Arizona Naturalists >>> Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Sonoran Desert Plant Families
In the first column, clicking on the family name will bring up pages of all plants belonging to the family discussed here. Thumb links under the examples column will take you to the species shown.
Simple leaves are mostly opposite on stems. Flower petals fused with 4 or 5 lobes and with usu. 4 stamens. Flowers usu. bilaterally symmetrical and in spikes with bracts between flowers. Fruit a capsule w/2 seeds per chamber. More on Wikipedia.
Large robust plants with succulent, elongate leaves usu. clustered at ground level. Flowers on tall stalks. Flwrs with usu. 6 parts all similar in color and texture. Fruit three-parted. More on Wikipedia.
In Arizona's flora these plants are prostrate, mat-forming annual or perennial herbs. Stems fleshy. Flowers small with 5 lobes. More on Wikipedia.
Mostly herbaceous plants with simple leaves and without showy flowers. Greenish flowers small, often in dense clusters, including papery bracts, each developing a small, single seed. Includes weedy species. More on Wikipedia.
Shrubs, vines or trees with resious foliage. Small flowers in panicles. Including poison ivy and sumacs with shiny leaves. Upper Sonoran Desert and into Chaparral. More on Wikipedia.
Compound leaves (ex. Bowlesia) expressing carrot or parsley aroma. Includes a floating aquatic plant. Ferbaceous plants small flowers arranged into umbels. More on Wikipedia.
Leaves usually simple adn opposite. Sometimes with milky and toxic sap. Radially symmetrical flowers producing paired capsules with many seeds. Includes cultivated oleander. More on Wikipedia.
Trees with large palmate or pinnate compound leaves. More on Wikipedia.
Low growing, vine-like, herbaceous perennial, trailing along the ground. Obscure flowers greenish, shaped like a smoker's pipe. Leaves distincly arrow-shaped. More on Wikipedia.
Vines or perennial herbs exuding white sap from breaks. Star-shaped flowers often arranged in an umbel. Seeds often with long, silky hairs. More on Wikipedia.
|Asteraceae - Green Flowers||Sunflower Family||
Green or brownish flowers apparently lacking petals. Heads sometimes form a bur. Many small flowers grouped together into a head. More on Wikipedia.
|Asteraceae - purple flowers||Sunflower Family||
Many small flowers (sometime few) grouped closely together into a head. Mostly each floret produces a seed. More on Wikipedia.
|Asteraceae - white flowers||Sunflower Family||
Many small flowers (florets) make up what might appear to be a single flower. Rays present or absent (discoid). More on Wikipedia.
|Asteraceae - yellow flowers||Sunflower Family||
Yellow sunflowers and daisies. Some without rays. Others tending to orange color. More on Wikipedia.
Shrubs with holly-like leaves. Flowers yellow followed by dry berries. More on Wikipedia.
Deciduous tree in riparian habitat with simple leaves. Flowers appearing like small cones. More on Wikipedia.
|Bignoniaceae||Trumpet Vine Family||
Vines or small trees with flowers shaped like a trumpet. Seed with long hairs in elongate pods. More on Wikipedia.
In Sonoran Desert most are herbs often with stiff hairs. Flowers with 5-lobed, tubular flowers. Fruit a set of four nutlets. Flowers often in scorpioid spike. More on Wikipedia.
Mostly herbaceous plants, some perenials and small shrubs. Fruit often an elongate pod. Petals 4, stamens 4 + 2 (two sizes). More on Wikipedia.
Shrub or small tree with aromatic, evergreen leaves. Flowers and fruit small. Trunk large in comparison to plant size. More on Wikipedia.
|Cactaceae||Cactus Family - Chollas||
Succulent shrub with flesh, elongated, segmented joints with mumerous sharp spines aranged on buttons. More on Wikipedia.
|Cactaceae||Cactus Family - Columnar||
Spiny succulent plants with one or more cylindrical stems. Petals numerous blending into green sepals. Stamens numerous. Fruit fleshy. More on Wikipedia.
|Cactaceae||Cactus Family - Prickly Pears||
Succulent shrubs with flattened, spiny joints. Miniscule spines called glochids. Flowers with numerous often yellow or pink petals. More on Wikipedia.
|Cactaceae||Cactus Family - Single Stem or Clumping||
Spiny succulents, usually low growing and not branching - forming clumps of several stems. More on Wikipedia.
Subfamily of bean family - fruit a pod with beans. Flowers with 5 nearly similar petals. Leaves compound. More on Wikipedia.
In Sonoran Desert a large shrub to small tree with small flowers and abundant long thorns. Fruit a hard capsule. Wikipedia.
Fruit positioned below petals. Petals and sepals five. Capsule with many seeds. Leaves simple and alternate. Wikipedia.
Strongly scented herbs, shrubs or tree. Fruit an elongate pod. Wikipedia.
Shrubs and vines here. The leaves are mostly opposite with no stipules and may be either evergreen or deciduous. The flowers are tubular funnel-shaped or bell-like, usually with five outward spreading lobes or points, and are often fragrant. They usually form a small calyx with small bracts. The fruit a berry below the petals. Wikipedia.
Opposite leaves and often with distinctive swelling at stem nodes. Wikipedia.
Flowers mostly obscure greenish or papery. Shrubs or herbaceous plants with foliage often mealy-textured and/or fleshy, leaves alternate and sometimes scale-like. One seed per ovary. Wikipedia.
|Convolvulaceae||Morning Glory Family||
Trumper or funnel-shaped flowers are five-lobed and frequently brightly colored. Seed capsule with usually four seeds. Mainly vines with twinning stems, but a few free-standing herbs/subshrubs, and with alternate leaves. Wikipedia.
