Native Arizona Plants

Kofa Mountains, Arizona Highways, April 2012

Arizonans have long valued our native plants.  Protections were first enacted in 1929.  The Arizona Native Plant Act now governs designation of native plants, harvesting and clearing protected plants on private and public land, gathering wood, collecting native seeds, and enforcement to ensure that Arizona’s rich and beautiful habitats are protected.

The Arizona Legislature first passed a measure to protect native plants in 1929, in Laws 1929, Chapter 8 (PDF page 75).

Session laws, State of Arizona, 1928, Eighth Legislature, Fifth and Sixth Special Sessions, 1929, Ninth Legislature, First Regular Session
Arizona Highways, August 1971

The new law listed protected plants and prohibited destruction, mutilation, or removal of any living protected plant without a written permit. The Arizona Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture issued permits to collect plants for scientific or educational purposes. Violators could be fined $50 to $300. The bill passed with an emergency clause, becoming effective upon the signature of Governor John Phillips on February 15, 1929.  J. Morris Richards described the legislation in his History of the Arizona State Legislature (PDF page 62).

Legislators worked on the issue again in Laws 1933, Chapter 99 (PDF page 517). The Legislature set a 30-day time limit on the permits issued by the Arizona Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture and allowed it to collect a fee of $5 for each permit, authorized peace officers to make arrests to enforce the act, and empowered county boards of supervisors to adopt ordinances for the enforcement of preservation of plants. Laws 1935, Chapter 66, (PDF page 342), added provisions regulating collection of yucca leaves for their fiber, which was intended for commercial purposes.

The laws were included in the 1939 Arizona Code at §§49-401 through 49-409 (PDF page 32).

From 1939 Arizona Code

Protection of native Arizona plants was included in the Arizona Revised Statutes when it was compiled in 1956.

From Arizona Revised Statutes, 1956

The protection of native plants continued to be of interest to the Legislature. Laws 1967, Chapter 74 (PDF page 516) reorganized the provisions of the law.

From Laws 1967, Chapter 74

The bill created the tag and permit system Arizona still uses for the authorized transport of protected native plants. The Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture was tasked with adopting regulatory rules. The legislation also established the Commission as a “90-10” agency: 90% of the fund was to be used by the Commission for enforcement, while 10% was credited to the state general fund.

Arizona Highways, August 1971
Changes to protection of native plants in the 1970s

Arizona legislators continued to show their commitment to Arizona’s native plants and their willingness to dive into the details of crafting the law.

Laws 1972, Chapter 187 (PDF page 1425) required the Commission to hold a public hearing on native plants at least once a year, increased enforcement authority, and included imprisonment among the penalties for violations.

Laws 1975, Chapter 139 (PDF page 642) added certain dead plants to the definition of protected native plants:

From Laws 1975, Chapter 139

The legislation also set a fee for removal of trees cut for wood and recognized the enforcement authority of state, federal, or tribal agencies. Laws 1976, chapter 179 (PDF page 934) added management of the wood receipt system to the Commission’s responsibilities.

Laws 1978, Chapter 109 (PDF page 337) changed the penalties to conform the Arizona Native Plant Act to the reorganized criminal code passed during the same session at Laws 1978, Chapter 201 (PDF page 717). A first conviction would result in revocation of all permits, including surrender of unused tags, seals, or wood receipts; and prohibit new permits for 90 days. A second offense was a Class 1 misdemeanor. Each violation was considered a separate offense.

Agave, Arizona Highways, January 1998
Major changes in the 1980s

Laws 1981, Chapter 232 (PDF page 792) revised the process and fees for permits, tags, seals, and wood receipts and authorized enforcement officers to make arrests without a warrant for violations they witness and to confiscate archeological and other specimens or objects that were unlawfully excavated or collected. Violators convicted of a 1st offense were prohibited new permits for a year.

Administrative rules, Senate, 39th Legislature, First Regular Session, 1989

Laws 1989, Chapter 294 (PDF page 1464) rewrote the Arizona native plant act.

