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 Desert Plants at DesertPlants@cals.arizona.edu.

Recent Submissions

  • Piman Indian Historic Agave Cultivation

    Dobyns, Henry F.; Newberry Library (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988)
    The lands occupied by northern Piman Indians yet display remains of old ways of life, the hallmark being ruins of massive "casa grande" style architectural complexes within puddled adobe walled compounds. Vestiges of "rockpile" fields occur on desert bajadas that seem to have little potential for traditional hispanic or anglo agriculture. Evidence has accumulated that critical population pressures once exerted heavy demands on the food supply in this region, with resultant internecine strife and competition, the massive walled architectural complexes functioning as defensible storehouses for food that was harvested from the resource area controlled or exploitable by the inhabitants. The rockpile fields were used for agricultural production of the sweet foodplant Agave, using an innovative technology that made use of agriculturally marginal land (see Desert Plants Volume 7, pp. 107 -112, 100). The European encounter of Pimans occurred to the south long before it occurred to the north, at a time when ways of life were rapidly changing. A rare glimpse of southern Piman life about 1613 by Rev. Andrés Pérez de Ribas presents an historic picture of Agave cultivation by people living in houses with massive puddled adobe walls. This Piman way of life at that time in the southern region is altogether consistent with the vestiges of what seems to have been the same lifestyle in the north. Old World diseases brought a general collapse of Native American populations; the pressures that generated casa grande style architecture, earth defensive walls, and Agave cultivation in Piman territory diminished, a terminal date for the complex more likely to have been after A.D. 1613 than the traditional date of "Classic Hohokam" demise about A.D. 1450. Introduction of Old World cultivars high in sugar (melons, peaches, apricots, quinces, pears, apples, sugar cane) also reduced Piman demand for sweet pulp of Agave. Watermelons were already substituting as a functional equivalent of Agave by 1698 among northern Pimans. Both the casa grande style ruins and the rockpile fields were abandoned by the time European civilization reached the northern Pimans. Both have been classified as "Hohokam" by archaeologists, using the plural of the Piman language word meaning "all used up" or "defunct."
  • Nitrogen Fixation in Desert Legumes

    Crosswhite, F. S.; Crosswhite, C. D. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988)
  • Freshwater Islands in a Desert Sand Sea: The Hydrology, Flora, and Phytogeography of the Gran Desierto Oases of Northwestern Mexico

    Ezcurra, Exequiel; Felger, Richard S.; Russell, Ann D.; Equihua, Miguel; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; University of Arizona; University of Washington; Instituto de Ecología (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988)
    The Adair Bay pozos (water holes) are small artesian springs scattered along the saltflats of the Gran Desierto near the coast of the Gulf of California in northwestern Sonora. The pozos provide essential fresh water for the rich bird fauna and some of the mammals, and were also utilized earlier by native people. The Gran Desierto aquifer appears to consist of sand and gravel deposited in ancient river beds which were subsequently overlain by dunes. Toward the coast, the alluvial aquifer becomes confined, or buried, beneath the relatively impermeable clays of the saltflats. These clays act as a barrier which causes artesian pressure to develop within the underlying aquifer. Pozos appear to develop at locations in which the permeability of the clay is increased, possibly by desiccation cracking or by flocculation due to ion exchange. The hypothesized existence of a buried fluvial system may explain the occurrence of clusters of pozos in some saltflats and their absence in many others, i.e., pozos only occur in saltflats with an underlying waterway. Alkali Weed (Nitrophila occidentalis) is the first plant to colonize places where the aquifer has broken through the overlying clays and reaches the surface or near the surface. This plant is a good indicator of fresh water. Coyotes seek fresh water in these places. Such action of coyotes and perhaps other animals seems to be related to the formation of smaller pozos. Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) is the second plant to colonize a pozo and larger oases are colonized by a more diverse flora. The flora of the pozos is markedly different from that of the rest of the Sonoran Desert, both in life -form spectrum and geographic origin. The pozos support 26 species of vascular plants, many of which show temperate affinities. Several members of this flora are new geographic records: Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum in the Apocynaceae), new for Sonora and the Sonoran Desert; Lythrum californicum in the Lythraceae, new for Sonora; Greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus in the Chenopodiaceae), a new generic record for Mexico. The pozos are island -like relicts of the delta of the Colorado River. With the delta ecosystem now virtually destroyed, the local extinction of any wetland species in the pozo flora will most probably not be followed by new immigrants of the same flora, but by introduced weed species such as Salt Cedar (Tamarix ramosissima). The species -area relationship of the pozo flora is similar in value to that for other island ecosystems, although the exponential parameter (z = 0.263) is significantly higher than Preston's "canonical" value and the scale coefficient is significantly higher (k = 0.75) than those for other small island ecosystems. The species richness of a pozo is nearly four times higher than that of dry terrestrial islands of comparable size. Based on a projection of a biogeographical model fitted to the floristic richness of the pozos, we estimate that the original flora of the Colorado River delta supported 200 to 400 species of wetland vascular plants. Most of these populations have met local extinction with the destruction of the delta ecosystem of the Colorado River earlier in this century.
  • Editorial - The Moral Element in the March of Science, Technology and Agriculture

    Crosswhite, F. S.; Crosswhite, C. D. (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988)
  • Sesbania-Rhizobium Specificity and Nitrogen Fixation

    Abdel Magid, H. M.; Singleton, P. W.; Tavares, J. W.; King Saud University; University of Hawaii (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988)
    The compatibility of potentially nitrogen fixing associations between ten Rhizobium strains and six Sesbania accessions (species) was studied under glasshouse conditions. The rates of N₂ (C₂ H₂) fixation (u moles C₂ H₄ /plant/h) were determined. The various Sesbania accessions responded differently to inoculation with the strains tested. The ANOVA test revealed that there are real accessions (P = 0.01) and strains (P = 0.05) differences. In general the results obtained indicated that the highest mean rate of N₂ (C₂ H₂) fixation and the highest degree of compatibility with strains under test was shown by Sesbania bispinosa (accession BA12). Sesbania grandiflora (accession GL 2.02) ranked next. The performance of Sesbania pachycarpa (accession PCI), Sesbania macrantha (accession MNI), and Sesbania sesban (accession SBIO) in the N₂ (C₂ H₂) assay is lower than that of accessions BAI2 and GL2.02, thus indicating the possibility of lack of compatibility between these three accessions and almost all of the Rhizobium strains studied. Plants of Sesbania rostrata (accession RSI) produced either extremely low or no ethylene (C₂ H₄) quantities in the N₂ (C₂ H₂) assay thus indicative of high specificity or that this legume is not promiscuous at all. However, inoculated and fertilized Sesbania rostrata performed quite satisfactorily and formed profuse N₂-fixing nodules on roots and stems when grown in potted soil under Central Saudi Arabia climatic conditions. The results obtained indicated high variability among treatments in nodule number.
  • Desert Plants, Volume 9, Number 2 (1988)

    University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1988