The author of Esperanza Means Hope paints a vivid picture of Arizona’s landscape mentioning both plants and animals throughout the story. Read one of the author’s picturesque descriptions from Part II, On the Ranch, page 96. (See below.)
Rancho Escondido meant Hidden Ranch in English. It was located at the foot of the Rincon Mountains, surrounded by hills studded with boulders and tall saguaro cactuses. On the north side of the house, down a steep slope, a line of green cottonwoods showed where the wash ran. Their bright green leaves rattled and fluttered in the faint breeze, sounding like rain. The cottonwoods revealed why the ranch was built in that spot: water. Cottonwoods were thirsty trees. They sank their roots into the wash, creating pools that attracted wildlife, including deer, javelinas, and bobcats. Growing in the pools were tall reeds that hid ducks and fish. This lush oasis had been Esperanza’s favorite place to play when she was younger. Esperanza looked toward the stark mountains. It was so quiet at the ranch. The only sounds were rustling cottonwood leaves, softly cooing doves and a distant cow bawling for her calf.

Flora and Fauna Glossary

Research the flora and fauna of Arizona and make a pictorial glossary of Arizona’s plants and animals. A glossary includes a brief description of each plant or animal and/or some interesting information about them. Make sure you include only plant and animal species native to Arizona. For example, the White-winged Dove is commonly found in the Sonora Desert and the Southwest, so it would be a good choice for dove. You would research “birds of Arizona” to find information. See the Reeds (Common) example.



Cholla Cactus

Cottonwood Tree

Cresote Bush


Mesquite Tree

Palo Verde Tree

Prickly Pear

A cane-like grass, common reeds grow along creeks and riverbanks. Native people used them for musical instruments, weapons, food, games and medicines.



Reed (Common)

Saguaro Cactus

Scrubby Oak
















Horned Toad








Arizona Cattle Forage or Range Grasses


Sand  Dropseed Grass

Sand Dropseed Grass

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo Grass

Arizona Range Grasses


Growth Habit




Alkali Sacaton 2 – 3 feet tall; grows in dense clumps Pale green with grayish cast Native
Arizona Fescue 2- 3 feet tall; densely clustered stems with wiry stalks Gray green to blue green Native
Blue Grama 6 – 12 inches tall; low-growing
Grayish green turning yellow straw Native
Bottlebrush Squirreltail 5- 15 inches tall; clumped bunchgrass Bright to dark green turning yellow Native
Galleta 1 – 2 feet tall Dull blue-green turning to light yellow Native
Junegrass  Coarse sodgrass; 1 to 1 ½ feet tall Bright to light green Native
Sacaton Coarse stemmed bunchgrass; 3- 6 feet tall Pale green with grayish cast Native
Vine Mesquite 


Viney type of sodgrass Light bluish-green turning to reddish straw color Native
Western Wheatgrass 


Moderately coarse sodgrass; 1 – 2 ½ feet tall Blue green turning washed out strawlike Native

Add two of your own choices.

Arizona Flora, Fauna, and Cattle Ranching Teacher Resources

Lizard Lesson Plan

Mariá Elena’s Mexican-American Diner


Appetizer:  (optional)
Arizona Fish and Game website

  1. Go to the Arizona Game and Fish Website and download the Living State Symbols PowerPoint, the Living State Symbols Background sheet and the State Symbols Graphic Organizer. Read the background sheet and watch the PPT. Then complete the organizer. Ask your teacher for help.
Main Course: (select one)
Desert Botanical Garden Digital Learning for Students
Go to the Desert Botanical Garden Website and view DBG Digital Learning

  1. Select interactive tutorials for students.
  2. View “What is a Desert?” and “How Are Deserts Formed?”
  3. Surf through the Virtual Habitat.
  4. Write a report explaining what you learned about Arizona’s flora and fauna.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Go to the Sonora Desert Museum Website and view ASDM Digital Library.

  1. Select Fun Facts and read about any plants or animals that interest you.
  2. Write a report called Fun Facts and list your favorite fun facts about a variety of plants and animals.
  3. Browse through the Teacher Resources section and ask your teacher to provide copies of any information/worksheets for you.
Side Dishes: (select two)
Cattle Ranching in Arizona – Price Canyon Ranch

  1. Go to The Ranch tab and read Ranch History – notice the metates; they were used by Native American and Mexican families.
  2. Go to the Price Canyon Ranch Website and watch the slide show.

Cattle Ranching in Arizona

  1. Read about Cattle Ranching in Arizona – about a Model Ranch – Henry Hooker writes about his Sierra Bonita Ranch.
  2. Read about Sierra Bonita Ranch – A National Historic Landmark.

Cattle Ranching in Arizona

  1. Learn to identify the different breeds of cattle. Watch the
    Cattle Breeds PowerPoint
    . Choose your favorite two and draw them.

Cattle Ranching in Arizona

  1. Review the different types of forage or native range grasses that feed Arizona cattle.
  2. Draw and label 3 – 5 different grasses.
  3. For more types of grasses, review the Arizona Grasses.
    Add two more grasses to the chart.
Dessert (optional)
Read Katie of the Sonoran Desert Katie del Desierto Sonorenseby Kate Jackson.

Read about Hispanic Ranching in Arizona (Spanish/English)

Arizona Historical Society