Welcome to the New Normal

Even the desert is getting too hot.

Krista Marson
Gardening, Birding, and Outdoor Adventure
4 min readDec 12, 2023


Dead Saguaro, photo by author.

As I write this, there have been 133 days this year when the high temperature reached at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7C) in Phoenix, Arizona. It last reached at least 100° F on October 21, 2023, which is fairly late in the year for such a temperature to be achieved. In 2020, Phoenix that number was a whopping 144 days over 100 degrees, which set the record to beat.

Furthermore, Phoenix hit 110 degrees F (43.3C) for 54 days in 2023, which set yet another kind of heat record. To have this many days of excessive heat is greatly concerning. Sure, the desert has always been hot, but not this kind of unbearable heat.

Another Dead Saguaro, photo by author.

This new kind of heat has led to excessive amounts of dying trees and dried flora. There’s only so much heat even cacti can take, to say nothing of what kind of suffering citrus and pine trees can endure. One answer can suffice for all: too much heat is too much.

Dead Citrus Tree, photo by author.
Dead Pine Tree, photo by author.

I fear the days of citrus growing in Phoenix are nearing an end. Gone will be the days of watering these water-intensive trees to one’s heart’s content, for no amount of watering will save them. The time has come to let them go. Indeed, it may be time for Phoenix to act like the desert it always was and stop pretending it can sustain such tropical vegetation.

One of Many Dead Citrus Trees I see, photo by author.

Plant researchers are studying how much heat cacti can take. “Until recently, it was assumed that the plants could adapt to high temperatures and sustain themselves in a drought. However, Arizona’s heat wave is testing those assumptions,” said Tania Hernandez, a cactus scientist at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden.

Everything Pictured Looks Dried Out, photo by author.

The saguaro, aka: “Sentinel of the Southwest” cacti need to cool down at night or through rain and mist. Long periods of high temperature can weaken and eventually kill saguaros by damaging them internally.

Rotting in Suburbia, photo by author.
Rotting in the Desert, photo by author.

Thirsty trees are drying out all over Phoenix, and a lot of them are being affected by an airborne disease. Sooty canker has been able to multiply rapidly due to this year’s hot summer.

Sooty Canker Killed These Big Beauties, photo by author.
Sooty Canker in the Process of Claiming its Next Victim, photo by author.

The following photos document a small sampling of what kind of trees won’t be able to thrive in a warming Phoenix, Arizona:

Eucalyptus, photo by author.
Some Big Dead Trees Make for a Dystopian Bus Stop, photo by author.
Pine Tree, photo by author.
I See These Trees Everywhere, Not Sure What They Are, But They Don’t Like the Heat, photo by author.
Ficus, photo by author.
Hacked to Death, Then Killed Again by the Heat, photo by author.
A Sad Pair of Dying Trees, photo by author.
Dying, photo by author.
Native Palo Verde Tree, photo by author.
Half Dead, photo by author.
Peach Tree, aka: Stop Growing Water Guzzling Trees in the Desert, photo by author.
Looming Death, photo by author.

Thanx for reading! p.s…I have two books out! Memory Road Trip (e-book or paperback) and Time Traveled (e-book or paperback).