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Desert Diary
Ecology/Water and Plants


What's hardest to find in the desert? Water, of course! This can be tough for anyone, but being immovable, plants have to be especially creative!

Some, like cacti, have long roots just beneath the soil surface that rapidly soak up water from brief rains, storing it inside the plant stem for later use. Column-like cacti have pleats like an accordion. When full of water, the cactus swells, and the folds disappear. As the stored water is used, the creases become deeper and deeper.

Mesquites survive differently. They grow LONG roots that tap into the water table! This is the same water we depend on, so as we use it up, we make it more and more difficult for mesquites to survive.

Many people see only harshness and dryness, but our Chihuahuan Desert region supports many amazing species that have found ways to flourish. On your next outing, take a look at our native plants, and see if you can figure out how they are able to get water and withstand the sun!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Scott M. Cutler, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


Cholla cactus, Playas Valley, Hidalgo Co., NM. Photograph by Arthur H. Harris. The blur to the immediate right of the cactus is a Cactus Wren leaving hurriedly from its nest in the cholla.