Spring in the desert is a gorgeous display of contrasts, with lush vegetation and colorful flowers blooming against the hard edges of a rocky landscape, punctuated by the sharp spines of cacti in a seemingly endless array of shapes and sizes.
One of the best places to see this display of natural springtime exuberance is at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, a hidden oasis in the Sonoran Desert east of Phoenix, Arizona. After a rainy season, the creeks are lined with fresh green growth, and the gardens showcase plants from arid environments all over the world.
The vibrant flowering cactus are striking on a sunny day, in shades of yellow, pink, and red, surrounded by spines. The varied texture of desert vegetation is eye-catching too, and while studying these forms in the warm desert light, I spotted a pale green spider who seemed to have evolved to match the cactus on which it hid.
Even the lizards darting across nearby rocks were colorful, matching the shades of pale green, blue, pink and yellow of their environment.
The arboretum has some unique historical sites, relating to the original development of the land by Boyce Thompson as a winter home in the early 1920s. The gentle walking trails that meander through the park pass a manmade lake, historic structures, and informs the story of the property becoming a center for propagation, research and education in the late 1920s.
A springtime visit to the deserts of the Southwest is highly recommended, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is a wonderful place to explore the rich biodiversity of desert species at the peak of their seasonal beauty.