35 Coyote Bush, Paria Wilderness, Arizona

(Image, March 1997 © 2005 M. Childers)

What does it take to survive? Do some plants appear to be dead and disintegrating yet still hang on in some deeper place just waiting for the right conditions to flourish again? Desert life has an effulgent way of erupting into evidence shortly after a rain, completing a sexual cycle, then evaporate back into detritus.

The eggs of some fairy shrimp have been known to spring to life within hours of rain filling a desert rock pothole. Even in places that get water only every third century. They are able to grow on water nutrients, reproduce, and lay eggs for the next whenever generation before their small puddle world evaporates often within a few days. We all tend to respond favorably to well-nourished, long-lived mega fauna, but the various strategies that plants and animals have created to survive on the absolute fringe of existence are often more magical.

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