This New Year’s morning I put on multiple layers of clothing and headed out early to walk up the mountain with the dog. (29 degrees here this morning!) Not early enough, because when I stopped tromping and stood to listen, engines rumbled from the boulevard below. But I also heard the wind riffling through the branches of a big old creosote, as though the plant was whispering to me. This hardy desert native murmured about hundreds of years of sunrises witnessed from the rocky promontory, and of surviving up to two years with no water, of enduring searing summer temperatures, and surprising desert freezes. The creosote heralds rain in the monsoon season, permeating our air with a musky evocative scent, and its roots loosen the soil for rodents whose burrows provide homes for lizards and insects and funnel precious rain to the plant. Larrea tridentata is the most drought tolerant perennial in North America, and the single most widely used medicinal herb in the Sonoran Desert. The O’odham people say it was the first plant created. You bug people will be interested to learn that 60 species of insects are associated with the creosote, with 22 species of bees feeding only on it’s flowers. There is lots more cool information about the creosote in The Natural History of the Sonoran Desert, a Arizona Sonora Desert Museum publication.
But to hear one whisper you have to get out there real early and listen carefully.