Hesperocallis Undulata: The Desert Lily Essay

Hesperocallis undulate or more commonly known as the desert lily is a plant that is found in the Sonoran desert. A few words or images come to mind when one thinks of the desert, words like heat, dirt, cactus, and sand these are just a few that come to mind. This is not all the desert has to offer and quite to the contrary the Sonoran desert is full of life. The Sonoran desert is spread throughout two states in the southwestern part of the United States Arizona and California, and covers parts of northern Mexico.

(The National Parks Service) This is one of the only places where the Desert lily can be found.

Plant life in the desert has adapted to the extremes of heat and by using physical and behavioral habits, like desert animals to survive. The extremes in the desert are extreme temperature, and very dry climate. The summers in the Sonoran desert can record more than one hundred days with temperatures over 100 degrees.

This coupled with very little precipitation make life for some plants difficult. But this is the amazing thing about all of the vegetation in the desert they have found a way to survive despite the extreme conditions.

One of the features advantageous to the desert lily in these conditions is an underground bulb that remains dormant through hot and dry weather waiting out a drought and possibly waiting many years to sprout. This bulb is part of the reason for this plants ability to survive the desert. The Natives gave this plant the name of “Ajo” which means garlic in Spanish; this comes from the bulb part of the plant that tastes like garlic. Despite the harsh conditions of the desert, the desert lily has found a way to survive and reproduce in this environment.

All plants of the desert and all animals find ways to adapt to there surroundings and the desert lily does this by waiting for the rain. The desert lily is a perennial plant which gives the plant the ability to go months even years before sprouting, essentially this plant has a life span of over a year. The Hesperocallis undulate grows from a bulb, then a stem sprouts and it reaches a height of one foot. (plants. usda. gov) The desert lily can be found in sandy areas and on hillsides with slight inclines.

The plant is somewhat of a gem in the desert with six white pedals that add to the beauty of the desert floor. Like many other flowers the desert lily gives off a slight fragrance which can be described as sweet. If there has been significant rainfall, the desert lily usually blooms during the months of March through may varying but generally around these months. This plant is also considered a hermaphrodite having both organs to reproduce and like most other plants humming birds and sometimes moths help with the reproduction by pollinating.

This plant is very beautiful and vibrant I think it is amazing that such a plant can be found in these extreme conditions. The most interesting attribute of the desert lily is the ability that this plant has adapted to its surroundings and is able to handle the heat and the lack of precipitation. This to me is amazing because seasons fluctuate and rainfall is not always consistent especially in the desert but, nature has provided a way for this plant to survive underground until there has been a sufficient amount of moisture that has saturated the soil.

Much like other plants in the desert and animals that live in the desert have adapted to the extremes, the desert lily is no exception. Hesperocallis undulate or the “Ajo” lily, the desert lily, is found in the western part of the Sonaran desert in sandy areas, and is restricted to the southwestern parts of the United States. The bulb is edible but doesn’t have any medical use. When in bloom the plant grows to approximately 1 foot. This plant adds color and is I believe a good addition to our deserts in Arizona and is a good indicator of a wet winter.


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