Not Everything In The Sonoran Desert Has Thorns and Spins   Leave a comment

Star Fern & Ressurection Plant-72Star Ferns and Ressurection Plants On the Bluff Trail Above Sabino Creek — Image by kenne

Most people think of the desert as being a hot, dry and barren place which is totally inhospitable to the likes of ferns, mosses, and leafy plants.  Nonetheless, all the above-mentioned species thrive here in the Sonoran Desert. There are many varieties of ferns growing in the desert climate. The desert ferns are true xerophytes (a plant that has adaptations to survive in an environment with little liquid water, dry loving).  These ferns have evolved several strategies to thrive in our warm, dry climate here in the southwest.  They can shrivel and go dormant for many months, they begin life in rock fractures and other moist sheltered areas that provide a microclimate for early growth. Other characteristics of desert ferns are reduced surface area (small leaflets), leathery leaflets, thickened leaf margins, waxy, hairy or fuzzy coatings, and scales on stems. Does this sound like some of the water-saving adaptations of other desert plants?  You bet! We’ve heard about these adaptations for many other desert plants such as creosote, mesquite, ocotillo, Brittle Bush, so why not the ferns too? (Debbie Bird, Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalist)

The plants at the top of the above image are Selaginella lepidophylla is a species of desert plant in the spikemoss family. Known as a “resurrection plant”, it is renowned for its ability to survive almost complete desiccation. During dry weather in its native habitat, its stems curl into a tight ball, uncurling only when exposed to moisture.

— kenne

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