Desert Flora and Landforms of Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona
Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting Arizona with its unusual flora, consisting mainly of drought tolerant cacti and desert succulents, along with its amazing terrain and unusual landforms. We traveled the famous Arizona State Route 89A, which is an 83.85-mile state highway that runs northward from Prescott Arizona, entering Jerome, then heading to the picturesque area of Sedona

Historic Route  89 to Sedona, Arizona
Route 89 was an experience in itself. The twisting, turning highway has vast changes in elevation and views of cliffs and rock formations below as the road travels up and around mountains. The sights are beautiful, but for the first timer the voyage is more like an amusement park ride, with one occasionally clutching the seat underneath them.  Once we hit the town of Jerome we saw signs that said , “I survived Route 89”, which we thoroughly understood, but we glad to have had the experience!
Historic Route  89 to Sedona, Arizona
As you can see here, the terrain along the route is rugged, mainly dry and desert-like, with a combination of Cascalote Tree, Desert Ruellia, Tumbleweed, Prickly Pear Cactus and other drought tolerant plants.
Historic Route  89 to Sedona, Arizona
Here is a long view of the desert mountains with the higher elevation snow covered peaks to the right in the background. I am not used to experiencing 70 degree temperatures with snow covered peaks at the same time, so this was beautiful to see.
 Agave palmeri (Native to Arizona)
Along the way we did get to experience many of the desert plantings of the mid-west. Here is Agave palmeri, which is the largest Agave species growing in the United States and native to the deserts of Arizona. It produces fleshy, upright green leaves up to 4 feet in length, with jagged edges and ending in thick spines of 1.2–2.4 inches long. Flowers are pale yellow and green which grow on flower spikes, which can be up to 16.5 feet tall.
Dasylirion wheeleri  (Desert Spoon)
 Dasylirion wheeleri, or Desert Spoon, produces small white blooms on a 10 foot high spike, followed by fruits that mature in August. It slowly builds a trunk up to 5 feet tall. 
Arizona Barrel Cactus

Arizona Barrel Cactus blooms August-September in southern Arizona and grows to a height of 4-5 feet up to 8 feet with hooked spines The flowers are red-orange, shading to yellow and bloom in a ring at the top of the cactus.
Historic Route  89 to Sedona Arizona Watson Lake Loop Trail
On the way to Sedona is the Watson Lake Loop Trail. Located in Prescott, it is a picturesque loop around Watson lake, covering approximately 4.8 miles. The terrain varies in steepness from the rocky steep terrain of the Northshore trail to the relatively flat terrain of the Peavine and Lower Granite Creek Trails. This was one of the most beautiful and amazing sites I have ever experienced.
Historic Route  89 to Sedona Arizona Watson Lake Loop Trail
Watson Lake is one of two reservoirs at the Granite Dells, outside of Prescott, Arizona, that was formed in the early 1900s when the Chino Valley Irrigation District built a dam on Granite Creek. The 70 acre lake is at an elevation of 5100 feet and is lined with granite boulder piles that extend all around the northwest and northeast shores and line Granite Creek, which flows north from Chino Valley towards the Verde River. 
Historic Route  89 to Sedona Arizona Watson Lake Loop Trail

Historic Route  89 to Sedona Arizona Watson Lake Loop Trail

Historic Route  89 to Sedona Arizona

Deadman’s Pass Trail Sedona Arizona
Once we got to Sedona we hiked the trails in Red Rock State Park to see the well known rock formations of Arizona.
Sedona Arizona
Sedona’s rock formations were formed over millions and millions of years as a result of natural sculpting by seas, sands and winds. The rock layer closest to the surface is mainly red wall limestone, which was once covered by seas and formed by layer upon layer of ancient sea shells cementing together. This layer was then subjected to wind erosion and re-submerged under another shallow sea. The red wall layer is the oldest layer of exposed rock in the Sedona area dating back to about 350 million years ago.

Sedona Arizona

Red Rock Trail Sedona, Arizona

  Many species of desert plants can be observed along the dry and rugged terrain of the Red Rock Trail.
Mexican Blue Yucca
There were many varieties of Agave and Yucca as well as Prickly Pear Cactus (as seen below). This Blue Yucca is a trunk-forming species which grows to 12 feet tall.  Its blue leaves are about 3 feet long by 1 inch wide with a sharp spine at the tip. In the late spring the blue foliage is complemented by a showy 5 to 6 foot stalk of white flowers. 
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha) 
Native to the southwest desert, Prickly Pear bears yellow flowers in the spring and purple edible fruit.
 Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha) 
 Prickly Pear Cactus requires a dry, course, well-drained soil and grows in rocky flats or slopes, mountain pinyon/juniper forests and in the steep, rocky slopes of mountain foothills.
 Agave ‘Blue Glow’
This is another variety of Agave which is native to the area of Sedona.  Blue fleshy leaves are tinted red at the tips on this 2 to 3 foot plant.
Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona
Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona

Cathedral Rock is one of Sedona’s most well known landmarks.  This towering rock formation was formed during Permian time and is a result of the Schnebly Hill formation, a red sandstone formed near the shoreline of the ancient Pedregosa Sea. It towers to 4,921 feet and is a sight to behold.

Arizona Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Sedona Arizona

While out of my comfort zone as far as naming some of these plants, I enjoyed doing the research and learning about them.  Also, being from the northeast, I had never experienced firsthand the magnificence of the stately rock formations that exist in the mid-western parts of the U.S. along with the geologic history behind them. I hope you enjoyed the tour of Sedona Arizona along with its famous landmarks and native flora. Linking with Our World Tuesday. 

As Always…Happy Gardening!


A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9

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