Arizona Plants and Trees
Nearly every variety of wood and plant that grows in other portions of the
United Slates is found in Arizona, and some that cannot be found except
along this southern belt of country. Many varieties of the cacti species
are found. The most noted is the Suwarrow, which grows to the height of
thirty to fifty feet, and from ten to twelve inches in thickness; the main
trunk is straight, and has numerous branches or prongs that grow from the
main trunk in all manner of curious shapes. Blossoms spring from the top
of the main trunk in Spring, and when in full bloom the top looks as
though it was decorated with a large, beautiful bouquet. These blossoms
ripen by July into sweet fruit the size of figs, which is much prized by
the natives. The outside of the Suwarrow is green, and covered with
regular rows of thorns running from top to bottom from two to three inches
long. The inside is supported with ribs of wood one-half inch in
thickness. This wood is used for covering houses and for fuel.
The Amole, when once known and appreciated, will be considered among the most valuable natural productions of our country. It grows three or four feet high, and has long, sharp, pointed leaves in the shape of a bayonet. The root is extensively used in place of soap, and in many respects is far superior to any soap that is made. The hair washed with it remains soft and glossy for days without the use of oil, and flannel clothes are perfectly cleansed by its use without shrinking. There is an abundance in this Territory to supply the markets of the world, and the time will come when it may be much sought after.
The Maguey or Mescal is the most useful of all the natural products of the Territory. The Apache Indians derive the most of their subsistence from it. It grows in nearly every part of Mexico, and is made a source of great profit in many portions of that country. In the United States it is only found in Arizona and a portion of New Mexico. It has a large head something like a cabbage, that grows a few inches from the ground, and is surrounded by numerous detached leaves, each one stiff and sharp as a needle, and from the center a stock grows eight to ten feet in height, and from two to three inches in diameter. The stock is juicy, sweet and very palatable, but the head is the valuable part of the plant. The Indians cut this head out and roast it; after this, it is ready for use. It is sweet and nutritious. They pound it and make it in the shape of mats, and in this way preserve it a long time. Its juice is often extracted, and when boiled down makes a syrup as delicious as honey; and, by fermentation, an intoxicating liquor is made that is called tizwin. The Mexicans distill it and make Mescal. This liquor looks like gin and tastes like Scotch whisky, and is as intoxicating as either, and is preferred to almost any other liquor by the Mexicans. Before the tax was levied on the distillation of liquors large quantities were made in this Territory, but since that time the manufacture of it is transferred to Sonora, and the makers take the chances of smuggling it in without the payment of duties. The fibre of the Mescal makes excellent ropes, and cloth and paper have been made from it.
The Mesquite or Gum Arabic tree grows over nearly every part of Central and Southern Arizona. The tree is low and bushy, and seldom grows more than a foot in diameter; the leaf resembles the locust; the wood is solid, and makes excellent fuel, and is extensively used in making wagons. Gum Arabic of an excellent quality oozes from it in considerable quantities. It is most plentiful in the months of May and October.