What The Heck Kind Of Cactus Is That?

Are you new to Southern Arizona and wondering what some of those funny-looking plants with thorns are? This post is all about cacti (plural for cactus). The many species of cactus is what makes Tucson so unique because Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert. I took a class while getting my bachelor’s degree back in the day at the University of Arizona called “Arizona Plant Life,” and learned that Tucson’s vegetation is part of the Sonoran Desert Scrub. I am going to go over a few of the cacti and point (pun intended!) out the ones to particularly look out for while hiking or just taking a walk to the mailbox!

Saguaro Cactus 🌵

Probably the most iconic cactus in the Sonoran Desert is the saguaro. Saguaros are the largest cactuses and, like trees, grow arms, and most do not grow their first arm until they are 50-years old. An extremely slow growing cactus, the saguaro lives 150-200 years and can grow to be 40-60 feet tall. When they die, the woody ribs can be used for furniture and natives used the ribs for roofs on houses. Saguaros are covered in protective spines, blooms white flowers in the spring and grows red fruit in the summer.

Prickly Pear Cactus

There are many different types of prickly pear cactus. Some prickly pears are green and some are purple but all of them have flat pads. Most have 3″ thorns on the pad, as well as little hairs that are quite pokey and are not fun to get out of your skin if you get stuck because the thorns are so tiny. Yellow flowers emerge in May and June and red fruit, known as the prickly pear fruit, emerges in late summer. You can eat the prickly pear fruit when cooked and it makes a delicious jelly. Prickly pear cacti live for about 20 years and are fast growing.

Ocotillo Cactus

The ocotillo is a very unique cactus and is essentially a plant with a root with a bunch of long sticks with thorns sprouting from the root. After a good rain, usually in the summer, the ocotillo sticks grow green leaves. The ocotillo blooms a pretty red flower “cluster” once a year between April and June. Ocotillos live around 60 years and get up to 20 feet high. Ocotillos also have a practical purpose in that they have been used for centuries as fences to keep out introducers.

Cholla Cactus

The cholla cactus, also known as the “jumping cactus,” is one to look out for because it literally jumps at you and attaches to your skin if you accidentally brush up against it. They have little stems that grow like a chain and if one chain jumps off of the plant, it causes no harm to the plant and harm to the thing it attaches to! The spines on the stems are shaped like a fish-hook and that is why they hurt so badly when they attach to skin. Chollas are very fast-growing, almost like a weed and it blooms in the summer. Birds take advantage of its hostile thorns by using the plant to protect their young from predators.

Barrel Cactus

Like other types of cactuses, there are many species of the barrel cactus and some get between 3 and 9 feet tall, though most are short, stumpy and round with large thorns. The barrel cactus lives to around 100 years old and the flowers typically bloom in April. As the flower wilts, pineapple-shaped fruit forms. Although you can technically eat the fruit, the fruit is extremely bitter and natives only ate the fruit in extreme situations where no other food was available.

There are other types of cactuses but the saguaro, prickly pear, ocotillo, cholla and barrel are the most common in Tucson. All of those cactuses have thorns, but particularly beware of the cholla cactus that literally jumps up at you if you get too close. Do not be too afraid of these funny-looking plants though. They are beautiful and if you’re new to Tucson, you will enjoy seeing them bloom every year. You just might find yourself on the side of the road taking pictures of them (like me!)

For any real estate-related needs in Tucson, please feel free to contact me anytime!

Alexis Burrows

Discover Tucson’s Suburbs

This post is all about Tucson’s suburbs! Although Tucson has a population of a little over a half a million, combined with the entire metropolitan area, the population is a little over one million people. This article will go over four of Tucson’s suburbs: Oro Valley, Vail, Marana, and Sahuarita.

Oro Valley, Arizona

Oro Valley, Arizona is a suburb to the Northwest of Tucson and has some amazing scenery, which includes the Santa Catalina Mountains to the East and Tortolito Mountains to the North. Oro Valley has a population of 45,000 and, interestingly, the majority of the residence own their own home. A quarter of the residence are over the age of 65 and many own properties in other places in the United States. Tucsonans often times refer to this type of Tucson resident as a “Snow Bird.” There are many golf courses, country clubs, and hiking trails in the area. There are also multiple community events hosted in Oro Valley, including the Oro Valley Festival of Arts, the Oro Valley Music Festival and the Oro Valley Triathlon. Referred to by the Arizona Daily Star Newspaper as the “Tech Mecca of Southern Arizona,” Oro Valley hosts ten high-tech firms. The public schools in Oro Valley are in the Amphitheatre School District and Oro Valley is home to several private and charter schools, including the renown Basis School. Oro Valley has many family-oriented attractions like the Children’s Museum and the Farmer’s Market at Steam Pump Ranch, Aquatic Center, Honey B Canyon Park, and the Gaslight Music Hall just to name of the few. Most of the homes in Oro Valley are newer than 30 years and are in track home communities. Although the home prices are more expensive than Tucson, the crime rate is low and the city is kept up nicely, which makes Oro Valley an amazing place to live.