Fleshy herbs or perennials with simple leaves often clustered at plant base. Flowers in usu. tight groups and mostly 5-merous. ne to several seeds in capsules. Stamens may be numerous. Wikipedia.
Just a single uncommon shrub in Sonoran Desert. Simple leaves. Flowers with five white petals, many stamens, and producing each several ovaries. Wikipedia.
Herbaceous vines climbing by tendrils. Leaves palmately lobed/cleft. Funnel flowers with five lobes. Fruit a gourd or spherical cucumber. Wikipedia.
Trees or large shrubs with resinous, scaly foliage. Seeds within a fleshy cone appearing as a berry. Wikipedia.
Grass-like plants most often in riparian zones. Stems usu. three-angled. Flowers greenish or with reddish tints. Leaves and fruit also in threes. Wikipedia.
Medium to large shrubs with greenish stems and only small, scale-like leaves. Female plants produce small cones with a couple of seeds , whereas the male cones display conspicuous yellow stamens. Wikipedia.
Perennial underground stems give rise to hollow, jointed stems above. Leaves minute scales. One kind has fine whorled branches at nodes the other tall, slender and without branching. Cone-like sporangia at tips of some stems, i.e. no flowers or seeds. Wikipedia.
Diverse family with small to minute flowers. Flowers may be in dense clusters with petal-like structures or colored leaves. Sap often milky or irritating resin. Many have reddish leaves during cold or dry seasons. Fruit almost always three-parted and three-seeded. Wikipedia.
Alternate leaves are tough and evergreen. Acorns and/or acorn cups usually visible. Woody shrubs or small trees at upper elevations or in deep, shady canyons. Flowers minute, without petals, and numerous in pendulant spikes. Wikipedia.
Woody and succulent - able to drop leaves with drought and quickly regrow them with rain. Sharp thorns on large woody shrub or small tree. Leaves simple and alternate. Mistakenly called a cactus by some. Wikipedia.
Low growing, shrubs with tolerance for salty or alkaline soils. Coastal Sonoran Desert of Mexico. Succulent leaves. Flowers with five white petals. More on Wikipedia.
Just one low growing herb in Sonoran Desert with bright yellow, bilaterally symmetric flowers and finely divided leaves. Wikipedia.
Many varieties outside our desert. Here, the most common one is herbaceous and has five bright pink petals that a pointed. Wikipedia.
In this area all are herbaceous with hairy foliage and strongly scented. Five free petals and five sepals. Usually five carpels that split apart readily when when the fruit matures. Wikipedia.
In the Sonoran Desert mostly herbaceous and mostly annuals. One shrub. Flowers with 5-lobed, tubular flowers often blue or white. Fruit a capsule splitting into two with a few or many seeds. Flowers in spikes, often scorpioid. Wikipedia
One tree in this family in riparian habitat. Leaves compound and alternate. Non-showy flowers in pendulant spikes. Wikipedia.
|Koeberliniaceae||Junco Family||Just one uncommon shrub. Leaves reduced to small scales. Many long green thorns. Allthorn|
Magenta flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and fruit is a prickly capsule. Perennial shrubs which act as root parasites on other plants. Krameria is the only genus. Wikipedia.
|Martyniaceae||Unicorn Plant Family||
Herbaceous perennials from below ground tuber. Flowers large & bilaterally symmetrical. Fruit fleshy then later drying into double-clawed pod. Wikipedia.
Mostly shrubs and small trees often with thorns. Flowers numerous in short or long spikes; petals minute but stamens long and colorful. Fruit a bean pod. Leaves mostly twice pinnate. Wikipedia.
|Moraceae||Mulberry Family||White Mulberry|
|Nyctaginaceae||Four O'clock Family|
|Onagraceae||Evening Primrose Family|
|Orobanchaceae||Broomrape Family||Burrow Weed Strangler|
|Oxalidaceae||Wood-sorrel Family||Creeping Woodsorrel|
Fruit a bean pod with usu. a number of seeds. Pea flowers with five united petals: hood, banner, and wings. Often with once-compound leaves. Wikipedia.
Leaves mostly basal - flowers in a densely packed spike without showy petals. Wikipedia.
Large tree with whitish bark and large, simple leaves with several, palmately arranged lobes. Spherical cluster of small flowers and achenes. Wikipedia.
|Poaceae||Grass Family - small annuals + perennials|
|Poaceae||Grass Family - larger perennials|
|Pteridaceae||Maidenhair Fern Family||
Wavy-leaf Cloak Fern
Mostly woody shrubs and smaller trees. Some herbaceous perennial species. Few in Sonoran Desert proper, i.e. mostly in transition to chaparral or encinal vegetation. Alternate leaves. Numerous stamens. Usu. with compound ovary. Mostly without thorns. Wikipedia.
Only one very uncommon species of thorny shrub at upper elevations of Sonoran Desert. Wikipedia.
|Sauricaceae||Lizard Tail Family|
|Selaginellaceae||Simarouba Family||Arizona Spike Moss|
|Simaroubaceae||Simarouba Family||Crucifixion Thorn|
|Sterculiaceae||Cacao Family||California Ayenia -- Ayenia compacta|
Shrubs, small shrubs and herbs. Leaves are mostly pinnately compound and opposite on the stem. Flowers have five, free petals, often on a distinct claw. Fruit often separating into segments with one or two seeds inside. Wikipedia.
Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page