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Snow in the Desert

Updated on August 29, 2017

Cactus in Snow???

People think of deserts as being hot places where there is never any snow. Aside from the fact there are SOME deserts located in cold climates, hot deserts sometimes get snow, too. Perhaps on an average, I expect to see snow in my yard about once every fifteen years!

The last time we had snow was in 1999. My article on seasons has some of those photos.

We had another snowstorm the other day. It was wonderful because not only did the snow do great things to the landscape, but the temperature was in the 40's, so by going out promptly I was able to get some great photos without freezing to death!

This was a storm heading for the Midwest, that really dumped on them. We got the edge of it. Perhaps I will drive into the mountains in a day or two to see what I can find up there. In the meantime, here are photos from my yard. Enjoy!

The photo on the left shows several Saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) with snow on them.

All photos are mine.

This time we had been warned

sort of

We knew it was going to be cold, but I didn't expect to see snow in the morning. Actually it was already early afternoon when I took these pictures.

Just because it is going to get cold doesn't mean it won't rain instead.

When we had snow on Easter Sunday in 1999, it came as a total surprise. And it was COLD that day, unlike this recent afternoon. I took 14 rolls of film, and froze my fingers off. Since I was feeding the birds at that time, I put out some seed, and the birds came in and ate it eagerly. This time, I wasn't feeding birds lately, and I didn't see any.

Then there was the snow that hit briefly in the morning some year in between, when I got nice sunrise pictures, but then got some rest and when I got up, the snow was all gone.

Cholla Covered in Snow - Cylindropuntia sp.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Seen from a distanceGetting a little closerWhat's that strange white stuff?Looks fuzzy. But the thorns are sharp!Don't hug the teddy bear!
Seen from a distance
Seen from a distance
Getting a little closer
Getting a little closer
What's that strange white stuff?
What's that strange white stuff?
Looks fuzzy. But the thorns are sharp!
Looks fuzzy. But the thorns are sharp!
Don't hug the teddy bear!
Don't hug the teddy bear!

Prickly Pear in Snow - Platyopuntia sp.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the cactus used to make most cactus jelly, and nopalitos.Notice how the snow melted and formed icicles with a thorn in the center of each.
This is the cactus used to make most cactus jelly, and nopalitos.
This is the cactus used to make most cactus jelly, and nopalitos.
Notice how the snow melted and formed icicles with a thorn in the center of each.
Notice how the snow melted and formed icicles with a thorn in the center of each.

Mountains with Blankets of Snow

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I don't know if this mountain has a name.Wasson Peak with Cholla in the foreground.Getting closer to Wasson Peak.Wasson Peak flying solo.
I don't know if this mountain has a name.
I don't know if this mountain has a name.
Wasson Peak with Cholla in the foreground.
Wasson Peak with Cholla in the foreground.
Getting closer to Wasson Peak.
Getting closer to Wasson Peak.
Wasson Peak flying solo.
Wasson Peak flying solo.

Saguaros with Snow - Carnegiea gigantea

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Just a collection of Saguaros.Saguaros with rocks in the background.Same rocks later in the morning, with fog or snow moving in, I'm not sure which.Saguaros in fog.Closeup of Saguaros in fog.
Just a collection of Saguaros.
Just a collection of Saguaros.
Saguaros with rocks in the background.
Saguaros with rocks in the background.
Same rocks later in the morning, with fog or snow moving in, I'm not sure which.
Same rocks later in the morning, with fog or snow moving in, I'm not sure which.
Saguaros in fog.
Saguaros in fog.
Closeup of Saguaros in fog.
Closeup of Saguaros in fog.

A Few Other Scenes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Old branches covered with snow. Leftovers from my firebreak clearing project.Chaparral with snow and frozen water drops. Larrea tridentata.Neighbor's house with palms, shrouded in fog.
Old branches covered with snow. Leftovers from my firebreak clearing project.
Old branches covered with snow. Leftovers from my firebreak clearing project.
Chaparral with snow and frozen water drops. Larrea tridentata.
Chaparral with snow and frozen water drops. Larrea tridentata.
Neighbor's house with palms, shrouded in fog.
Neighbor's house with palms, shrouded in fog.

Debate: Cactus versus Snow

Do you prefer cactus, or snow?

All about cactus and saguaros

Available from Amazon:

I don't think anyone ever wrote a book about saguaros and snow, so this is the best I can do. Enjoy!

All about Saguaros: Facts/Lore/Photos

by Leo W. Banks

Saguaro: The Desert Giant

by ANNA HUMPHREYS, Susan Lowell

Complete Book of Cacti & Succulents

by Terry Hewitt

© 2013 Pat Goltz

Have you ever seen snow on cactus? - Other comments welcome, too

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    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @Ramkitten2000: Cactus and snow are great together. You don't have to put up with months of freezing in order to enjoy the beauty. :)

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Yep! A lot. We have both up here in Flagstaff and the surrounding lower desert. I've also seen cactus in snow in Grand Canyon and down in Sedona. Such a beautiful combination!

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @ScottsdaleAgent: When you don't get snow very often, you can enjoy it.

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      ScottsdaleAgent 4 years ago

      I love it when we get snow in Scottsdale. It is such a treat!

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @squidoopets: Thank you for the kind words, and you're welcome. I'd love to take pictures in Sedona when it has snowed.

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      Darcie French 4 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I was in Sedona Az in January when there was snow - very beautiful. I love your snowy desert pics, many thanks for sharing :D

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @Cari Kay 11: Thank you very much!

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      Kay 4 years ago

      I have seen snow on cactus but your photos are just lovely!

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @BLouw: I don't know. Where do you live? It would be wise to cover the tips of cacti when the temperature is supposed to go below 32 degrees. People often put paper cups on the tips of their cacti.

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      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      I've never seen pictures of snow in the desert. wondering now if I can leave my cacti out over winter! Beautiful photos.

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You're welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing great information to us. I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.

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    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @Rosetta Slone: Thank you! I know it snows in places like the Andes. Are you saying it also snows occasionally in the lowlands?

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      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      What gorgeous pictures! I haven't seen snow on a cactus, but it has snowed here in the tropics, would you believe!

    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @NibsyNell: We don't see it often, and we've lived here over 40 years. I can recall only three occasions! Thank you for the comment.

    • NibsyNell profile image

      NibsyNell 4 years ago

      Gosh, that's a sight I've never seen before! :)