By Kate Wallace
Nature lovers can rejoice as Mother Nature continues to work her magic in the Sonoran Desert in the summer months, offering up vibrant desert blooms for visitors heading to the Southwest. The stretch of winter rains earlier in the year helped pave the way for a rich, verdant spring in Arizona. The last blooms to join the lush desert landscape are cactus blossoms, which are usually at their peak in May and June. There is no shortage of trails to wander and catch a glimpse of these colorful cactus blooms which signal the start of summer.
BOYCE THOMPSON ARBORETUM
Just east of Mesa, at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, visitors can walk the state park’s gardens and keep eyes peeled at the tops of saguaros, where the beautiful silk-like white blossoms pop open in bunches. The saguaro cactus is one of many plants in Arizona protected by the Native Plant Protection Act. With a living collection of more than 800 cacti, blooms representing all colors of the rainbow can be viewed on display here. ag.arizona.edu/bta
DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
Hedgehog cactus blooms come in vibrant shades of fuchsia and deep purple and line the walking trails at Desert Botanical Garden. Through late May, ocotillo blossoms offer up a scarlet display across the garden, which is nestled into the foothills of Papago Park. Prickly pear cactus blossoms are also on display through late May. Orange, yellow and even purple flowers set the tasty fruit, which ripens later in the year. Experts are always on hand to answer questions about the unique flora found in the Sonoran Desert. Be sure to plan your visit during their Music in the Garden series through June 24. dbg.org
USERY MOUNTAIN REGIONAL PARK
East of Mesa, at Usery Mountain Regional Park, a wild display of cacti can be found in the 3,500-acre park bordered by the Goldfield Mountains. Nearly 30 miles of trails offer different perspectives from low to high vantage points, all lined with hundreds of species. Pay close attention to the cholla cactus flowers, which begin in mid-May and last until late August. Summer rains will prompt the barrel cactus to bloom by mid-June. Guided hikes focus on the colorful display including the park’s Saguaro Blossoms Walk (9 a.m., May 7). maricopacountyparks.net
For information on these and other desert flora programming during the summer months, head to visitmesa.com.