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More on Mesquite. Night-blooming Cereus cactus. Oak trees of the Sonoran Desert Region. Ocotillos and the Boojum.

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Sacred Datura — pretty, poisonous, and hallucinogenic. Saguaro Cactus Icon of the Sonoran Desert. Should the Acuna cactus receive Federal protection?

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Spectacular flowers of the Red Torch Cactus. Staghorn and Buckhorn Cholla Cactus. The Old Man and the Totem Pole. Tucson invaded by popcorn flowers. Yuccas provide food, fiber, and soap. There are two species in Arizona: Proboscidea parviflora has white to pink flowers and Proboscidea althaeifolia has yellow flowers. The flowers are about one inch wide.

The plant grows to about two feet high and up to six feet wide. The foliage is sticky and bad-smelling. Young, tender pods can be boiled for food and have the consistency and taste of okra. Dried seeds can be eaten raw or crushed into mush. The roots were used as a treatment for arthritis and consider by some to be a good liver tonic.

The outer covering of the pods turns black when dry. It differs from the wild type in two important ways. The cultivar has claws up to a foot 30 cm long with softer fibers. The longer, softer fiber in the domesticated claws are easier to work with.

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Secondly, the seeds of the cultivar are white instead of black, and lack germination inhibitors. While seeds of the wild type must lie in the ground for a couple of years before they will germinate, the white seeds sprout as soon as they get wet in hot weather and are thus easier to cultivate. This is one of the few plants domesticated north of Mexico, and this seems to have been accomplished only late in the last century.

There is a theory that the introduction of cattle was the catalyst. Among the saved seeds was a variant with longer claws and white seeds. Chocolate lovers, how would you like to have a garden filled with flowers that give off the fragrance of chocolate or cocoa? Other names for this flower are chocolate daisy, lyreleaf greeneyes and green-eyed lyre leaf.

The chocolate flower is native to the southwestern U. It often grows in grasslands and along roads.

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  • The flower itself is about one inch in diameter with yellow petals and a dark brown to reddish-brown center. The whole plant grows one- to two feet high. The flavorful and fragrant part of the plant are the brown stamens in the center. The chocolate flower is a night bloomer. The flowers give off their chocolate scent in the morning but as the temperature rises, the petals close or drop and the fragrance recedes. The underside of the petals with its maroon stripes over the yellow background is even more colorful than the bright yellow petals that face outward.

    As the temperatures rise, the yellow flowers will begin to turn white. The petals will close or drop off, leaving the center of the flower surrounded by a green, cup-shaped calyx. It is at this stage that the reason for the other common name, Green eyes, becomes apparent. The calyx will fade to a soft tan and flatten, allowing the light chocolate colored seeds to easily drop to the ground or to be dispersed by the wind or birds. According to the U.

    It readily reseeds itself, making it a desirable addition to wildflower meadows or informal garden areas. The ray petals roll up lengthwise in the heat of the day so it displays itself best in the early morning. Some American Indians used the chocolate flower to alleviate stomach problems. There are claims that the smoke from dried, burned roots will calm a nervous condition and in some cultures, inspire courage. They also used the flowers to flavor food.

    The Night-blooming Cereus cactus Peniocereus greggii is now hiding among desert shrubs which provide shade and physical support, but it will soon make itself known some time during late May to early July. The cactus stems are thin, barely succulent and often few in number.

    The stems rarely get over three feet high. They grow from a root, a large, starchy tuber, that can weigh over 40 pounds. If stems are eaten by desert critters such as packrats, new stems sprout from the root. Some synonyms for its name are Arizona queen-of-the-night, sweet-potato cactus, and deer horn cactus. Although the cactus itself is inconspicuous, the flower is spectacular. The flower is bright white and up to three inches in diameter with very long floral tubes and a strong, sweet scent that attracts sphingid moths which are the main pollinators.

    Some people say the scent is like vanilla. The flowers close up soon after sunrise. It is virtually invisible most of the year, but on a few nights it becomes stunningly conspicuous. Plants in each population bloom in synchrony; large ones can produce a score of flowers at once. The legend is that they all bloom on a single night per year. Reality is almost as intriguing: each plant produces only three to five flushes of flowers between late May and early July. During each flush most of the flowers open on one night, with a few stragglers the night before or after the big bang.

    Archaeologist Julian Hayden had a plant in his Tucson yard that was over 8 feet tall and perhaps twice as wide. Its great tangle of stems produced flowers on one night and another on the following night. The flowers are cross-pollinated by hawk moths Sphingidae which fly hundreds of yards between plants in their search for the nectar reward.

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    The cactus fruit turns red when ripe, attracting birds that eat the pulp and disperse the seeds in their droppings. The root is used medicinally to treat diabetes and other maladies. According to the US.

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    This tribe presumably uses it in a manner similar to Native Americans of Nevada who ingest an infusion of the roots as a cardiac stimulant. Other Native Americans have used a decoction of the roots for diabetes, the seedpods mixed with deer fat as a salve for sores, and the cut slices of root as an externally applied cure for chest colds.

    The fruits, flowers, young stalks, and roots have been eaten for food. See more photos at ASDM digital library here. Sacred Datura Datura wrightii , widely known as Jimson Weed, is blooming and will continue into late summer. This perennial plant occurs from central California to Texas and Mexico and into northern South America. The pretty, lily-like white flowers can reach up to six inches long and three inches wide. The dark green leaves are sticky and can give off an unpleasant odor when crushed.


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    The whole plant can reach five feet tall and several feet wide. Datura has a large tuberous root which allows the plant to survive cold winters that may kill the above-ground foliage. One of them is scopolamine, a common ingredient in cold and nausea remedies. Shamans in various cultures have ingested datura to induce visions. This is one of the most dangerous plants used for this purpose, because not only do individual plants vary in potency, but humans also differ in their tolerance to the toxins.

    Hawkmoths pollinate the flowers and lay eggs on the foliage.