Desert Cacti: Fruit Producing “Trees”

Photo © regan76

Native fruit-producing trees and shrubs are essential components of diverse habitats. With a little space, these regionally-appropriate plants make excellent additions to most sites. Even better, wildlife visitors–from the smallest pollinators to mammals–will use these trees for food and shelter.

Squarro Cacti

Photo © Anne Reeves

Above: Saguaro (Carnegiea spp.)
Description: These slow-growing cacti are the tallest of all cacti, reaching 30-50 feet tall and 1-3 feet in diameter. They are also one of the longest-lived; reaching 200 years in age.
Bloom: They flower in May with fruit ripening in July and August.
Wildlife: Small mammals, bats, native bees, Gila Woodpecker, Elf Owl, Ferruginous Owl, Screech Owl, American Kestrel, Crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cactus Wren, Gilded Flicker, Lucy’s Warbler, Western Martin, Northern Flickers, doves and finches.

Whitethorn Acacia

Photo © Ken Bosma

Above: Whitethorn Acacia (Acacia constricta)
Description: A tree in the legume family that can be found growing in the southwest deserts. The tree reaches 9-15 feet tall with multiple branching.
Bloom: Flowers are yellow or white fluffs that form in May and June, which develop into red seed pods in the summer.
Wildlife: Pollinators, native bees, seed-eating birds

Ocotillo Cacti

Photo © Bill Gracey

Above: Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)
Description: These spiny desert shrubs consist of 11 species found in the southwest. They can reach 20 ft in height providing thorny, protective nesting habitat.
Bloom: The reddish orange flowers bloom in March or April, with fruits developing in the summer.
Wildlife: Small mammals, native bees, native pollinators, hummingbirds, finches, woodpeckers, orioles, thrashers, doves, and quail.
Bonus: They make great Living Fences.

Add it to your map

Placing and IDing your trees and shrubs.
First, add your trees and shrubs as objects to your map by selecting the Toolshed and Second.


Photo ©

Then, make sure to complete the characteristics by clicking on the green Info window. First identify your plant under Basic Information. If you enter the common or scientific name in the second bar, this will connect to the USDA plant database. Select the name that correlates to your plant.


Photo ©

Then, complete the characteristics by telling us about the features of this specific tree or shrub.


Photo ©

Other regional fruit tree recommendations:
Rocky Mountains
Pacific Mixed Forest
Northeast and Midwest
California Chaparral

Log in with your Cornell Citizen Science Username and Password below to leave a comment or ask a question

(This is the same username you use to sign-in to eBird, the Habitat Network, Celebrate Urban Birds, FeederWatch, NestWatch, Maccaulay Library)