Unusual among Arizona legislation, the revised Arizona native plant act starts with a statement of purpose and policy:

A portion of the revised Arizona native plant act

The legislation created four categories of protected native plants:

  • Highly safeguarded, such as those listed as endangered or threatened by state or federal law,
  • Salvage restricted, to protect plants subject to theft or vandalism such as the saguaro cactus,
  • Salvage assessed, which includes those that have a salvage value such as the ironwood tree,
  • And harvest restricted, which includes dead plants, those subject to harvesting, and those subject to over-cutting such as the mesquite tree.

It directed the Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture to adopt regulatory rules and enabled county and local governments to adopt and enforce ordinances to protect native plants. The legislation specified criminal and civil penalties for violations.

The bill also established the Arizona Protected Native Plant Fund, funded by fees, civil penalties, and other monies collected under the program. It was a “90/10” fund: 90% of funds were for the Commission to administer the program, while 10% was turned over the general fund.

Carnegiea gigantea – Saguaro Arizona Highways, March 2020

The same year, in Laws 1989, chapter 162 (PDF page 658), the Legislature created the Arizona Department of Agriculture and assigned it responsibility for native plant protection. The new Department of Agriculture was scheduled to launch on January 1, 1991. You can browse the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Native Plants on their website.

Tinkering in the 1990s
Opuntia Engelmanni – Engelmann’s prickly-pear
Arizona Highways, March 1973

Laws 1990, Chapter 374 (PDF page 481) was an omnibus Department of Agriculture bill but did not make policy changes affecting native protected plants. Laws 1993, Chapter 170 (PDF page 856) clarified provisions regarding destruction of native plants when it occurs in the normal course of mining, commercial farming, stock raising operations, and normal and routine maintenance of improvements. Laws 1996, Chapter 102 (PDF page 555) directed civil penalties paid for violations to the State’s General Fund. Laws 1997, Chapter 228 (PDF pages 38-39) changed the Arizona protected native plant fund from a 90/10 plan and authorized the Director of the Department of Agriculture to administer all deposited monies. Laws 1997, Chapter 233 (PDF page 85) reconciled inconsistent enactments affecting the Arizona protected native plant fund.

Into the 2000s
Pinus aristate – Bristlecone pine Arizona Highways, October 1988

Laws 2000, Chapter 360 (PDF page 335) added a new section, 3-916, allowing homeowners associations and other community-based nonprofits to collect and salvage native plants without obtaining a permit under certain circumstances. The idea was back two years later in Laws 2002, Chapter 38 (PDF page 118) to limit the permit to unincorporated area of the county or city where they are salvaged and make other technical changes.

Laws 2004, Chapter 301 (PDF pages 413-428), was a Department of Agriculture omnibus act. It made technical changes to the provisions governing Arizona native plants and added additional protection for imported protected native plant species. Laws 2005, Chapter 173 (PDF page 610) was another omnibus agricultural act which changed the Director’s rulemaking responsibilities and adopted specific protections for saguaro cacti.

The administrative rules in effect today were adopted in 1987 and have been amended to reflect new legislation. See Arizona Administrative Code rules R3-3-1101 through R3-3-1111 and Appendix A (PDF page 43). You can review the list of Protected Native Plants in Appendix A.

Many of our most familiar plants are protected by the law: the saguaro, blue palo verde, pincushion cacti, Arizona willow, organ pipe cactus, and desert poppy. Many more made the list, as well: check out Grizzly bear prickly-pear, Goodding’s onion, Fish Creek fleabane, Welsh’s milkweed, smoketree, and Thurber’s bog orchid! We’re just glad that someone who remembers the Latin names is keeping track and protecting this living heritage for all of us.

Whitewater Draw, Arizona Highways, May 2022

It’s Rattlesnake Season

Here’s a shout-out to some of Arizona’s beautiful and fascinating creatures.

