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Desert Diary


People from the better watered parts of the world tend to think that all desert vegetation is pretty bizarre. To most of us, though, it's old hat. However, there are some Chihuahuan Desert plants that even natives have to admit are a bit out of the ordinary. Certainly one of these is Allthorn. For once, a common name has it right! The plant seems to consist of little but thorns, though a botanist will tell you that they're really branches whose ends constrict abruptly to sharp points. As if this armament wasn't enough, the shrub sends its branches in all directions, intersecting in a virtually impenetrable tangle of branches and spines.

Of course, those animals able to wend their way into these fortresses delight in all of this. What coyote or fox would dare trying to poke its nose into this world of hurt merely to snack on bird eggs or young. On the other hand, what's impenetrable to one, may be a virtual heaven for others—it does seem like the perfect feeding ground for an enterprising snake.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, 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.

flowers and branches of Allthorn

Flowers and branches of Allthorn (Koeberlinia spinosa). El Paso, TX. Photograph by Ad Konings.