Desert Plants is a unique botanical journal published by The University of Arizona for Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum. This journal is devoted to encouraging the appreciation of indigenous and adapted arid land plants. Desert Plants publishes a variety of manuscripts intended for amateur and professional desert plant enthusiasts. A few of the diverse topics covered include desert horticulture, landscape architecture, desert ecology, and history. First published in 1979, Desert Plants is currently published biannually with issues in June and December.

Digital access to this material is made possible by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum, and the University Libraries at the University of Arizona.


Contact College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Publications at pubs@cals.arizona.edu.

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Recent Submissions

  • Desert Plants, Volume 24, Number 2 (December 2008)

    Curtin, Charles G.; Global Climate Change Collaborative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2008-12)
  • Desert Plants, Volume 33, Number 2 (January 2018)

    Verrier, James T.; University of Arizona Herbarium (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2018-01)
    The Santa Catalina Mountains are located in Pima and Pinal counties in southeastern Arizona. The study area is defined as approximately 259,000 acres (104,813 hectares) or 405 mi2 (1,048 km2), spanning an elevational gradient of 6,457 ft (1,968 m). Located on the northwestern edge of the Madrean-influenced sky island complex of southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora, highly diverse plant communities range from Sonoran Desert to subalpine forest. A total of 380 days of field work were conducted between 2007–2017, including extensive exploration of the remote east side of the mountains. The vascular flora includes 1,360 taxa in 127 families and is currently the largest of any range in southern Arizona. Non-native plants are represented by 167 taxa and comprise 12.3% of the total flora. The three largest plant families are Asteraceae, Poaceae and Fabaceae, with 213, 187 and 107 taxa respectively. Euphor-bia, Muhlenbergia and Dalea are the largest genera with 24, 22 and 16 species. A total of 375 taxa are found on lime-stone or dolomitic substrates. There are 69 historically collected taxa that have not been seen or collected in 55 years, which are excluded from this checklist. New additions to the vascular flora are vouchered at the University of Arizona Herbarium. A checklist of 169 non-vascular plants from 36 families, based on over 1,150 collections from 18 national herbaria, is included. The floristic diversity of this sky island represents nearly a third of the entire state flora, while occupying less than half a percent of the state’s area. Geographic location, elevational gradient, geological diversity, and a high percentage of species found at the edge of their ranges contribute to the rich diversity of this unique mountain range.Monsoon storms cover the west side of the range.
  • Desert Plants, Volume 34, Numbers 1-2 (July 2018)

    Bertelsen, C. David; University of Arizona, School of Natural Resources & the Environment and Herbarium (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2018-07)
    Since 1984 I have recorded all flowering plant taxa along a five-mile canyon route that climbs 4158 ft (1267 m) to the summit of Mount Kimball in the Santa Catalina Mountains of southern Arizona. In this flora of vascular plants in the Finger Rock Canyon Watershed, I describe the study area and its six vegetative associations, then discuss the impacts of drought, non-native species, and fire. The annotated flora, primarily based on data collected through 2017, includes information on abundance, distribution, vegetative associations, elevation where found, and months and years blooming. To investigate the effect of elevation on species richness and flowering duration, I divided the trail into five segments, approximately one mile (1.6 km) in length, and have focused primarily on an area about 30 ft (9.1 m) on either side of the trail. The phenological data collected is summarized for each taxon seen flowering from 1984-2017. The flora currently includes 615 specific and infraspecific taxa in 363 genera and 84 families. Although the watershed includes only about 0.6% of the area of the Santa Catalina Mountains, approximately 45% of the known flora of the range has been found here. This is particularly remarkable considering the area I have surveyed on foot is only about 7% of the watershed and less than 0.06% of the entire range.
  • Name Changes for Legumes Used in Southwest Landscapes: Acacia, Caesalpinia, Lotus, and Sophora

    Johnson, Matthew B.; Univ Arizona (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)
  • Cultivation of Ocotillo from Seeds to Flowers: A Ten Year Experience in Northern Italy

    Ceotto, Enrico (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)

