prickly pear buds and blooms of various colors
Visit Saguaro National Park in the spring and summer to see the colors of the desert

NPS photo / T. Wiewel

Secrets of the Sonoran Desert

Saguaro National Park is located within a desert, but contrary to what you might expect, there is an abundance of life. Plants here are adapted to drought; during long, dry periods, they are able to go dormant in order to conserve their water. At these times, many plants appear lifeless. However, shortly after a rainfall these plants are able to come to life sprouting new green leaves. If you like green, you will especially enjoy Saguaro National Park during the rainy seasons. Within just 48 hours after a rainfall, the ocotillo plant is able to change from what appeared to be a handful of dead sticks into a cheerful shrub with tall green branches, covered in new leaves.

The varied elevation within the park allows for a great variety of different species. The Madrean Sky Islands, which the Rincon Mountains are a part of, is one of the most biodiverse places in the country with more than 7,000 species of plants and animals. An exact number of plants is difficult to determine given the complexity of the topography. Changes in taxonomy also make it hard to uniformly sample the plants, and there are a number of voucher specimens housed in unknown locations.


Currently, there are no USFWS Threatened or Endangered plants within the park. The park does have rare and sensitive plant species. The park estimates there are approximately 80 non-native plant species some of which are quite invasive. The Restoration and Invasive Plant Management Program, with help from volunteers, maps and removes non-native invasive species from both districts of the park.

The park erupts in color during the spring! View local wildflower sightings.

Check out a list of common plants seen at Saguaro National Park.


Last updated: November 30, 2023

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730


520 733-5153

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