Life at dessert - Printable Version
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Life at dessert - ky04y0u - 05-23-2011 10:36 AM
About Plants & Animals in the Desert
Plants ranging from cacti to wildflowers grow in the desert, and numerous animals survive the extreme conditions. In North America, desert climates cover much of the Southwestern United States, which supports a number of flora andfauna species. Plants in the desert have adapted to the arid heat by storing water, growing long roots and staying dormant when little or no water exists. Desert-dwelling animals avoid the extreme temperatures by being active only at dusk and dawn, being nocturnal, migrating to higher elevations in the summer or living much of the time in underground burrows.
*.The saguaro cactus is found in California and Arizona; it grows as high as 50 feet and can live for over 200 years. As many as a dozen species of prickly pear cactus grow inthe Southwest, with its fruit providing nourishment for many animals such as the javelina. The barrel cactus grows up to 12 feet high and is protected by numerous sharp spines. The hedgehog cactus is smaller, and its flowers depend on hummingbirds for pollination.
*.The desert paintbrush can grow as high as 16 inches and flowers from April through August. The yellow beeplant, which is attractive to bees, has been used by Native Americans as a source of Vitamin A and calcium. The ghost flower acquired its name because you can almost see through its petals. Dogbane and datura are two poisonous wildflowers in the desert. Other wildflower species thatbring the desert to life with their colorful blooms include: Apache plume, desert chicory, dune sunflower, wooly daisy, desert globemallow, fairy, duster, monkey flower and Spanish needles.
*.The mesquite tree is the most common tree in the North American desert; it comes in three types---honey, velvet and screwbean mesquite. The mesquite sheds its leaves each year and produces a bean pod that people and animals can eat. The taproot of the mesquite can be longer than the tree's height because the root reaches deep into the ground searching for water. Cottonwood trees grow up to 60 feet tall, and their presence often indicated nearby water to the early settlers. Ponderosa pines typically flourish where rainfall is less than 20inches a year; some ponderosas are over 1,000 years old. The elephant tree, California fan palm, Joshua tree and desert willow also grow in the Southwestern deserts.
*.Javelinas, also called peccaries, are America's only native wild pigs.
They weigh up to 60 pounds, have sharp tusks and live in groups in desert terrain. Desert predators include the bobcat, gray fox, coyote, black bear, and even the jaguar, which has a small population in southern Arizona. Jackrabbits, pack rats, kangaroo rats and gophers are common prey for meat-eaters. The nine-banded armadillo needs the warm weather of the desert to survive due to its low percentage of body fat. It eats insects, fruit and vegetables, and can swim or walk along the bottom of bodies of water; its protective shell keeps it safe when attacked.
*.The seven-foot long western diamondback rattlesnake is a venomous reptile that eats rats, miceand chipmunks in the desert. Golden eagles and roadrunners prey on these snakes. The Gila Monster is a venomous desert lizard; its glands allow toxins to flow into the lizard's mouth as it chews its prey. Chuckwallas, iguanas, collared lizards and horned lizards live in the desert as well. The desert tortoise, a plant-eating reptile, cannot swim; it only goes to water to drink and spends the majority of its time underground.
Tips & Warnings
*.Desert USA web site