The Quiet Adventure

No rip-roarin' danger-filled, terror adventure here. If you can't be quiet, you don't belong here. It's the quiet adventure, especially if there are people watching the birds. (Hey, for some people, being quiet IS an adventure!) This little corner of the desert features many different native plants, and usually has something blooming every month of the year. In fact, southern Arizona itself has something blooming every month of the year (on my own property, I have found 75 species in bloom, and at least a few have occurred in each month, including December and January). This is one reason why it is an excellent destination for Christmas! You get balmy weather and flowers! Very refreshing.

"Tohono Chul" means "desert corner" in the Tohono O'odham language. In fact, the words "Tohono O'odham" means "desert people."

There are a few interesting buildings in the gardens, some of which house gift shops, and some of which are used for other purposes. I don't know who first erected these buildings, or how many of them were erected after the garden was begun, but I suspect some of them have been there for awhile. If I think of it, I'll ask! I will try to show a few of these, but mostly, I will concentrate on the wild things that live there.

Take a walk through the gardens with me, through tree-lined meandering paths. Sit awhile in the riparian area, watching the water gurgle over stones. Look at the wildflowers, and watch the hummingbirds sipping. Watch the birds who like to feast on the seeds in the seed socks. Listen to the breezes, and feel them soft on your face as you sit in the welcome shade. Walk a meandering path to see the desert plants and animals. Every turn in the path leads to a new scene.

The people are friendly and helpful. There are a few who have made it a point to greet me each time and tell me where they have last seen what they know I am looking for. They take the time to learn about the species.

I will talk about my many trips there. I have taken hundreds if not thousands of photos there.

The photo on the left is the Night-blooming Cereus, also known as Queen of the Night. Tohono Chul is famous for its bloom night, the one night of the year (or perhaps one of two nights) when these cacti bloom. They are pollinated by moths and have a heavenly odor.

All photos are mine.

Architecture and Art at Tohono Chul

Night lights give wonderful effects to the scene.

This ramada with benches provides welcome shade near the entrance.

A horse made of scrap metal and wire.

Love these sculptural flowers. The structure on the right provides heat for chilly nights.

This fountain makes wonderful shadows on the wall; they caught my eye.

Stylized sunburst.

Funky bird. Generic, obviously. They love to make sculptures out of old plumbing and car parts.

Rusty agave sculpture.

Hawk sculpture.

Gambel's Quail. Family of five quail sculptures on rock wall made from native Arizona rocks.

Metal vulture.

I don't know what it is, but I like it!

Remember the floats in older toilet tanks? This one became the flowerhead of an agave.

By the entrance. Her hair is made of old spark plugs.

Some art comes and goes...

The visiting artist was making glass dragons...

Don't bother to ask me what it is. I have no idea.

Mexican folk art pot for sale in the greenhouse.

Bubbling cactus fountain.

Rusty agave in bloom.

Queen of the Night

This cactus is very unimpressive when not in bloom. In fact, it looks almost dead.

At Tohono Chul, they have around 30 plants, I would estimate. They’re among other native vegetation in a field next to the cultivated part of the garden. The path that goes to these plants is around a mile long, so I am told (if I remember correctly). The personnel send out periodic emails when they notice signs that the cactus is about to bloom. All bloom on the same night, or on the night before or after. On the night of the bloom, they are open until midnight. You are encouraged to bring flashlights. They also serve refreshments. I have photographed the flowers both by flashlight and by camera flash. The color quality of the light is different with each method.

You can see one of the flowers in the introduction to this article.

The first photo above depicts a scene at night on Bloom Night, by the lamps they used.

Additional photos are of various architectural features and sculptures that add to the delight of the park.

The Geology Wall

The wall is made up of different interesting rocks.

Fox Sparrow - Passerella iliaca. Rummaging in the leaf litter for food.

House Wren - Troglodytes aedon


Recently, they have had a Fox Sparrow in the park. This is a rare bird for Arizona, so naturally I went to find it. They said it was near the Geology Wall. So where is the Geology Wall? I ask.

The Geology Wall was erected to honor Richard Fairfield Wilson, by his family, because he loved geology.

I had to try several times to find the sparrow, and the day I got him I was helped by a couple of local birders who had been watching him. He was under a hackberry bush to the north of the wall. It was dark under there, so the pictures I got were nothing to write home about, but hey! I saw him!

