Arizonensis --> Sonoran Desert Naturalist --> Sonoran Desert Places --> Pima Canyon

Pima Canyon & Sta. Catalina Mountains

Pima Canyon drains the southwest quadrant of the Sta. Catalina Mountain range with Pusch Ridge and its wilderness rising abruptly to the north. The canyon runs from its junction with Rillito Creek in the southwest up to the northeast. The first few kilometers are rather gentle in slope, then the trail becomes increasingly steep as it eventually passes Pima Spring and reaches Mt. Kimball to the northeast.

Two kilometers up from the trailhead the vegetation becomes increasingly riparian in the canyon bottom where water pools can be found much of the year. There are shade trees, towering rock formations and of course plenty of hikers. Dogs are not permitted partly to protect the wilderness qualities and the well-being of the Bighorn Sheep population on Pusch Ridge.

Map of Pima Canyon and Vicinity

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Directions: Drive north in Tucson on 1st Avenue, past Ina Road, until it ends at McGee Rd. Turn east following the road signage to the Pima Canyon trailhead. The parking area is limited and is locked overnight.

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Common Birds

 © by Mike Plagens
Cactus Wren
 © by Robert Shantz
Northern Cardinal ♂
 © by Mike Plagens
Canyon Towhee
 © by Mike Plagens
Phainopepla ♂
 © by Mike Plagens
Costa's Hummingbird ♂
 © by Mike Plagens
Gambel's Quail
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  1. Staghorn Cholla -- Cylindropuntia versicolor -- several exceed 3 meters in height.
  2. Saguaro Cactus -- Carnegiea gigantea
  3. Prickly Pear -- Opuntia engelmannii
  4. Fishhook Barrel Cactus -- Ferocactus wislizenii
  5. Chain-fruit Cholla -- Cylindropuntia fulgida -- common near trailhead but less so up-canyon
  6. Pencil Cholla -- Cylindropuntia arbuscula
  7. Teddy Bear Cholla -- Cylindropuntia bigelovii -- mostly on the south-facing slope of the canyon
  8. Graham's Pincushion Cactus -- Mammillaria grahamii
Photo by Mike Plagens

Fishhook Barrel Cactus seen at White Canyon Wilderness, Mineral Mountains, Pinal Co. Arizona by Mike Plagens. This image is hosted at Wikipedia

Common Shrubs and Trees

This incomplete list is based on a hike of 2 km from trailhead of only two hours duration. In general order of abundance:

  1. Jojoba -- Simmondsia chinensis
  2. Tucson Bur Ragweed - Ambrosia cordifolia
  3. Triangle-leaf Bursage -- Ambrosia deltoidea -- The most common plant in this desert preserve. Often leafless after periods of drought or hard frost.
  4. Velvet Mesquite -- Prosopis velutina
  5. Canyon Ragweed -- Ambrosia ambrosioides
  6. Foothills Palo Verde; Yellow Palo Verde -- Parkinsonia microphylla
  7. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) -
  8. Limber Bush -- Jatropha cardiophylla -- drops out with increasing elevation
  9. Indian Mallow -- Abutilon incanum
  10. Coursetia -- Coursetia glandulosa
  11. Fairy Duster -- Calliandra eriophylla
  12. Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides)
  13. Wild Cotton - Gossypium thurberi
  14. Ragged Rock Flower -- Crossosoma bigelovii
  15. Creosote Bush -- Larrea tridentata -- scarce, mostly at trailhead only
  16. Ocotillo -- Fouquieria splendens
  17. Hop Bush -- Dodonea viscosa
  18. Wolfberry -- Lycium spp.
  19. Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) -
  20. Janusia Vine -- Janusia gracilis
  21. Joint Fir -- Ephedra aspera
  22. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) --
  23. Bigroot -- Marah gilensis
  24. Ocotillo;Coachwhip -- Fouquieria splendens
  25. Desert Wishbone Bush -- Mirabilis laevis
  26. Desert Hackberry -- Celtis ehrenbergiana
  27. Coulter's Brickell Bush -- Brickelia coulteri
  28. Desert Zinnia -- Zinnia acerosa
  29. Fremont Cottonwood -- Populus fremontii -- first appears about 2km up-canyon.
  30. Deer Grass -- Muhlenbergia rigens
  31. Odora -- Porophyllum gracile
  32. Parry Dalea -- Marina parryi
  33. Sotol;Desert Spoon -- Dasylirion wheeleri
Pen & Ink by Michael Plagens

Hop bush is showiest once the winged fruits ripen and takes on hues ranging from maroon to rusty. The Canyon Towhee is frequently found nearby.

Janusia gracilis seeds

The fruits of Janusia Vine appear like small maple seeds. Three seeds each with a papery wing are joined at base.


Yellow Flowers

  1. California Sundrop -- Camissonia californica
  2. Brittlebush -- Encelia farinosa
  3. London Rocket -- Sisymbrium irio
  4. Janusia Vine -- Janusia gracilis

Orange Flowers

  1. Orange Fiddleneck -- Amsinckia intermedia

Red Flowers

  1. Ocotillo;Coachwhip -- Fouquieria splendens - one plant only!
  2. Deer Grass -- Muhlenbergia rigens

Pink Flowers

  1. Fairy Duster -- Calliandra eriophylla
  2. Bigelow's Four O'Clock -- Mirabilis laevis

Purple + Lavender Flowers

  1. Desert Lavender -- Hyptis emoryi
  2. Eucrypta sp.
  3. Parry Dalea -- Marina parryi

Blue Flowers

  1. Blue Dicks -- Dichelostemma capitatum
  2. Arizona Blue Eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus)
  3. Blue Fiesta Flower -- Pholistoma auritum

White Flowers

  1. Cryptantha -- Cryptantha (several spp.)
  2. Lacepod -- Thysanocarpus curvipes
  3. Rattlesnake Weed -- Chamaesyce spp
  4. Miner's Lettuce -- Claytonia perfoliata
  5. Bigroot -- Marah gilensis
  6. Ragged Rock Flower -- Crossosoma bigelovii
  7. Twistflower - Streptanthus

Greenish Flowers

  1. Tucson Bur Ragweed -- Ambrosia cordifolia
  2. Coulter's Brickell Bush -- Brickelia coulteri
  3. Pellitory -- Perietaria hespera
  4. Hairy Bowlesia -- Bowlesia incana
  5. Bermuda Grass (Cynadon dactylon)
  6. Western Soapberry -- Sapindus saponaria
  7. Desert Mistletoe -- Phoradendron californicum

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