. From December to March frontal storms from North Pacific Ocean occasionally bring widespread, gentle rain to the northwestern areas. From July to mid-September, the summer monsoon brings surges of wet tropical air and frequent but localized violent thunderstorms.
The Sonoran Desert prominently differs from the other three North American Deserts in having mild winters; most of the area rarely experiences frost. About half of the biota is tropical in origin, with life cycles attuned to the brief summer rainy season. The winter rains, when ample, produce huge populations of annuals. Courtesy of (http://desertmuseum.org/)
The mission of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 98-acre museum and zoo founded in 1952 and located in Tucson, Arizona. It contains a museum and two miles of walking paths on 21 acres and is one of the most visited attractions in Tucson. The facility combines the attractions of a zoo, museum, and botanical garden, with a focus on the plants and animals that live in the Sonoran Desert. (Wikipedia)
The following points-of-interest can be found in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:
Our five hours strolling, photographing, and examining cacti—well spent. Enjoyed our time here, but ever so thankful to have gotten an early start and arrived at the 7:30 a.m. opening. By the time we left on this hot March afternoon, masses tromped along the paths, children darted among the cacti, and these two desert visitors were more than happy to sit in the cool of the Ocotillo Café.Learn more about the Sonoran Desert’s “Big Green Giant” in next week’s post. We’ll visit the Saguaro National Park west of Tucson.
Thanks for perusing the cacti with us. Don’t forget you can view additional images at Cheryl’s Digital Photography, under botanical gardens.An excellent website for museum history can be found at: http://www.americantowns.com/az/tucson/organization/arizona_sonora_desert_museum