And while I was at it, I also saw a lovely House Wren.


Caught in the act. There are always flowers from which to sip.

This male Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) was a special visitor one year, and this was the only place I have seen one.

Another unidentified hummer taking a sip.

Costa's male (Calypte costae). Uncommon elsewhere, and beautiful.


There are almost always hummingbirds in the park. Some species live here year round and others are special visitors.

Some of the birds I photograph aren’t easy to identify, but others are. And I have been fortunate to see the nest of an Anna’s Hummingbird two separate summers in a row.


Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). I don't know the species of flower.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor). These guys do NOT like to sit still! Today, I was lucky. Taken in December!

Another monarch. Just an orange dot in the distance, so I used my telephoto. Taken in December!

Queen (Danaus gillippis). A common butterfly in southern Arizona.

Monarch on Mexican Sunflower. Taken in December!


Monarch butterflies are not common in southern Arizona, but I see them frequently in the park. The staff of a local hospice releases Monarchs every Saturday to honor the departed.

Other butterflies are common in the area, or at least more likely to visit spontaneously.

A Few Birds

House Finch, male (Carpodacus mexicanus).

Verdin. These small birds are common in the area, they nest in the park.

Another Verdin.

Male Phainopepla (Phanopepla nitens). I often hear them before I see them.

Female Phainopepla. I think she thought she was hiding, but her soft song gave her away.

This female Cardinal couldn't figure out how to eat the fruit. She finally gave up. (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The same Cardinal. Sometimes she's out in plain sight, and other times she hides.

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) Yes, they like to sit on cactus.

Hmmm. This Cactus Wren had just eaten a tasty red fruit! I want some!

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonatrichia leucophrys). Common here in winter. This is an adult.

Immature White-crowned Sparrow.


Some birds, such as finches of various kinds, sparrows, and mourning doves, like the seed socks. There are seed socks in various locations throughout the park.

Other birds are native, and simply show up, because it’s a natural habitat, and they like the garden atmosphere.

Other Wildlife

Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii). These are frequent visitors.

Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus). I like to think of these common lizards as tiny dinosaurs, and their scientific name reflects it.


There are not a huge number of ground vertibrates in the park. But during warm months, watch out for rattlesnakes. They like to be out when the weather is comfortable for YOU!

Someplace I have a photo of another species of lizard, which I will add when I find it.

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I don't know what species this is.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii). This cactus grows worldwide; this is the most common local variety. Flowers vary to peach and orange.

Hedgehog (probably Echinocereus engelmannii). Fruit and flesh are tasty, will cool you on a hot day. But they're rare, so please plant more.

Prickly Pear. Notice the Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans).

Green Lynx Spider up close, on Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa). Not taken at Tohono Chul.

Mammillaria sp. I don't know which one. There is a ramada with these less common plants in planters around the perimeter.


Mixed in with the deciduous plants and succulents are numerous species of cactus, all blending in harmoniously with the other plants.

Flowers at Tohono Chul

Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna). Whoda thunk? In a pot off by itself. Disappeared shortly thereafter.

Aloe. Not sure what species.

Don't know what species. A winter flower. Hummingbirds like it.

Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri).

Delicate little white flowers. I don't know what species this is.

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella). Also called Blanketflower. Because of the bright colors. Often seen on Mount Lemmon highway.

Desert Rose aka Madagascar Rose (Adenium obesum).

Don't know what this is.

Trumpetflower (Tecoma stans). Probably a cultivar, since native species flowers are all yellow. A favorite of hummingbirds.

Milkweed (Asclepias sp). The plant for Monarch Butterflies.

Palmer Penstemon.(Penstemon palmeri).

Palmer Penstemon up close.

Forgot what this is. I'll think of it later.


Tohono Chul Park boasts numerous flowering species. In springtime, it is a riot of color, but there are flowers there any time of year.

I have more to add when I find them. Please come back.

Riparian Area and other delights

A little babbling brook in deep shade.

A little pool had lots of the beautiful blue fish last summer.

Mourning Dove getting a drink.

Close by, at the Geology Wall.

Yep, we have fall colors! These are brilliant in the afternoon sun.

I am trying to get photos of Spotted Towhees. I saw two that day, near this Golden Barrel Cactus, but the only photo I got was of the cactus.

One of a number of good mineral specimens. Azurite and Malachite from Morenci, Arizona.


