Edible and Medicinal Desert Plants Walking Tour
1:30pm January 25, also February 14 & 22
Prickly pear cactus fruits yield than just a colorful margarita mixer -- they're nutritious and have a unique taste. Both the pads and fruit of these cacti are a Sonoran Desert staple so popular they have been exported worldwide. Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the place to learn about desert plants and their useful properties -- be here January 25 and again February 22 for a Sunday guided walk lead by Tom and Kathy McDonald, owners of Smiling Dog Landscapes in Gold Canyon -- where they have their own Curandero Trail. The tour repeats on the Second Saturday of February with a special guest tourguide: David Morris.
An ethno-botanist and member of the Choctaw Nation, David has done extensive research into plants that heal and nourish; be here February 14 to meet David.
As with most other weekend guided tours here, the edible-medicinal plants walk is included with daily Arboretum admission of $10 for adults and $5 for ages 5-12. And please keep in mind that information shared on this tour does not constitute medical or dietary advice; opinions and views expressed by volunteers are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum or its management.
Visitors can explore our Curandero Trail and learn more about useful desert plants on your own, too -- ask for the self-guided Curandero Trail guide booklet in our gift shop.
Ethno-Botanist Dave Morris is a fan of jojoba seeds, shown in the photos at left. These acorn-size seeds can take on a mild hazlenut flavor after being lightly roasted. Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is also known by the nicknames "goat nut," deer nut and coffeebush -- the latter from its reputation as an acceptable coffee substitute when mature seeds are roasted. Waxy oil pressed from the nuts is widely used in shampoos and skin lotions; tea brewed from jojoba leaves can sooth inflamed mucous membranes.
Ask Dave Morris about his favorite desert plant and he cites the agave. "Fleshy leaves of the agave were the source of fiber (sisal) for the early desert natives. The fibers would be used for cordage, rope, baskets, mats and sandals. The heart of the agave was roasted and eaten and the leaf tea is thought to relieve arthritic pain," said Morris. Learn more about this plant, about creosote and others which continue to nourish, heal and clothe people of the Sonoran desert. Here's another, too: Native Americans in the desert refer to the mesquite tree as the "tree of life". The pods can be ground up and they provided the main source of flour until the introduction of European heat, rye and barley. The bark of the esquite can be boiled to produce a germ-killing wash for minor cuts and scrapes. The Piipash (Maricopa) obtain a black paint from mesquite bark that is used to add designs to their traditional pottery."
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is affiliated with the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in addition to being an Arizona State Park. UA students, faculty and staff may bring your CatCard or University I.D. to save an addition dollar off admission!
Read about other weekend guided tours and events