FAUNA AND FLORA
The fauna of Arizona, in its extent and variety, will compare with any portion of the Union. Nearly all the animals indigenous to the temperate zone are found throughout the Territory, and in some localities it is the very paradise of the sportsman. The grizzly bear is found in the White mountain range, near Camp Apache; the cinnamon and the black bear are met with in the San Francisco, the Mogollon, the Sierra Blanco, the Bradshaw, the Mazatzal, the Chiricahua, the Huachuca, the Santa Rita, and in nearly all the wooded mountains of the Territory. The coyote, or prairie wolf, roams through the length and breadth of Arizona. The black-tailed deer is common in the northern and central portions of the Territory; it attains a large size, and some weighing 250 pounds have been killed. The California lion, or cougar, makes his home in every county in the Territory. The antelope is found in large bands on the elevated mesas and grassy plains that stretch from the Patagonia mountains to the Coconino forest; the big-horn mountain sheep is a dweller in the almost inaccessible crags and barren mountain peaks of northern Arizona. Although the elk can hardly be considered a native of this latitude, some large specimens have been seen in the lofty ranges of the San Francisco and the Sierra Blanco. The fox and the wildcat are extensively distributed, some of the latter reaching a very large size. The wood rat, the kangaroo rat, and the white mouse, are found in all parts of the Territory; gophers are numerous, the black-faced variety being mostly confined to the Sierra Blanco; squirrels are seen everywhere. The beaver inhabits the streams throughout the Mogollon, the White mountains, the Verde and its
Arizona offers a fine field for the ornithologist; it is exceedingly rich in the number and variety of the feathered tribe. The wild turkey is found in the Bill Williams, San Francisco, Mogollon, Sierra Blanco, Chiricahua, on the headwaters of the Gila and Santa Cruz, and in nearly all the wooded mountains of southern Arizona. Wild duck are plentiful in the watercourses of northern, eastern and south-eastern Arizona, and the wild goose is occasionally seen on the Colorado, the Gila and the Salt rivers. The crested quail, or California partridge, is extensively distributed and rapidly increasing since the settlement of the country by whites; doves and pigeons are found in the mountains and elevated plateaus. The western hawk inhabits all parts of the Territory. The crow family is well represented and is met in every direction.
The American eagle is found among the lofty peaks and deep canyons of the Sierra Blanco. There are many species of the owl family, and their solemn hooting makes night hideous from the Utah line to the frontier of Sonora. The melody of the mocking-bird is heard in Arizona wherever there is a stream or a grove; sparrows abound in the southern and central portions of the Territory, and the sweet song of the thrush trills forth in many parts of eastern Arizona. The oriole is found in the region of Camp Grant; and humming-birds, warblers, and finches are met with in the central and south-eastern valleys and mountain ranges. Water-ousels and bluebirds frequent the elevated regions of the south-east. The Arizona vireo is one of our sweetest singers, and is widely distributed; wrens are numerous in the south; swallows, buntings, jays, grosbeaks, and many species of the woodpecker are found in every part of the Territory; blackbirds are at home everywhere. Such aquatic birds as herons, snipes, sandpipers, cranes, etc., are found along the Colorado, the Gila, the Salt, and the larger streams. To describe fully the birds of Arizona, would require a volume; in brilliancy of plumage, sweetness of song, and variety of species, the feathered warblers of the eastern portion of the Territory are not excelled in the Union.
The flora of Arizona has many distinct peculiarities, and embraces several varieties found nowhere else in the United States. For the botanist, the Territory presents a wide field for study and investigation. Arizona is the home of the giant cactus, called by the aborigines, the sahuaro. This plant sometimes reaches a diameter of two feet, and frequently attains a height of forty feet. Its body is pale green, fluted like a Corinthian column; gigantic arms, like the branches of a candelabrum, put out from the main trunk towards its top, the whole being covered with sharp, prickly thorns. The plant bears a purple blossom, and in the latter part of June a palatable pear-shaped
The frame of the sahuaro is composed of narrow sticks of wood, arranged in the form of a cylinder, and held together by the outside fibers. When this "giant of the plains" falls, these ribs of wood are used for roofing adobe houses, fencing, etc. The prickly pear, another species of the cactus family, is found on the elevated mesas throughout the Territory. It attains a height of from four to six feet; has large fleshy leaves, which, in their tender state, are cooked by the natives, and taste not unlike string beans. It bears a pink-colored, pear-shaped fruit, palatable and refreshing to the thirsty traveler. The vinegar cactus, another variety of the plant, bears a small, deep-red berry, exceedingly acid in taste, which is used by the Indians as an antiscorbutic.
The bisnaga, or "well of the desert," is one of the most valued varieties of the cactus; it seldom reaches a height of over four feet, is of a cylindrical shape, covered by sharp thorns. The plant grows on the foothills and elevated plains. By cutting out the center, a bowl-shaped cavity is formed, which soon fills with water, affording to the thirsty wanderer a refreshing drink; the bisnaga also bears a bright yellow fruit, which is not unpalatable. There are many other varities of the cactus in all parts of the Territory, one of the most uninviting being the cholla, which sometimes grows to a height of five feet, with numerous branches covered with bunches of coarse thorns. A beautiful plant, which in the spring puts forth green leaves and scarlet blossoms and is found all over the table lands of Arizona, is the ocotillo. It is by some classed with the cactus family; grows in clusters of straight poles, from ten to fifteen feet in height, covered with sharp thorns. The plant is used extensively for fencing in portions of the Territory where there is a scarcity of wood.
