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Bighorn Sheep Food Garden

The annuals, grasses and shrubs in this garden grow in the Santa Rosa Mountains south of The Living Desert. Bighorn rely on them for over 95% of their diet.

Shrubs provide nourishment all year long. Notice that these “mainstay plants” include several types of cacti!

In the winter and summer, when new growth is sparse, shrubs furnish up to 87% of a bighorn’s food. But even when spring annuals and fall grasses are plentiful, shrubs dominate.

Although bighorn eat annuals year round, they are not favored food. Annuals never make up more than 16% of a sheep’s diet. Grasses outdo annuals as a regular source of nourishment, and almost rival shrubs in the fall, when grass consumption rises to 45%, and the use of the shrubs declines to 52%, its lowest point.

Bighorn can be picky eaters. Burrobush (Ambrosia dumosa), for example, grows all year long, but is eaten only in the spring. Little-leaf rush pea (Hoffmannseggia microphylla, was Caesalpinia virgata) another steady grower is eaten primarily during the summer months. Plant labels in the garden tell when species are eaten and what importance they have in the diet of desert bighorn sheep.

Link to foxpaws article: Please Eat The Daisies

Botanical Name Common Name Family
Agave deserti Desert Agave Asparagaceae
Ambrosia dumosa Burrobush, White Bursage Asteraceae
Ambrosia salsola Cheesebush Asteraceae
Atriplex canescens Four-wing Saltbush Chenopodiaceae
Bebbia juncea var. aspera Sweetbush Asteraceae
Chilopsis linearis Desert Willow Bignoniaceae
Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa Buckhorn Cholla, Staghorn Cholla Cactaceae
Cylindropuntia bigelovii Jumping Cholla, Teddybear Cholla Cactaceae
Cylindropuntia echinocarpa Silver Cholla Cactaceae
Echinocereus engelmannii Calico Hedgehog Cactus Cactaceae
Encelia californica x Encelia farinosa Encelia Hybrid Asteraceae
Eriogonum fasciculatum California Buckwheat Polygalaceae
Ferocactus cylindraceus California Barrel Cactus, Compass Barrel Cactaceae
Fouquieria splendens Ocotillo Fouquieraceae
Hilaria rigida Big Galleta Poaceae
Hoffmannseggia microphylla Little Leaf Rush Pea Fabaceae
Hyptis emoryi Desert Lavender Lamiaceae
Larrea tridentata Creosote Bush Zygophyllaceae
Olneya tesota Ironwood Fabaceae
Opuntia basilaris Beavertail Cactus Cactaceae
Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada Short Joint Beavertail Cactaceae
Opuntia phaeacantha Brown-spined Prickly Pear Cactaceae
Parkinsonia florida Blue Palo Verde Fabaceae
Petalonyx thurberi Sandpaper Plant Loasaceae
Prosopis velutina Velvet Mesquite Fabaceae
Prunus fremontii Desert Apricot Rosaceae
Prunus ilicifolia Hollyleaf Cherry Rosaceae
Psorothamnus spinosus Smoke Tree Fabaceae
Senegalia greggii (syn. Acacia greggii) Cat’s Claw Acacia Fabaceae
Simmondsia chinensis Jojoba, Goatnut Simmondsiaceae
Sphaeralcea ambigua ssp. ambigua Apricot Mallow, Globe Mallow Malvaceae
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