The Riparian Area is small but significant. It provides yet another habitat for interesting species.

More Birds

Female Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii). Many families live in the park. Their soft call is soothing.

Abert's Towhee (Pipilio aberti). They like bugs they find in leaf litter, so they don't commonly sit in trees.

House Finch sitting on Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), a common desert plant.

Lesser Goldfinch male (Spinus psaltria). They like seeds. On Ocotillo.

Lesser Goldfinch female.

Young White-crowned Sparrow.

Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre). Their "bob white" sounding call is a scold if they don't want you around.

House Sparrow female (Passer domesticus). Originally from Europe, now very common. They like the seed socks.

House Sparrow male.

Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura). They're eating seeds dropped from the seed sock.

Sleepy Mourning Dove. Their soft call is refreshing.

The Mourning Dove woke up. Notice the Christmas lights on the tree branch.

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). Only the second time I have seen one, I think.

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca). An elusive rarity, he hides in the shadows of a Hackberry, so he's hard to capture.


Just a few more birds. This is a collection of fairly common desert species.

Anna's Hummingbirds Call It Home

What is the best sign of home? When you build a house and have kids, of course!

Anna’s Hummingbirds seem to nest at Tohono Chul every year. I have gotten photos of their nests three different years.


One of two babies. The fruit was real handy, and when the babies got a little bigger, they sampled the fruit, too. In the eaves.

The following year, low in a bush.

This year, in another bush, a little higher. I don't know if she has eggs yet, but she's setting, I think.

Helpful Links

While I have been unable to find a decent book about Tohono Chul Park at Amazon, I did find one in the gift shop the other day. It's called The Flowering Plants of Tohono Chul Park. You might be able to go to their web site and order a copy directly from them. It's worth a try. It is illustrated with full color photos of the major species of flowers they tend to have all the time, together with their locations in the park and other information.
Tohono Chul
Official park web site.

Locate Tohono Chul Park on Google

Get directions to the park.

Exploring the Species

Available at Amazon

Unfortunately, there are no current books on Tohono Chul Park. (Perhaps I should write one!) So these books are about species you may find there (and elsewhere), and would prove helpful in identifying some of the species you see there.

Wildflowers of Arizona Field Guide (Arizona Field Guides)
by Nora Bowers, Rick Bowers, Stan Tekiela

Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties
by Debra Lee Baldwin

Birds of Southeastern Arizona
by Richard Cachor Taylor

I have this book. It is excellent!

Cactus of Arizona Field Guide (Arizona Field Guides)
by Nora Bowers, Rick Bowers, Stan Tekiela

Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Cacti and Succulents: An Easy-to-Use Field Guide With More Than 350 Full-Color Photographs and Illustrations
by Pizzetti

