Great Southwest Nature Factbook

Illustrations: Robert Williamson
Alaska Northwest Books, 1992

Nature facts about the southwestern U.S., from A-Z

A treasure trove of facts about nature in the Southwest, from “Ants” to “Zion Canyon.”  –Tucson Daily Star

Buy two copies: one for at home and another for your car. You’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know about our own region. — Las Cruces Sun-News

From the book:

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), a shrub of the hot deserts, is also called “coachwihp” for its bare, 8- to 15-foot-long stems. But within 48 hours after a rain, the slender, thorny branches, now sprouting a fuzzy covering of small, green leaves, no longer look like coachwhips. While the soil is moist, the plant transpires and photosynthesizes with abandon; as soon as the soil dries out, ocotillo sheds the leaves until the next rain. The remaining green stems, slightly succulent and covered with a thick, water-resistant cuticle, photosynthesize enough to keep the ocotillo alive.

Each late spring, dense spikes of fiery red, tubular blossoms flame at the end of ocotillo’s long stems, attracting hummingbirds and other nectar-feeders. The Tohono O’odham (Papago) of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona ate the sweet flowers like candy and rubbed the yellow flower stems on their cheeks for rouge. …