Deserts have an unfortunate reputation of being sandy wastelands where nothing grows. In truth, many deserts actually have both animal and plant life.

During the past year, I have spent considerable time in desert areas around Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. Not one of these desert areas was devoid of plant or animal life, though it does sometimes take care and patience to discover life in these deserts.

Photo: Barrel cactus

Barrel cactus

At this time, I am camped in the desert in southwest Arizona. All around me is plant life. While it is true that the rocky plateaus have few plants, there still are some. The washes though, where the water channels during infrequent rains, are home to a healthy collection of creosote, palo verde, saguaro cactus, barrel cactus, and sometime prickly pear cactus.

After spending a bit of time in this area, punctuated by frequent hikes, I am not only able to identify the various plants that grow here, but can often recognize individual plants that I have seen in the past.

The fact that these plants are able to grow in such a difficult environment is amazing. Each plant has its own unique adaptation that allows it to survive, reproduce, and grow even in a harsh climate.