Please let me know you stopped by

I hope you enjoyed sharing this adventure with me.
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  • eva_writes Jan 18, 2014 @ 4:26 am
    I didn't know about this place but now I feel like I should go once. It looks so pretty. Great pictures too!
  • knowledgetoday Jan 09, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
    I stopped by and enjoyed your lens. Good job. I agree being quiet allows one to observe nature's life and lessons. We can learn so much when we are not talking.
  • RubyHRose Jan 07, 2014 @ 3:38 pm
    Yes I did enjoy sharing this adventure with you! One more exciting reason I will get down to Arizona for a visit someday! Congratulations on LOTD and a purple star. The pictures are fantastic. Up close and personal, thank you for the beauty of this place, right here in my quiet reading spot.
  • d-artist Jan 07, 2014 @ 10:25 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! What a beautiful collection of the beauty in Arizona...I find the birds and flowers absolutely beautiful..what an interesting bird the Male Phainopepla is, and was that disappearing Amaryllis on your property?
  • A-Redneck Jan 07, 2014 @ 9:24 am
    I like a nice quiet park. Beautiful things can be very still at times. It makes spotting them easier.
  • Hairdresser007 Jan 07, 2014 @ 12:24 am
    I've never been but I want to visit now!
  • stajo82 Jan 06, 2014 @ 1:47 pm
    Awsome pics! Especially those of birds and flowers... I've never been there (I live in Europe) but who knows... maybe some day... Beautiful lens!
  • seleenf Jan 06, 2014 @ 1:20 pm
    I love quite places thanx for sharing the lovely pictures
  • MarcellaCarlton Jan 06, 2014 @ 12:22 pm
    What fabulous pictures! I love this place, but I've never been. Great lens! Thank you for sharing.
  • floppypoppygifts Jan 06, 2014 @ 12:02 pm
    Cool share! Cheers~cb
  • partybuzz Jan 06, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
    Love the looks like a wonderful place to visit.
  • lhbeninger Jan 06, 2014 @ 11:50 am
    Lovely, lovely, lovely. Congratulations on your Purple Star and Lens of the Day - well deserved. I'll be quiet now.
  • CarolHoule Jan 06, 2014 @ 11:43 am
    Absolutely beautiful lens! Your photos are fabulous! I would love to go there in person, and this is the next best thing. Thanks.
  • hjmalms97 Jan 06, 2014 @ 11:38 am
    Great Lens! Thank you for letting me "escape" to a warmer climate while having my coffee this morning! :-) Right now in Duluth, MN at 10AM we have -30 degrees (yes ~ that's below zero!). Beautiful pictures and Congratulations on LOTD!!
  • Titia Jan 06, 2014 @ 11:24 am
    Oh I forgot, Congrats on LOTD, well deserved.
  • Titia Jan 06, 2014 @ 11:23 am
    Beautiful article of a beautiful place, but I missed the photos of the Queen of the night. Did you forget to put them in? I have had one once, until the rats eat it when it was surviving winter in the barn.
  • elsahc Jan 06, 2014 @ 10:51 am
    One of my favorite places. They also have wonderful rotating art shows in their gallery, and a wonderful facebook page to follow.
  • Upon-Request Jan 06, 2014 @ 10:35 am
    Tohono Chul is definitely one of Tucson's gems. Congrats on LotD
  • Charlotte_Realtor Jan 06, 2014 @ 10:23 am
    Another place to visit on my bucket list! Just beautiful photos and congrats on LoTD too!
  • luggnutz13 Jan 06, 2014 @ 8:56 am
    I love humming birds!!! very nice work. congrats on the LOTD honors!
  • tonyleather Jan 06, 2014 @ 8:43 am
    What a great lens about an obviously lovely place! Thanks a lot!
  • Merrci Jan 06, 2014 @ 8:33 am
    Very interesting lens and wonderful variety of photos. You must have enjoyed doing this! Thanks for sharing and congrats on LotD!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Jan 06, 2014 @ 8:19 am
    Congrats on LotD! I love visiting parks, gardens, and sanctuaries. Quiet adventures are no less exhilarating. Enjoyed seeing all of the wildlife here.
  • esmonaco Jan 06, 2014 @ 7:17 am
    Thanks for the tour of this beautiful place. Your pictures are outstanding! Congratulations on LOTD!!
  • StephenJParkin Jan 06, 2014 @ 7:02 am
    A really interesting lens on the inhabitants of the park. Well done and a deserved LOTD trophy too!
  • Jan 06, 2014 @ 6:19 am
    lovely place to visit someday
    congrats on lotd
  • libertyduckling Jan 06, 2014 @ 1:06 am
    lots of good info! :)
  • leahjsongs Jan 06, 2014 @ 1:05 am
    Great trek through a beautiful park. Congrats on LOTD honors! I have never been to the southwest before but I understand that I'm missing a lot.
  • patgoltz Jan 06, 2014 @ 1:10 am
    Thanks for letting me know I got LoTD. :) And thanks for the very kind comment.
  • Max_Globe Jan 03, 2014 @ 9:29 am
    Gosh, I love the variety of birds in Arizona! Great lens, very bright, thank you.
  • patgoltz Jan 03, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
    You're welcome, and thank you as well.
  • jcs10319 Jan 01, 2014 @ 10:28 pm
    I am Pining it to my places to visit on Pinterest!
  • patgoltz Jan 01, 2014 @ 10:30 pm
    Thank you! I hope you get to visit, and that you enjoy it.
  • jcs10319 Dec 30, 2013 @ 11:07 pm
    Is this the Place your lens is on? If so it would be nice if you made a map of it on here. That way people knew were to visit. I will check back and if you add a map i will pin it on my pinterest.
  • patgoltz Jan 01, 2014 @ 4:10 pm
    Thank you for the suggestion and offer. It is deeply appreciated.
  • jcs10319 Dec 30, 2013 @ 11:01 pm
    I Love to see birds and plants! I love plants and have many.

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