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“What’s a Nurse Tree?” you ask.

Photo of Colorful AZ Fishhook Cactus

In the heat of the Sonoran Desert, many cacti use the shade of trees to help them survive. They also help in the cold winters. These are nurse trees.

Underneath a mesquite in my yard, I found this thriving Graham’s Nipple or Arizona Fishhook Cactus. The scientific name is Mammillaria grahamii. I wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the bright colors of the flowers.  The term fishhook refers to the one-three large spines in each spine grouping that are hooked and reddish to brown in color. This species are named after Colonel James Duncan Graham (1799-1851), who took part in a U.S.-Mexico border survey.

Arizona Fishhook Cactus under a mesquite ‘nurse tree’ in my yard

Indigenous people have eaten the fruit and pulp of this plant as food, as well using it as a medicine to treat earaches. I’m enjoying it for its natural beauty.

Even though I didn’t include this species in my fun science book that comes with a glossary of Sonoran Desert plants and animals, you can read about other desert treasures and have a good laugh in How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird.

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit. Maybe a permanent one.”
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him. Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

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