ARE Logo

Biotic Communities

of Arizona

Arizona Roadside Environs Home
AZ State Road Map
MRESI Workshop
Schools
Researchers
Contact Us

Sonoran Desertscrub

Sonoran desertscrub covers much of central and southern Arizona below about 3500 feet. Most of the plant species in this community have migrated north from the very warm, dry regions of Mexico. The most distinctive plant of this desert is the beautiful saguaro cactus. Much of the Sonoran desert receives considerable rainfall in the winter as well as the summer resulting in an exceptionally well-vegetated and diverse landscape, especially for a "desert". Unlike most other desert communities which are dominated by low shrubs, the Sonoran desert is characterized by truly large cacti and tall tree-like shrubs. In addition to the stately saguaro, other cacti include teddy-bear and chain fruit cholla, the striking organ pipe cactus, and barrel cactus. Mesquite, ironwood, and palo verde are common "trees" found in this desert.

The Sonoran plant life supports an equally diverse and interesting fauna. One of the more distinctive inhabitants of this desert is the collared peccary or javelina. These pig-like animals roam the arid country in large bands of from 10 to 20 animals. They can survive up to six days without water, and when surface water is scarce they can find what they need in the pads of the prickly pear cactus. Amazingly, the spines of the cactus do not injure the animal's digestive system. Reptiles, numerous birds, and other mammals are common in the Sonoran desert as well. Some characteristic birds include the Gila woodpecker, greater roadrunner, cactus wren, several hummingbirds, and the curve-billed thrasher. Lizards and snakes may be seen scurrying among the cacti and shrubs. These include the large Gila monster, the diamondback rattlesnake, the desert spiny lizard, and the desert iguana. Mammals include coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, kit fox, kangaroo rat, the mentioned collared peccary (javelina), and mule deer.


Other Biotic Communities Biogeographic Regions
Webmaster