We have been staying in southern Arizona for 3 months for the 4th year in a row. Where we live is part of the Sonoran Desert. It is fantastic place. It is what keeps us coming back.
According to A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert it contains 100,000 sq. miles according to the current definition of what constitutes a desert. In any event it is big.
Usery Regional Park where we spend a lot of time contains about 120,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert. This is really just a small part of it. The park is part of the Maricopa Municipal Park system, the largest such system in the United States.
We have often gone on guided walks with Ranger B from Usery Park. He said that when he first appeared in the Sonoran Desert after living in Wisconsin he thought he had landed on another planet. I know what he means. I had the same experience when I first saw the Sonoran Desert and compared it to Manitoba. It was a different world. All the plants and all the animals were so different.
On one of our guided walks, Ranger B asked us what was the toughest thing in the desert. One person said the Gila Woodpecker, another said the rattlesnake, one said mountain lion, and another said coyotes. Ranger B disagreed. He said in his opinion the the toughest thing must be a plant. Plants of the desert are very tough. The animals can move. They can find shady spots when the sun is hot and a warmer spot when it is cold. Plants are stuck in one place. They have no choice but to adapt. If it is 120 °F that is just too bad for the plant. It must accept that for it cannot run away or hide.
There are about 2,500 plant species in the Sonoran Desert and many of them are extremely tough. Otherwise they would not be able to survive here.
The Sonoran Desert has the greatest biodiversity of any of the 30 (or so) deserts of the world. That is because it has more precipitation than most deserts and the granitic soils are permeable and hold water well. It also has mild winters. Some deserts get very cold in winter. It is also blessed by having 2 rainy seasons, one in summer and one in winter. This diversity is quite visible in Usery Park. Looking at the desert from inside that park makes one appreciate the variety of plants. Vegetation is not as sparse as one might expect.
This is from San Tan Mountain Regional Park, another park we frequently visit.
Ranger B explained that this year this year however it received a lot less rain than normal and to make things even worse, with higher than normal temperatures. That is not a good combination for deserts. He said in his 15 years here he has never seen the desert so stressed. That is really bad for a wild flower guy like me. It is the worst wild flower season he has seen in 15 years and it might the worst ever. That is how dry and hot it has been. Great for tourists; not so great for wild flowers. This is a big disappointment for me, as I love to photograph wild flowers.
In extremely dry years plants do not even issue forth leaves, let alone blossoms. The roots lie dormant and wait for better years and thoughts of reproduction are tamped down until the good times return.
Meanwhile wild flower photographers like me gnash our teeth.