Tortolita Mountains



Baileya multiradiata


Echinocereus fasciculatus


Layia glandulosa


Uropapus lindleyi



Coordinating Botanist:  Ries Lindley


Status:  In Progress


Started:  2012


Taxa List




The Tortolita Mountains are a small range at the northwest edge of the Tucson metropolitan area. Like much of the geology of the area, the origin of these mountains is complicated. The Tortolitas are considered to be the northwestern-most extension of the Catalina metamorphic core complex, which makes up the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Major canyons, like Ruelas, Wild Burro, and Cochie, cut through the range from southwest to northeast.  These canyons provide topographic relief and expose the myriad rock types of the Tortolitas for observation.


Rising from a low elevation of about 2700 feet above sea level to 4600 feet, the Tortolitas comprise three main biotic communities:  Sonoran Desert scrub, semidesert grassland, and a small patch of interior chaparral, inaccessible to this study due to its presence on state trust land. The presence of substantial parcels of Pima County-owned land and U.S. Bureau of Land Management tracts allows a substantially representative sampling of the grassland and scrub communities.


Botanically, the Tortolita Mountains are little studied. This project will provide information about the ranges of various species as well as a snapshot of species retreat as climate changes. Situated between the much better documented Ironwood Forest National Monument and the Santa Catalina Mountains, this flora of the Tortolitas will help us characterize and understand this transitional piece of the Sonoran Desert.