With the Thanksgiving holiday comes out of town guests, family and friends looking forward to treasured traditions and some blessed Arizona sunshine. So what’s with this prediction of rain? I’m here to tell you that receiving rain this time of year is a blessing you might add to your list. Because of our mild winters and our bi-seasonal rainfall the Sonoran Desert supports about 2000 different plant species, 60 species of mammals, 350 kinds of birds, 20 amphibians, 100 reptiles species, and 30 native species of fish. If we only received the summer monsoons we would not enjoy this tremendous variety of plants and animals. The torrential rains of the monsoons are referred to as las aguas or “the waters” by Sonoran Mexicans, while the more widespread and gentle rains of winter are called las equipatas or “little packages”. Remember about two weeks ago we had that nice rain? Have you walked in the desert since? The brittlebush shrubs and the creosote plants have transformed. During the blistering summer heat they drop their leaves, and in a torpor-like state of dried sticks, they hunker down and wait for just a bit of rain. With their shallow and wide ranging root systems, these plants can extract water from soil that we might call dry. Just enough rain to wet the top inch of soil will revive drought tolerant plants and allow them to cloak themselves in fresh new leaves. The rains that fall between October and December also bring about the germination of the annual wildflowers. The seeds of these plants may wait for years for that perfect set of conditions, not too hot or too cold with a good rain. With the convergence of these requirements the seeds coating the desert floor sprout, and the tiny leaflets hang on in hopes of another damping or two that will carry them into spring. When the weather warms, they flower and set seed creating the colorful carpets of wildflowers. This plant life provides sustenance for a wide range of wildlife that responds with increased breeding carrying on the pattern of abundance. The currents of La Nina are prevalent again this year boding another dry winter. So no complaining if rain happens to fall on our holiday. You can always put out a bucket or two and harvest some sweet nitrogen rich rainwater – and give thanks for the gift.
Thanks to A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert for the facts in this article.