Vail, Arizona

Vail, Arizona is a suburb to the Southeast of Tucson and is unincorporated, which means it is not technically a city. The Rincons Mountains, which is home to Saguaro National Park East, are to the North of Vail, and the Santa Rita Mountains, home to Madera Canyon, are to the South. The population in Vail is around 15,000 and the homes in Vail are lower price-wise to homes in Tucson and some of the neighborhoods are track communities and some are more rural-type homes on acreage. The Vail Unified School District is award-winning and has been highlighted throughout the country and has an A+ distinction. In general, Vail is made up of families who moved to Vail because of the school district and for the lower cost of living. In fact, 30% of residents in Vail are under the age of 18, and 60% are between the ages of 18 and 65. Close to Interstate-10, Vail offers an easy access to other cities in Southern Arizona where many of the residents are employed. Attractions include Colossal Cave, which is one of the largest dry caves in North America, horseback riding, the Cienega Creek Trail Head, the golf course at Del Lago, and the farmer’s market at Rocking K Ranch.

Marana, Arizona

Marana is a suburb of Tucson located to the Northwest of Tucson and Oro Valley. Marana’s population is growing and is currently right around 50,000 and the median age of residents is 37. Located by the Interstate-10, living in Marana is a relatively easy 90-minute commute to Phoenix, which is very convenient for people who commute to Phoenix for work or for people who like to attend professional sporting events. Marana features beautiful landscapes, with the Tucson Mountains, home of Saguaro National Monument West, to the West and the Tortalita Mountains to the East. Like many areas in Southern Arizona, Marana has ranching and farming in its history and many of the homes are on acreage. Marana has several Master Plan Communities so many of the homes are track homes. There are many things to enjoy in Marana, such as Sombrero Peak and Cathedral, the Wild Burro hiking trail, the Gallery Golf Course at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Premium Outlet Mall, Dove Mountain Park and Gladden Farms Park and splash pad. Seasonally, the Marana Pumpkin Patch has the largest pumpkin patch in all of Pima County open to the public in the month of October, and is truthfully, more like an amusement park with its large variety of kid-friendly activities.

Sahuarita, Arizona

Sahuarita, Arizona is along the Interstate-19 and is a suburb 15-miles South of Tucson and is about a 40-minute drive North of the US/Mexico border. To the East of Sahuarita are the Santa Rita Mountains, home of Madera Canyon. Running through Sahuarita is the Santa Cruz River, which runs typically during a wet monsoon season. Sahuarita, which means “Little Saguaro,” has a population of roughly 35,000 and the median age is 35. According to Safewise.com, Sahuarita is Among the Top 10 safest cities in Arizona and it attracts families raising children. The Master Plan Community of Rancho Sahuarita started building homes around 2000 and most of the homes are new track homes with a community-feel. Close to Interstate I-19, many Sahuarita residents commute to work in Tucson or Green Valley. Madera Canyon is Southeast of the town and offers hiking trails and bird/nature watching. Other attractions include the Titan Missle Museum, ASCRO Mineral/Open Pit Mine, San Xavier Del Bac, which is the oldest European structure in Arizona, and Green Valley Pecan Company, the largest pecan orchard in the world. There are many family-oriented activities, mostly centered around Rancho Sahuarita and Sahuarita Lake, which is a 10-acre man-made lake, which lends for a day of fishing, biking, and hiking.

So there you have it… the four largest suburbs of Tucson in a nutshell. If you are looking to buy real estate in Tucson, I’d love to help you decide which area fits your family’s criteria!

Alexis Burrows

Extra! Extra! Read All About… Tucson!

Extra! Extra! Read All About… Tucson!

Southern Arizona. A place with a whole lot of sunshine and mountains which offers a plethora of outdoor activities for people who just like to enjoy life. This post is all about the largest city in Southern Arizona: Tucson. Tucson is the second most populated city in Arizona with a population of just over a half a million, and the entire metropolitan area is just over a million, according to the 2020 census. Tucson, commonly known as “The Old Pueblo,” is home to the University of Arizona, Tucson’s largest employer. This post is all about areas in Tucson specifically, not including suburbs, and is a good resource whether you already live in Tucson and wish for a change or relocating to Tucson for a job or for a new adventure!

