February may have been the “season of love” but us locals are in love with Tucson every day of the year! Always wondered why Tucsonans are so loyal to their city? Read on to discover why we love where we live!
With well above the national average of sunny days, the Tucson weather is sure to keep a smile on your face! Yes, of course, we do get tired of the sun during those 110+ degree summer days but the increased Vitamin D we receive makes us that much more excited and grateful once the rains start. Also, (though us locals will argue with you that it is still grueling), it’s a dry heat.
Photo: Lauren Belcher
Monsoons! Quickly you will find out that it is all that locals can talk about during the summer months. Monsoon season brings in afternoon storms which provide a reprieve from the sweltering hot days as well as much needed water to desert flora and fauna. Winter rains are also highly anticipated, dusting off the desert and allowing for multiple growing seasons. Speaking of seasons, did you know that we actually have five instead of four? These summer and winter rains allow for animals and plants to not only survive, but thrive.
Photo: Liz Kemp
3. Outdoor Activities for Days
Hiking? Rock climbing? Camping? We’ve got it all. Surrounded by five mountain ranges, the Rincon Mountains, the Tucson Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Santa Rita Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains, Tucsonans are avid outdoors people. What makes it even better is that our city is in the middle of the two districts of Saguaro National Park!
Photos: Lauren Belcher
4. Stingrays to Saguaros
Oh, you thought the desert was dry and desolate? Although the Sonoran Desert may be known for its dry climate, the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) and the water that flows through it are critically important and the primary reason the Sonoran Desert has been named the “lushest desert on earth.” In need of a beach day? Tucson is only four hours away from the nearest beach in Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point).
The Sonoran Desert (where Tucson is located) has an incredibly rich diversity of pollinators. A hub for entomologists (people who study insects), the Sonoran Desert has more than 750 species of bees alone – that’s a lot of opportunities for pollination! By moving pollen around from flower to flower and plant to plant, these perfect pollinators are performing vital and often unappreciated roles as the most important group of pollinating animals on earth!
Photo: Glenn Seplak
6. Wildflower Season
All those bees, butterflies, beetles, and more are connected to our incredible diversity of plants. The spring flowering season here in Tucson peaks “from mid-March to late April depending on rainfall and temperatures during the growing seasons (Phillips et. al).” Look for pops of neon yellow, pink, orange, and more brightening up the desert floor!
Photo: Jay Pierstorff
Snakes, tortoises, and lizards- oh, my! Remember how we mentioned that the weather affects everything that we have in the Sonoran Desert? Well, we also have an incredible biodiversity of reptiles from low-elevation whiptail lizards to montane rattlesnakes.
Photos: Robert Leaver, Jay Pierstorff, Rhonda Spencer, & Lauren Belcher
8. Dr. Seussian Plants
Dr. Seuss must have found inspiration from plants here in the Sonoran Desert. From boojums (which resembles an upside down carrot) to the Queen of the Night plant to the palo verde (which translates to green bark) tree- our plant biodiversity is astounding and a rich paradise for botanists!
Photos: Lauren Belcher
Ever been to the desert when it is raining and take a deep smell of that intoxicating aroma? The “smell of rain” is actually from one of our favorite plants: the creosote. Watch this video to enjoy a spring shower! Trust us, you’re going to wish this video had smell-o-vision.
One of the most iconic symbols of the Southwest and found exclusively here in the Sonoran Desert, the saguaro is a large, tree-like columnar cacti that develops branches (also called arms) as they age. With a lifespan of 150 to 200 years in the right growing conditions, it is incredible to stand next to a 50 foot tall saguaro and think of everything it has “seen” throughout the years. Recently it’s become “in vogue” to love cactus and we are here. for. it.
Photo: Jay Pierstorff
The sunsets here are too incredible to describe. Imagine deep jewel purples and pinks to highlighter yellow and oranges. W.O.W. Our sunsets are one of the best (not biased at all) visual experiences of your life. Add a “saguaro-scape” silhouetted in front of the sunset and ‘muah’- absolutely perfect. If you have yet to experience a Sonoran Desert sunset, come visit us ASAP and come see what the hype is all about!
Photo: Miguel Vigil
The Sonoran Desert may seem harsh and unforgiving at first with its high temperatures, plethora of cacti, and seemingly lack of water, but let us assure you, it is one of the most breathtaking and serene places that you will ever visit and is sure to leave an imprint on your heart. Though at this time you may not be able to physically visit the Museum, please follow our social media pages (@desertmuseum) for fun tours, live videos, and more! We hope once we reopen, we will see you real soon.
Tell us in the comments below, what is your favorite part of the Sonoran Desert?
Written by ASDM Media & Marketing Specialist: Lauren Belcher
Phillips, Steven John, et al. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. University of California Press, 2015.