Desert color in Saguaro National Park comes in waves. Dependent on the season, the desert’s flowers and color palates change. The Sonoran Desert environment of Arizona’s Saguaro National Park is dependent on the abundance or paucity as well as timing of the past year’s winter rains, the altitude of your viewing location in either the park’s East or West divisions, and your visit’s timing match to the key species in bloom. Visit Tucson’s Saguaro National Park during the Southwest’s desert bloom season, and you’re certain to encounter the pleasure of at least one species, whether tree, cactus, succulent, or wildflower, in memorable bloom.
When to visit for flowers
The Tucson region and the national park’s spring wave of blooms, traditionally yet always dependent on factors of nature, begins in mid to late March. Then, with good reliability, April and May bring the remarkable cactus flowering season. The hot, summer months of June through September, although very dependent upon summer rains and elevation, also harbor a variety of plants with flowers in bloom.
Saguaro National Park’s Desert Flowers PDF informs and warns, indicating, “Remember, Saguaro National Park has some flowers in bloom virtually every month of the year and visitors can expect to see at least three flowering seasons. However, it is impossible to predict the timing or extent of blooming of showy desert flowers.” Nature isn’t subject to human schedules, but her compelling and inspiring treasures of desert blossoms make human patience and effort truly worthwhile.
With a bit of luck
If nature cooperates and fortune abounds, what might be expected at Saguaro National, in Tucson, and the surrounding Southwest region? Nature can offer eloquent arrays of spectacular color against dramatic extremes of desert starkness.
The early season is when the yellow gold of brittlebush blossoms against its silver foliage spring forth. In that same mid to late March window, the orange of globemallow and the yellow of gold poppy can create breathtaking views.
Transitioning onward, the airy pink of fairy duster and elegant, green canes of ocotillo waving red blossoms bring fresh hues of color to the Sonoran Desert, vibrantly accompanied by the brilliant magenta of hedgehog cactus flowers. With the yellow petals of brittlebush fading, April and May bring their own waves of colors. The yellow of brittlebush is replaced by golden umbrellas of blossoming branches enhancing the green bark of palo verde trees. As the season warms into May, the striking blossoms of prickly pear cactus open, the multiple colors of flowers on different species of cholla cactus emerge, and the unique white blossoms of stately saguaro cactus open. Additionally, there is the snowy white of yucca blossoms, the red of hedgehog cactus species such as claret cup and strawberry; all are accompanied by the creamy yellow of mesquite trees in flower.
The final, hot summer season brings rarities like the moonlight white of night-blooming cereus accompanied by the eye-catching, bright yellow of the region’s numerous barrel cactus in bloom.
North America’s largest cacti, the majestic saguaro, is an iconic image, and they are found only in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, southeastern California, and Sonora, Mexico. When its white blossoms open, the giant saguaro is a truly memorable and inspiring sight. Saguaro National Park has two divisions, one to the east and one to the west of Tucson, that protect the unique saguaro and its environment. A visit to Saguaro West’s Tucson Mountain District adds the chance to view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. Travel to Saguaro East’s Rincon Mountain District offers a scenic, not-to-be-missed auto/bike tour, the Cactus Forest Loop Drive, for wonderful viewing of giant saguaros combined with Sonoran desert plants against the beauty of the Rincon Mountain range.
Nearby viewing locations
Saguaro National Park is a premiere location to view the Sonoran Desert’s elegant blooms, especially the ivory white blossoms of the giant saguaro. However, there are additional, nearby locations to view the colorful blooms and flora of the Southwest. Explore the article, “Five, top locations to enjoy elegant blossoms in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert,” to learn more details on nearby, accessible locations that include Tucson’s award-winning Tohono Chul Park and its world-famous Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
To get information on going further afield in search of desert flowers, go to the Desert Wildflower Reports at Desert USA. Additionally, at DesertUSA, there is an online Wildflower Field Guide designed to help identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region, and common name.
View the slideshow, “Blooms from Saguaro National Park,” that accompanies this article for desert views and desert blooms specifically from Saguaro National Park. Then, for views of desert blooms from more diverse locations in Tucson and the Saguaro National Park’s Southwest region, go to the slideshow, “Desert Color.”
Delight in desert wonders
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” Be patient and take the time to find, observe, and delight in the remarkable beauty of Saguaro National Park’s mountains, trees, wildlife, as well as its plants and extraordinary flowers. Take time to wonder and enjoy Saguaro National Park’s wild blossoms and its inspiring Sonoran desert in remarkable bloom. You’ll be rewarded with the truth of Emerson’s further declaration, “The earth laughs in flowers.”
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel and Recreation as well as National Education and Industry materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively in retirement as photonaturalists and writers. One is a retired research scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other holds a graduate degree in humanities and is the former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.
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