    Felger, Richard Stephen; Carnahan, Susan Davis; Sanchez-Escalante, Jose Jesus; Univ Arizona, Herbarium (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)
    A checklist is provided for the vascular plants of the Guaymas region of western Sonora. This region encompasses 532,000 hectares (1,314,600 acres) where the southern Sonoran Desert transitions from subtropical thornscrub. This flora includes 820 native and non-native taxa in 113 families and 471 genera. There are 97 non-natives established in the flora area, 27 of which are grasses. Nineteen taxa are endemic to the flora area.
  • Habitat Preference of Three Parasitic Orchids Occurring Sympatrically in an Arizona Sky Island

    Verrier, James T.; Univ Arizona, Sch Plant Sci (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)
    Detailed habitat information for the holomycotrophic orchids, Corallorhiza maculata, C. striata, and C. wisteriana, was recorded from multiple sites in the Santa Catalina Mountains, southeastern Arizona. This study was initiated to see if there are predictable associations with host trees. Over 1,400 flowering stems were observed from 244 microsites at 10 localities across a 305 m elevational gradient, and within an area of 7 km2 (700 hectares). While C. maculata showed a preference for southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis), C. striata associated with white fir (Abies concolor) and bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum). White fir and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii var. glauca) were the preferred associates of C. wisteriana. Orchids were found at microsites along lower slopes at up to 45% inclinations and generally 3-24 m above the slope base. Nearly all sites were north facing with moderate to thick leaf litter. A third of all microsites had no forbs or graminoids associated with orchid clusters, confirming the obligate association with primarily conifers. The local distribution showed a pattern of niche partitioning, with the three species occurring in similar habitats but depending on different host trees. Although C. striata and C. wisteriana associated mainly with white fir, C. striata favored habitat with more nutrient-rich soils.
  • A Mycoheterotrophic Orchid, Tomentelloid Fungi, and Drought in an Arizona Sky Island

    Verrier, James T.; Univ Arizona, Herbarium (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)
    A large population of the fully mycoheterotrophic orchid, Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii, was monitored for nine years, 2009—2017, in the Santa Catalina Mountains of southeastern Arizona. High elevation slopes were chosen for an unusually high density of plants. Orchid stems were counted annually, and the number of flowering stems steadily decreased by 78% during the first seven years (2009–2015) in drought conditions. Following a partial return to average rainfall on the seventh through ninth years, the number of stems dramatically rebounded on the eighth and ninth years. Overall the total number of flowering stems decreased by 35% during the study. Precipitation from the previous winter and summer strongly correlated with the number of flowering stems observed. Years of extreme drought, with less than half of annual averages, resulted in a decline of flowering stems for two consecutive years, even when the following year had average rainfall. Two years of near average rainfall resulted in an increase on the second year. Orchid numbers were observed to fluctuate as its endophyte was dynamically affected by changes in annual precipitation. This study highlights the need for research on the impact of drought to ectomycorrhizal fungi and affiliated plant species.
  • Desert Plants, Volume 8, Number 2 (1987)

    Bowers, Janice E.; McLaughlin, Steven P.; Office of Arid Lands Studies, University of Arizona (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1987)
  • The Monte and Chaco Regions of Argentina

    Johnson, Matthew B. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2015-10)
  • The Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Desert Legume Program Expedition to South Africa

    Johnson, Matthew B. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2015-10)
  • A Day in the Syunt-Khasardagh Zapovednik of Turkmenistan

    Feldman, William R. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2015-10)
  • Down Under The Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Desert Legume Program Expedition to Australia

    Johnson, Matthew B. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2015-10)
  • Desert Plants, Volume 31, Number 1

    Johnson, Matthew B.; Feldman, William R. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2015-10)
  • The Arizona Hedgehog Project

    Siegwarth, Mark D. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014)
    An intergovernmental agreement was signed on August 26, 2008 between the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA) for the Arizona Hedgehog Project. The project was to transplant individuals of the Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus or AHC) from the US Highway 60 ADOT project area to Boyce Thompson Arboretum and conduct a 5-year research study on the AHC to learn more about how to increase success of future salvage efforts. In addition, the project included the development of interpretive/educational materials including printed materials and signage to explain the project to the more than 75,000 annual visitors who visit the Arboretum. The transplant sites at the Arboretum offer an excellent opportunity for informing the general public, adults and children alike, about the importance of conserving the Arizona hedgehog and other endangered species. As stated above, the Arizona Hedgehog project is comprised of two distinct but overlapping parts: the physical movement of the plants to Boyce Thompson Arboretum and an extended study of transplantation success. In brief, we first evaluated the plants in situ at the US Highway 60 ADOT project location, then removed the plants and transported them to BTA. Although there were to be two different plantings, fall and spring, delays and fewer than the expected number of AHC needing salvage mandated that all plantings be done in the fall. Finally, we evaluated the success of the transplants over a 5-year period. This was essentially an observational study. Germplasm was shared with other researchers, which will provide additional information.
  • A Genus Treatment for Acacia from Legumes of Arizona: An Illustrated Flora and Reference

