by Francesca Gentile
In the Southern Arizona region, the arid and inhospitable landscape makes the flourishing of plant life unlikely. However, the land bursts with life that has adapted and bustles with creatures of many varieties. In the Ajo Mountains sky islands and the occasional oasis, such as Quitobaquito, allow plant life to thrive. In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, there are at least 643 plant species. However, seventy two of these are invasive species that threaten the vitality of native plant life. The most common native plants are cacti, ranging in size from the Organ Pipe Cactus to the tiny pincushion cactus. Trees and shrubs also inhabit the area of the monument, as well as many different types of wildflowers, like the Mexican poppy, and lupine. Many of the cacti and shrubs have a lush blooming period lending a colorful scene to the otherwise bare land. Invasive plants have become more of a problem to the monument because they familiarize more easily to the land due to the introduction rather than adaptation over several years, creating fierce competition among the vegetation. Arid climate and harsh temperatures have created a fascinating environment for plant life and make up an ecosystem unique in the United States.