Now is the time of year when rattlesnakes are active during daylight hours, enjoying the beautiful sunny spring weather, warming up after a winter of brumation. As the weather gets hotter, they become more active at night. They are experts at camouflage, so watch where you walk, reach when you are in their natural habitat. Keep a close eye on your curious dog as well. It’s a good idea to carry a flashlight at night and keep the volume low on your earbuds so that you might hear the tell-tale sign of their warning rattle.

Living with Rattlesnakes, Arizona Game and Fish Department

The Arizona Game and Fish Department website Living with Rattlesnakes provides help in identifying Arizona’s rattlesnake species. Searching the Arizona State Parks website for ‘rattlesnakes’ gets you information on where you might see them during your explorations.

The State of Arizona Research Library has many resources on rattlesnakes. Those online and on the Arizona Memory Project include advice on how to be safe around venomous reptiles, scientific studies from the Arizona Game & Fish Department, photographs, and publications from the United States Geological Survey on reducing rattlesnake-human conflicts. Our print collection offers books and reports on species of rattlesnakes, ecology and other scientific studies, stories and reminiscences from Arizona history, and federal publications.

April typically an active month for rattlesnakes, Arizona Game and Fish Department


Reading Arizona offers free eBooks and audiobooks. Rattlesnake resources include children’s books, scientific guides, Arizona history, and rattlesnakes as characters in novels!

If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Envenomated pets should be immediately transported to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic. Do not bring the rattlesnake with you. Medical personnel do not need the rattlesnake to know how to treat the patient- the same antivenom is used regardless of the rattlesnake species. Do not cut open or suck on the puncture wounds and do not use a tourniquet. All of these are old-wives’ tales that are no longer supported by medical research.

Also, please don’t do this:

The Argus, July 16, 1898

Or this:

The Argus, October 8, 1898, page 4

Arizona Says No to Daylight Saving Time

While most of the rest of the United States observes Daylight Saving Time (DST), Arizona does not. In March, most of the country will “spring forward” and set their clocks one hour earlier. In November, they “fall back” and reset the clocks to an hour later, gaining back the extra hour returning to Standard Time. Meanwhile Arizona stays on standard time all year long, inspiring the refrain: Spring remain, Fall the same. Arizona is in the Mountain Standard Time (MST) zone, also known as Mountain Time. Places in the Mountain Time zone who observe daylight saving time are referred to as Mountain Daylight Time (MDT).

When did this happen, and why?

How did we get here?
Original U.S. Law 40 Stat. 450 & 56 Stat. 9.

The idea of changing clocks to take advantage of more sunlight in the summer months is not new. Congress first adopted a measure in 1918 to extend the workday and conserve fuel needed for war industries during World War I. The same legislation established standard time zones (40 Stat 450 & 56 Stat 9). After the war, the nationwide mandate was repealed but DST continued as a local option. DST was implemented again as “War Time” during World War II. The nationwide mandate was repealed again in 1945. Once again state and local governments could choose to observe it. They had the additional authority to decide when would start and end. By 1966, there was a patchwork of local laws that caused confusion and inefficiencies for radio and TV stations, railways, airlines, and bus companies. And, presumably, anyone who wanted to know what time it was.

In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, intended to “promote the adoption and observance of uniform time within the standard time zones”. It implemented a plan to adopt DST. It instructed all Americans to move their clocks forward one hour on the last Sunday of April and back one hour on the last Sunday of October of each year. The law allowed any state to exempt itself from the time changes, provided the exemption applied to the entire state.

15 U.S.C. §§260-64.

Since 1966, standard time has shrunk to about 4 months as Congress has shifted the start of DST earlier and the start of standard time later. Currently, DST starts the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November.

Photograph of the 28th Arizona State Senate

In 1968, the Arizona Legislature exempted the state from the DST, choosing to remain on standard time throughout the year. Filed that same year was Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 proposing to refer the issue to the voters. Both measures passed the Senate and were transmitted to the House at about the same time. The House opted to proceed by passing a statute. Senate Bill 1 was approved in the Senate by a vote of 25 to 3 (PDF page 972) and in the House of Representatives 49 to 1 (PDF page 782), enough to pass with an emergency clause. It became effective upon the signature of Governor Jack Williams on March 21, 1968. You can read it at Arizona Revised Statutes §1-242. It has never been amended.