    Ebinger, John E.; Seigler, David S. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014)
  • Oman Botanic Garden: A Unique Desert Botanic Garden in the Making

    Oliver, Ian B. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014)
    The Sultanate of Oman is an old sea-faring country located in southeastern Arabia. The coastline of Oman is approximately 1750 km long. It extends from the Musandam peninsula in the north of the country, which includes the important sea-lane of the Straits of Hormuz, to the border with Yemen in the south. Neighboring countries are the United Arab Emirates to the north, Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the south. The Sultanate has a free market economy. Oil and gas are its biggest drivers. However, because of the realization that the oil reserves will not last forever, one of the initiatives is to capitalize on tourism. Scenically, Oman is an extremely beautiful country; it offers everything from pristine beaches and fascinating rugged mountains where terraced agriculture is practiced very successfully, to rolling red desert sands that stretch as far as the eye can see. Then, in the south, there is the unique escarpment of the southern mountains of Dhofar, whose seasonal mists attract vast numbers of tourists in the height of the season every year. In 2012 Oman was voted one of the world’s top tourist destinations. It is a country where one can still see the real Arabia without too much glitz and glamour. The best time to enjoy its unique beauty and attractions is from November through mid- April. These are the coolest months of the year. Climatically, Oman is a hot country. Typically summers along the coastline and in Muscat can reach a maximum of 48°C and may be unbearably humid during the months of August and September. Inland temperatures may exceed 51°C. The higher mountainous areas can reach 32°C in summer. Winters, which are generally from late November till mid-March, are cool and mild with rain falling mainly in January. Maximum winter temperatures in Muscat do not normally exceed 25°C and the minimum temperature is around 8°C. The higher Hajar mountains (2800 m - 3000 m) experience freezes (-3°C) and occasionally receive light snow in mid-winter. The annual rainfall in Muscat is approximately 120 mm. Tropical cyclones are rare but in recent years have caused severe damage along the coast and inland as well - for example, Cyclone Gonu in June 2007. The Oman Botanic Garden project was promulgated by Royal Decree in 2006. The GPS coordinates for the garden are North 23° 33’ 35.65’’ and East 58° 07’ 50.95’’. The garden is a first for Oman and for the Gulf region as a whole, as it will focus almost entirely on the native flora of this country alone. The Oman Botanic Garden nursery is tasked with growing all the plants needed for this massive undertaking. In addition to native Omani plants, the plants of the ancient agricultural terraces will also be cultivated and displayed: Damascus roses, citrus, deciduous stone fruits, pomegranates and date palms. Most of the deciduous fruit trees and roses grown in Oman are cultivated on the cooler mountain terraces and irrigated using the ancient falaj (water canal) system. Some of these working falaj systems are hundreds of years old—the canals are constructed of stone and mortar. The more modern falaj are built of block and cement. All falaj work on gravity and the keeper of the canal ensures that equal amounts of water are allocated on a daily basis to those who own plots on the agricultural terraces. The garden is situated northwest of the capital city, Muscat, on 420 ha of nature reserve. It is within easy reach of the international airport (20 minutes) and the main Sultan Qaboos Harbor (45 minutes). Arid, undulating topography, interspersed with seasonal wadi systems (intermittent streams), is fairly common on the Oman Botanic Garden site. Lower hill slopes are covered mainly in Acacia tortilis. To the south and west, one can make out the Western Hajar mountain system.
  • Right Under Our Noses: The Role of Floral Scent in Host Detection for a Solitary Specialist Bee

    Carril, Olivia Messinger (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014)
  • Desert Plants, Volume 30, Number 1

    University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014
  • Neotropical Savanna Grasslands

    Brown, David E.; Makings, Elizabeth; Arizona State University (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2014-01)

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