The maguey, or mescal, sometimes called the century plant, is found on every hill and plateau of Arizona, and is the most useful of all the natural vegetable products of the Territory. It is brought under a high state of cultivation in Mexico, and is a source of large revenue in many portions of that country. Its long, sharp-pointed green leaves branch from the root to a height of three or four feet; they are fleshy and stiff, their edges being covered with thorns. The center of the plant is a large head, something like a cabbage, from which springs a slender pole, eight to twelve feet in height, bearing near its top, short branches which produce a yellow flower. The head is the valuable part, and is looked upon by the Apaches as their chief article of food. In preparing it for use the leaves are peeled off, the head is placed in a primitive oven made of round stones sunk in the ground, and roasted; it is then ready for use, is sweet and nutritious, tasting like a boiled beet. The Indians also make it into flat cakes, which were their principal means of subsistence when on the war-path, during the long and bloody struggle against the whites. The juice is sometimes extracted,
The amole, or soap weed, is another of the valuable plants indigenous to Arizona, and grows all over its table lands and grassy plains. It reaches a height of three or four feet, with long and narrow pointed leaves, which make excellent ropes, paper, cloth, and other fabrics; the roots are used by the natives as a substitute for soap. For washing woolen goods it is superior to the soaps of commerce, the flannels being thoroughly cleansed without shrinkage; the roots are also used as a hair wash, keeping it soft and glossy.
The hedeundilla, or grease wood, covers the hills, table lands and dry plains of Arizona, over its entire extent. It grows from two to eight feet high, and in the early summer produces a yellow blossom; when the leaves are rubbed between the hands an unpleasant odor is produced and a greasy substance adheres to the fingers. A gum is obtained from this plant which is said to be valuable for medicinal purposes. Among the other useful plants of the Territory may be mentioned the pectis and the creosote bush; the former has an odor like essence of lemon. No doubt there are many other plants and shrubs, rich in medicinal qualities, which will be brought to light when the flora of Arizona is fully classified and thoroughly known.
Grapes, wild cherries, currants, strawberries, and blackberries, are found in the mountains and valleys of northern, central, and eastern Arizona. The native grapes are rich in saccharine matter, and produce a very palatable wine, tasting like light claret. Walnuts are plentiful in the mountains and foothills of central Arizona. The wild coffee plant is found on the plateau of the central portion of the Territory; the berry looks like the coffee of commerce and the flavor bears a slight resemblance to the domestic article.
Pine, cedar, and juniper, cover the mountains and table lands of northern and eastern Arizona; the great forest of the Mogollon range extends south almost to the Gila river and contains some of the finest pine timber on the continent. In the mountains south of the Gila, pine is found around the summits of the Pinaleno, the Santa Catarina, the Santa Rita, the Huachuca, and the Chiricahua ranges, while the rolling foothills are covered with a magnificent growth of oak. Sycamore, ash, walnut, elder, and cottonwood are found along the water-courses in all parts of the Territory. Among the valuable woods of Arizona is the mesquite. This tree is a native of the region south of the Great
The palo verde, or green tree, is a native of the soil; it is found on the dry mesas, rolling hills and barren plains of the south and south-west. It seldom attains a height of over twelve feet; its branches are covered with thorns; its wood is soft and spongy, and it does not make even good fire-wood. The iron wood is a species of the mesquite, which it much resembles. It is a heavy, close-grained wood, susceptible of a high polish; when dry it is hard and brittle and almost impossible to cut with an ax. The bean it bears is similar to the mesquite, and contains as high as 35 per cent. of grape sugar; the Indians prize it highly as an article of food.
Of the grasses of Arizona, the most widely distributed is the black and white gramma, which grows in nearly every part of the Territory. A coarse grass called the gayette is found in the west and south-western portions of the country. In the higher regions, the pine, the mesquite, and other varieties, are met with. The coarse bunch grass, known as the buffalo, is found growing in many of the southern valleys and foothills. The grasses of the country are rich and nutritious, keeping stock in prime condition all seasons of the year.
Although not coming properly within the scope of this division, something about the fishes of the Territory may not be out of place here. In the Colorado there is a species of the finny tribe known as the "Colorado salmon." They are a fish tasting something like a sturgeon, and reaching a large size, some weighing 70 pounds having been taken near Yuma. In the Gila there is a fish resembling a sucker; it is found in large numbers and is well-flavored. What is known as the "Verde trout" is found in that stream and its tributaries; it resembles the mountain trout, and were it not for the number of bones, would be a valuable food fish. A fish called the humpback is found in the Salt river, and some weighing four pounds have been taken. A fish resembling a trout is also found in the Salt; it is of little value, being composed mostly of bones. In the headwaters of the Colorado Chiquito, and in the cold and sparkling streams which flow down from the Mogollon and the Sierra Blanco mountains, trout are found in abundance. These
Newspaper correspondents and "tender-foot" visitors have given Arizona an unenviable notoriety for the number, size, and venom of its reptiles and poisonous insects. The truth is they are not as numerous or dangerous as in many of the Western States. On the rolling plains and mesas several species of the rattlesnake are met with, but are far less numerous than has been popularly supposed. It is stated that in one exploring expedition of over 2,000 miles, not more than twenty snakes were observed. In the lofty mountain ranges they are rarely met with. Small-sized lizards are found everywhere on the dry mesas and plains, and the horned toad is at home in many localities. The saurian known as the "Gila monster," is found in the southern part of the Territory; it is a large species of the lizard, and makes its home on the barren plains that stretch along the Gila and its tributaries, below the canyon. It is red and black in color, is covered with scales like the alligator, and is entirely harmless. It sometimes attains a length of two feet. This variety of the lizard is peculiar to Arizona, and is considered one of the institutions of this peculiar country.