Desert Messenger

December 5, 2012

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Page 12 Desert Messenger celebrates the Arizona Centennial with Voices from The Past in Quartzsite, AZ Excerpts from ���In the Shadow of Saguaros��� by Rosalee Oldham Wheeler Quartzsite - Where the Saguaros reach the sky Back in 1938, I spent my ���rst winter on the desert near Quartzsite, and was fascinated with all the unusual plants, animals, birds, and rocks. Yes, rocks which was one of the reasons my husband���s family sought out the desert as a relief from the cold and snow in Flagstaff. And yes, the rock they were enamored with was gold. The men folk kept busy from sunup to sundown searching for gold nuggets at our Jack of Diamonds placer claim while I explored the beautiful desert around camp. I had fallen in love with the desert and everything about it, especially the sunrises and sunsets. The jagged mountain spires framed the deep-yellow sun as it slipped behind the peaks; however, it was the silhouette of the majestic saguaros that cap- DEADLINE is WED. Dec. 12 for DEC. 19TH issue of the Desert Messenger Email: Phone: 541-218-2560 tivated me. It seemed like we had an army of saguaros erect as sentinels on the ridges of the hills above our camp along the La Paz Wash. No two saguaros were the same in height, girth, number or size of arms, nesting holes, and other unusual features. I was mysti���ed at where they grew, or of more interest, where they did not. It almost seemed like the more inhospitable and rocky the environment the bigger and healthier those saguaros grew. I liked that, adversity could make plants, animals, and humans stronger. Come late spring when the desert was bursting in color, Charles announced it was time to go ���back up the hill��� to Flag. Under the shadow of these stately saguaros, I had made friends with the local critters as I shared our leftovers with birds, rabbits, and even an elusive coyote. I had taken notice of where the saguaros grew when we drove across the desert and crossed over the Colorado River. Not one saguaro stood on the California side of the river. It almost seemed like the river was a barrier to these stately giants Several years later, while bragging to Ray Wright, the Extension Agent for Yuma County 4-Hers that saguaros DECEMBER SPECIAL! 100 WATT SOLAR SYSTEM Only $38500 With a 10 amp Morningstar Charge Controller, 1 set of flat mounts w/hardware, 30 ft. 10/2 U/V solar wire. Want it installed? Add $9900 M & S Solar Electric -5 Open 9 Closed ys Sunda We accept SOLAR SYSTEM & INVERTER INSTALLATION / REPAIR credit cards! Drive 22 miles south for HUGE savings only grew on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, he very nicely put me straight. Mr. Wright told me that saguaros were indeed native to the Sonoran Desert regions of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora, ���But��� he said, ���There are a few places just across the river in California where saguaros grow���. He said one was not too far from Quartzsite, up in the Whipple Mountains about eight miles north of Parker Dam. He told me of another location where his family had picnicked near a colony of saguaros in the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge on the California side of the Imperial Dam. I pulled out my map and could clearly see that the river made a wide curve into Arizona, but was still a part of the Sonoran Desert. So, I learned that saguaros only grow in the warm Sonoran Desert range but does not give a hoot about which side of the river that range is in. Of course, it is possible that saguaros may have been uprooted and replanted in other than the Sonoran Desert, but state law in Arizona makes harming a saguaro in any manner illegal. Special permits must be obtained if it becomes necessary to move a saguaro when houses or highways are built. In 1939, we became year-round residents of Quartzsite and my fascination with saguaros grew. I kept an eye out for unusual saguaros as we roamed the desert searching for good places to park our honeybee hives so they could gather nectar from the many desert blossoms. It always seemed like wherever the saguaros grew, that was good honey country. I liked the idea that saguaros were an Arizona native especially when I learned that in 1901 its beautiful, 3inch-wide, creamy-white waxy blossom with golden yellow centers was named the ���ower of Arizona Territory. During May and June saguaros bloom in clusters around the top of its main trunk and at the tip of its various arms. Blossoms open during the cool of the December 5, 2012 evening and close again by the next midday. In 1931, the saguaro blossom of���cially became the State Flower of Arizona. Our honeybees were more interested in gathering pollen than nectar from the blossoms of the saguaro although many other insects frequently visit the fragrant blossoms for nectar. During the night the lesser long-nosed bat sips nectar from the blossoms and is a very important pollinator to the saguaro. The Gila Woodpecker and Flickers are primarily responsible for the holes we see in saguaros. Woodpeckers make a new nest-hole every year with last year���s nest being occupied by insects, lizards, and the tiny Elf Owl. Red-tailed hawks and the Harris hawk build large nests of twigs at the base of major arms. The saguaros that inhabit the mesas overlooking Alamo Lake are often the preferred nesting site of Bald Eagles. Before 2003, it had been my great pleasure to bring visitors to one of Quartzsite���s true monuments, the 47arm saguaro. Maybe we should not have given that magni���cent saguaro so much attention, and I do not know if anyone knows why but, one-by-one, it began to shed its many arms. It could have been too many visitors tramping around her shallow root system posing for photographs, as I myself often did. Perhaps the Arizona Drought Emergency of 2003 was partially to blame. Whatever the cause, the great 47-arm saguaro of Quartzsite passed into history. Biologists believe that some saguaros may live over 200 years but if you go out to visit the dried woody ribs of her remains, you will see that, like all giant saguaros, she fostered the growth of future generations as a ���nurse��� saguaro by providing seeds, shade, moisture, and nutrients from her fallen seed pods. Who knows, even at the saguaro���s very slow growth rate of 1.5 inches in 10 years, another 47-arm saguaro may again someday grace this place. READER���S OASIS BOOKS Specializing in RV Solar Sales & Service US 95 South @ Stone Cabin Next to Randy���s Hamburgers ��� Mike & Sherry Bacon ��� 928-446-6514 928-927-6551 690 E. Main - Quartzsite (one block east of Family Dollar)

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