University/Downtown Area

Downtown Tucson has had a positive change due to the Rio Nuevo Project over recent years and has attracted many small businesses and beautiful art pieces throughout. Although it has experienced growth in recent years, Tucson’s downtown is still more manageable pace of life than some larger cities. Night life has improved because of the light rail, which was installed a few years ago making it easy to go back and forth from the Downtown area to the University of Arizona area. Top notch cuisine and fresh produce make this area perfect for the foodies out there. There are many theaters in this area to view live performances for the culturally refined folks. New high-rise hotels in the downtown area, including the AC Hotel by Marriott, make this a desirable side of town to stay in while visiting Tucson, as well as the historical Hotel Congress. The homes in this area range from charming early 1900 bungalows to Spanish-style homes on larger-sized lots. 

Catalina Foothills

The Santa Catalinas is a mountain chain that spans the entire North side of Tucson and directly below it is the Catalina Foothills neighborhood. Gorgeous views of the mountains and downtown make this area extremely desirable, as well as the fact that it has the highest rated school district in Tucson. Many of the neighborhoods have custom homes on hills without sidewalks and many homes use natural cacti for landscaping. The homes range from modest townhomes to multi-million dollar mansions. Up scale shopping centers like La Encantata and St. Phillips Plaza offers outdoor shopping and restaurants. The Catalina Foothills also has several golf resorts, including La Paloma and Ventana Canyon, which attracts vacationers from around the world. World renown hiking trails are in “The Foothills,” including the hike to 7 Falls which is in Sabino Canyon.

Central Tucson

In the heart of Central Tucson lies Tucson’s largest park; 131-acre Reid Park is home to Reid Park Zoo, a baseball stadium, duck pond, public pools, playgrounds  and Randolph Golf Course.  Other top attractions in Central Tucson include the Tucson Botanical Gardens, which is a butterfly/nature garden, the Park Mall, and upscale shopping and restaurants at Plaza Palomino, just to name a few. The area has many historical neighborhoods built between 1920 and 1960, featuring varied architectural styles. One of the most iconic hotels in Tucson is the Arizona Inn, and is located by one of Tucson’s most famous centrally located historical neighborhoods, the Sam Hughs neighborhood, which also borders the University of Arizona. 

East Tucson & Tanque Verde Valley

Tucked in the Northeast corner of Tucson at the base of the Catalina and Rincon Mountains is the Tanque Verde Valley. Tanque Verde means “green valley,” and it is called this because the mountains get a lot of rain running off into the valley, making the vegetation more lush. Most of the homes are ranch-style homes on large lots that are zoned SR-1 and many of the residents own horses and other live stock. The road to Mount Lemmon (which is on the Catalina Mountain chain) makes it appealing for Tanque Verde Valley residents because it is a hop, skip, and a jump to be in a forest with an elevation of 8,000 feet. The school district in the Tanque Verde Valley is one of the best and smallest in the city, which is an attractive quality for many young families. There are also two golf courses, and several “dude” ranches, including the famous Tanque Verde Guest Ranch. Saguaro National Monument East and Agua Caliente Park make Tucson’s East side an incredible and quiet place to dwell.

West Tucson

Tucson has one interstate running through it and it separates both the West and South sides of Tucson. Anything West of the I-10 is considered to be the “West side.” The West side is also positioned along side the Tucson Mountains, which offers amazing hiking trails including Tomamok Hill, one of Tucson’s most popular paths for walkers, hikers and runners, as well as trails in Saguaro National Park West. West Tucson is home to one of the most beautiful resorts in Tucson, the JW Marriott Star Pass Golf Resort. Attractions in West Tucson also include the Sonoran Desert Museum, which is a “living” museum and world renowned zoo and botanical garden. Tucson’s “A” Mountain is also located in Tucson’s West side and has walking trails and a road to the top, for that extra amazing view of the city. Homes on the West side consist of ranches, to track communities, to multi-million dollar mansions.

I hope this article helped you get an inside scoop of Tucson. Please be sure to look out for my next post which will be all about the surrounding areas of Tucson, including Oro Valley, Vail, South Tucson, and Sahuarita. If you are looking to purchase a home, I would love to assist you on the adventure. As a Tucson native, this city is truly my passion and I believe it is important to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of the city you are purchasing in.

Thanks for reading!

Alexis Burrows

Alexis Burrows, Realtor, Omni Homes International, 520-869-3176