Most people brag about their sunsets no matter where they live, but only Sedona can lay claim to the ethereal colors of a fading golden sun on the red rock spires and cliffs. Being a high desert with low humidity, the air is crisp and the sky holds the bluest blue. At sunset, colors of mauve, crimson red, blood orange and golden yellow paint the terrain with an intensity of color, it’s almost palpable.
The native desert plant, Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), is also called Flaming Sword or Candlewood because of it’s beautiful blooms of scarlet-furried tubular flowers crowding the end of multiple 6 to 20 foot tall, thin thorny branches. At sunrise and sunset, these spring flowering stalks take on an impression that someone lit up the hillside with candles adding dimension to an already incredible display of color.
Another native plant, the narrow-leafed Agave or Century Plant (Agave Palmeri) is pollinated by specialized long-nosed bats that migrate here from Mexico right around the time the flowers are beginning to bloom. This plant will live for 30 years before putting up a flowering stalk. The stalk grows at an alarming rate of several inches a day to accomplish a 6 to 10-foot tall flowering stalk within a couple months. These flowers smell like rotting meat and the bats are drawn to the scent. So the bats can benefit from the plants, they produce copious nectar with more than twice the protein as that of typical bee-pollinated agaves. The flower’s nectar secretions peak between 8p.m. and 10 p.m. when the bats are most active. With this perfect synchronicity of timing, one can sit out quietly in the desert, enjoy the sunset and wait for the bats to arrive around dark. When they start flying overhead you can hear their wing beats. They come into the flowers with a golden cloak of pollen over their shoulders, tufts of their ears and face. Their long tongues lick the pollen off their bodies and you feel you are watching a sacred ancient dance of the desert.
The Sedona sunset is more than just a sunset, it’s an experience that changes every evening. Colors without names on the canyon walls, colors out of an old postcard that slowly fade and linger, eventually giving way to twilight. With the clarity of the night sky, and Sedona’s famed ‘lights out status’, one can see the entire Milky Way galaxy from horizon to horizon.
Come enjoy the gifts of the desert. Find a great place to sit out on the red rocks, be ready for an evening of color, dimension and unexpected surprises.
Feather Jones is a Clinical Herbalist and owner of Sedona Tea Blends, an organic herbal tea company whose blends are comprised of selected botanicals, vortex essences and desert flower essences.