Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Located approximately between Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona is the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This 4-story structure is one of the largest native structures found in North America and was left empty around 1450 C.E. It is such an important archaeological site that President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 designated it as the first prehistoric and cultural reserve created in the US.

Woody plants here include Mesquite, Ironwood, Palo Verde and Creosote. Other interesting plants you may find here include Wolfberry (Lycium exsertum), Battle Saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa), Triangle-Leaf Bursage, (Ambrosia deltoidea) and Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina), Carelessweed (Amaranthus palmeri), Scarlet Spiderling (Boerhavia coccinea) and Cuman Ragweed (Ambrosia confertifolia).

Non-native species include the ubiqutious Asian mustard (Brassica tournefortii) and Redstem Filaree (Erodium cicutarium).

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Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro cactus is the largest cactus in the United States and enduring symbol of the southwest. It often uses Desert Ironwood as a nurse plant as protection from the sun and flash floods. At only six feet tall, it might be 70 years of age, and can live to be as much as 200 years old. Found only in the Sonoran Desert, it is an important food source for Sonoran Desert wildlife, including birds, javelina, coyotes, rodents and many others. Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers excavate holes in Saguaros for nests and once abandoned, provide nesting habitat for Elf Owls, House Finches, Purple Martins, Screech Owls, various species of sparrows and many others. Hawks build nests amongst the "arms" which may be used by other avian wildlife such as Great Horned Owls, Ravens and others. The fruit of this plant was a very important food source for the Papago and Pima indians who also used the ribs of dead plants as tools and for roofing. The fruit is still sourced today for jam and wine.

Saguaro Cactus in the desert
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