Did you know that every spring, typically in March and April, the Sonoran Desert is home to a brilliant display of coruscating colors and native flora? Skyline Regional Park is a perfect place to enjoy nature’s boundless ability to flourish in different environments. Here are some of the sensational blooms of wildflowers, trees, and cacti you can experience at the park:
Saguaro blossoms are the state wildflower of Arizona. Saguaro cacti are the oldest living giant in the US, which can grow up to 40 feet tall. Requiring a lot of time to grow, their first arms won’t appear until 50-75 years of age. They can also absorb up to 200 gallons of water in a single rainfall. The roots of this cactus can take 55 years to develop and extend up to 4 feet around the base of the plant. If you see a Saguaro in bloom, it means that the cactus is approximately 35 years old. As their crowning splendor, their flowers can grow to 3 inches in diameter and have a robust smell of an overripe melon. Another fun and interesting fact, if you want to see these beauties when they flower, you’ll need to catch them quickly! The flower itself blooms for less than 24 hours, opening at nighttime and remaining open through the following day.
As part of the sunflower family, this oval, bright yellow and brittle stem shrub is well known throughout desert habitat. Blooming typically in the spring months after winter rains, the Brittlebush can survive for nearly two decades in native soil. Their silver green leaves have a hair-like or fuzzy appearing coating that protects them from cold and heat, as well as trapping water for the plant. Not only is this shrub beautiful, but it’s useful as well. Cowboys once used their woody stems as toothbrushes, and other known uses for the plant are glue, varnish, and incense.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The prickly pear is well known for its eye-catching flowers. Depending on the species, their bright and showy blooms can be yellow, pink, purple, or red and are cup shaped to attract pollinators. Just as the name suggests, this cactus produces a spiny flavorful pear-like fruit in the late summer and is a major food source for Desert Tortoise, Iguanas, and other lizards. Also edible to humans, with a light sweet flavor, people often make jelly or wine from the fruit too.
Having several names, such as Slimwood or Desert Coral, this odd-shaped plant is common throughout the desert Southwest. During dry season, Ocotillo often looks like a bunch of brown brindle sticks which appear dead, but after a spring rain the leaves reappear down its long spindly branches, and clusters of bright reddish orange flowers blossom from the top. A favorite amongst hummingbirds and carpenter bees, the plant also has a long history of many uses by native groups. The flowers were eaten raw, or soaked in water to make a refreshing drink, or even hardened in the sun to make a rock-like candy. The Apache used the roots to ground into powder for medicinal properties, and the seeds were dried by the Cahuilla to grind into flour for mush. The Tohono O’odham tribe used the branches for building shelters, and their thorns for piercing during initiation rites.
An evergreen shrub that blooms several times a year with small bright yellow flowers, Creosote is arguably one of the most distinct plants due to the lovely pervasive fragrance it gives off after rainfall. Found all throughout the Desert Southwest, by biomass, it is the most abundant and arid plant in the Sonoran Desert. This interesting plant clones itself and is known to be an extremely efficient user of water with its own root system and is one of the most drought tolerant species in North America. As one of the oldest living organisms in the world, The King Clone Creosote ring in the Mohave Desert can be dated back almost 12,000 years. The Creosote Bush provides some important ecosystem features in the desert, like shade and shelter for smaller mammals, while supplying 60 different insects, (including 22 bee species), food and nutrients that only feed off the Creosote blossoms.
Also known as Indian Paintbrushes, resembling an appearance similar to clover, they are an annual herb which produces dense inflorescence pinkish purple flowers from March to May. These clusters of blooms provide nectar for insects, including some endangered butterflies throughout regions in California. The roots of this plant will grow into the root structures of other surrounding plants in order to get nutrients.
Famous for illuminating entire valleys on the West Coast with their bright yellow and orange “cups of gold.” Sitting atop their feathery and fern-like foliage, poppies are a large colorful contributor to the spring wildflower bloom. Declared as the state flower of California, it is also found natively throughout the western states. Opposite of the Saguaro blooms, the petals on the Poppies exhibit nyctinasty behavior, or what is described as “sleeping.” This means they close at night and open in the morning sunlight and remain closed during cloudy days.
Living to over 100 years, the flowers that appear on the very top of the cactus only bloom after many years of the plant’s life span. The flowers typically bud in April with an orange or bright yellow flower, though less frequent color varieties of pink and red do exist. Late summer rains can also produce a late bloom, and as the flowers wilt, small green fruit may form which can last up to an entire year. Although a fruit producing cactus, this one is not commonly consumed due to its bitter taste.
Also known as plumeseed, this plant can easily go undetected until the large white flowers with violet stripes underneath appear in late spring. This annual plant grows to roughly 20 inches high and resembles a dandelion when the fluffy plume like seed head emerges. Desert Chicory is part of the sunflower and daisy family.
As its namesake suggests, the Ironwood is an iron-like champion of desert conditions. Their roots penetrate far deeper than any other plant found in the Sonoran Desert, which allows them deep access to moisture. Its wood is extremely hard and dense, so much so, that it will sink in water. In late May the tree showcases a massive array of gorgeous purple flowers, that for the next several weeks, will attract thousands of insects and birds for feeding and pollinating. Its heavy canopy provides shade and sanctuary to many desert species and has been known to increase bird habitat by more than 60%. Called a “nurse plant,” other plants have been found starting their growth underneath, and mammals use the large trees for forage and cover as a place to give birth to their young. This gentle giant of the desert not only provides for the flora and fauna, but Native Americans have used the roots, leaves, bark, and seeds for a large variety of medicines, shelters, and tools through the centuries.
When calling Teravalis “home,” residents will also enjoy all these beautiful species throughout the community. As a nod to our natural surroundings, our first village that is anticipated to open in 2025 will be called Floreo – meaning “to bloom” in Latin.
Teravalis is primed to be a 37,000-acre premier master planned community located in the West Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, in Buckeye, Arizona. Translating to “land of the valley,” Teravalis is positioned between the White Tank and Belmont Mountain ranges and is committed to preserving the natural High Sonoran Desert beauty. Utilizing innovative technology and sustainable planning, the community will feature unparalleled amenities and wide-open spaces to explore and discover. Teravalis is a community of Howard Hughes®, known for its mission to curate vibrant communities that elevate the everyday, creating meaningful moments in great places where people can live their best lives – and thrive for generations to come.