Autumn is often known for scarves, sweaters, and, of course, changing leaves. While the Sonoran Desert may not be renowned for its colorful transition of trees, if you know what to look for, you will see that desert plants have a way of signaling a change of seasons. Explore some of the fall changes in desert trees, cacti, and aloes.


Certain desert trees and other plants may hold on to their leaves throughout the scorching summer, and should they make it to fall, they can change from green to vibrant shades of orange or yellow. In the Valley, you might encounter a variety of trees and cherubs undergoing this seasonal shift, including Sycamores, Desert Plumbago, Chinese Pistache, and Mexican Buckeye. 

Other plant species also undergo transitions. Ocotillos, for instance, occasionally retain their leaves during the summer and then shift to a vibrant yellow hue when the cooler season arrives. Desert cotton can take on a striking red coloration. You’ll encounter these plants along the Garden’s various trails. If you’re interested in witnessing the vibrant transformation of cottonwoods, consider visiting the Desert Botanical Garden and exploring the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail


Additionally, certain cacti and aloes put on their own captivating Autumn displays. Keep an eye out for the Santa Rita prickly pear, which darkens to a rich purple as the temperature drops. Some species even become a fiery red in response to the cooler temperatures.