Laws 1968, Chapter 183. PDF pages 719-120
Map of Hopi villages and communities in Arizona. From ResearchGate.net.

Not all areas inside the borders of Arizona shun DST. The Navajo Nation lies in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah. The Navajo Nation is on DST, keeping the entire reservation on the same time. But it’s a little more complicated than that. The Hopi Nation, which is surrounded by Navajo land, is not on DST and therefore is on the same time as most of Arizona. Given that there is also a portion of the Navajo Nation that is surrounded by Hopi land, you may need a map to be able to tell what time it is during DST in northeastern Arizona. 

Why did Arizona oppose DST? To Arizonans living in areas with intense heat, an extra hour of sunlight in the evening is not appealing. It would not spur people to go out and enjoy the longer evening hours that are beloved by Americans in summer-loving climates. In addition, in the Arizona desert observing DST is unlikely to meet the original goal of energy conservation. A few other areas have opted out of DST, including the State of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

Is DST a good idea?
Impact of Extended Daylight Saving Time on National Energy Consumption Report to Congress

The original goal of DST was to shift the clocks forward during the months with the most sunlight to maximize use of natural light and save heating and transportation fuel. It’s not clear that DST meets that goal. Life and energy consumption have changed dramatically since 1966. Now, air conditioning is virtually everywhere, there are multiple TV sets and computers in a typical home, and most people who plan activities to enjoy the “bonus hour” use gasoline to get there. The savings were evaluated by the Department of Energy in a report to Congress in 2005 and by the Congressional Research Service in 2020.

Studies suggest that DST is not good for our health. Time changes disrupt our natural circadian rhythm. When clocks are set ahead in the spring, many people can’t fall asleep at night and feel more groggy in the morning.  This can impair focus and judgment during the time it takes our bodies to adjust, resulting in lost productive time and car accidents. Some studies show a higher risk of heart attack following time changes, especially after the “spring forward” change that starts DST. Some people who suffer from mood disorders may experience an increase in depressive symptoms after the “fall back” change when daylight grows shorter.

And most people detest changing their clocks twice a year. A poll published in the Economist/YouGov in November 2021 found that 63% of respondents want to stay on the same time all year. Other polls found the number to be even higher: nearly 75% would prefer not to change their clocks. Twenty-eight state legislatures considered the issue in 2022. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that some 450 bills and resolutions have been considered by state legislatures in the last 7 years.

If DST is eliminated, the choice is between permanent DST or permanent standard time. This is a major dispute. The Economist/YouGov poll found that 48% preferred permanent DST, while 29% favored permanent standard time. A different poll showed that 40% of respondents support permanent standard time, with 31% preferring permanent DST. Eighteen states have enacted measures to establish year-round DST as soon as federal law allows it. In general, businesses that benefit from longer business hours, such as retail, restaurants, and outdoor recreation advocate for permanent DST. For instance, longer daylight in the fall, when the days grow shorter, has been a boon for the candy and Halloween industries. The hurdle to this point of view is that states can opt out of DST, but don’t have the authority to set permanent DST without federal approval.

Climate for Phoenix, Arizona

Others recommend permanent standard time. One factor is the health benefit of standard time. More light in the morning, for example, helps many to feel more alert and to maintain a healthful regular bedtime. There is evidence that altering the body’s relationship to the sun can negatively affect sleep, cardiac function, weight, and risk of cancer. Some of the business community agrees. The ski industry, for example, supports standard time year-round because it enables ski activities earlier in the day. Parents have long worried about DST in the fall, when schoolchildren go to school while it is still dark.  And don’t forget us here in Arizona. We Arizonans love our sunshine, but most of us feel we can get too much of a good thing. During the extreme heat of our summers, we don’t want to postpone sunset. Traffic in August is cranky enough already.