Wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, USA

Desert Wildflower Reports

Mar. 30th, 2014. A mini-Bio-Blitz spearheaded by members of the Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society turned up more than 130 plants in bloom in Walnut Canyon and White Canyon Wilderness south of Superior Arizona. Many of the annuals were much smaller than there size after a proper amount of winter rain. We also observed birds, reptiles, butterflies, amphibians and mammals. Thus, despite the shortage of precipitation we found much to capture our attention:

Desert Rose Mallow
Desert Rose Mallow
Mar. 30, 2014, White Canyon Wilderness, AZ. Delightful yellow with five broad petals on a scragly few-stemmed shrub. More info
Red Maids
Red Maids
Mar. 30, 2014, White Canyon Wilderness, AZ. Fleshy stems and leaves. Grows low to soil with bright pink or white blooms. More info
Purple Owl's Clover
Purple Owl's Clover
Mar. 30, 2014, White Canyon Wilderness, AZ. Spikes of super magenta flowers on short herbaceous plants. More info
Desert Phlox
Desert Phlox
Mar. 30, 2014, White Canyon Wilderness, AZ. Snow-white flowers at termina of tall, slender stems. More info
Golden Linanthus
Golden Linanthus
Mar. 30, 2014, White Canyon Wilderness, AZ. Small plant with several long-peduncled, five-petaled flowers. More info

Mar. 17th, 2014. The welcome rain from March 1st has revived some annuals and spurred perennials to bloom. Several spots had thin, but bright yellow carpets of bladderpod. The following were fund at the southern end of Rainbow Valley where it adjoins the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness:

Brown-foot
Brownfoot
Mar. 16, 2014, Rainbow Valley, AZ. Common name reflects the plant when dormant. Delicate pink and very sweet smelling when blooming! More info
Yellow Bladderpod
Desert Bladderpod
Mar. 16, 2014, Rainbow Valley, AZ. Much shorter than usually seen in wet years. Look for bladder-like seed pods 3mm dia. More info
Peppergrass
Peppergrass
Mar. 16, 2014, Rainbow Valley, AZ. Minute green white flowers on a small plant will go unnoticed except by an observant nature lover. More info
Prickly Poppy
Prickly Poppy
Mar. 16, 2014, Rainbow Valley, AZ. Large white flowers atop a very prickly plant. Likes pastures where there are too many animals. More info
Desert Lupine
Lupine
Mar. 16, 2014, Rainbow Valley, AZ. Compound leaves arranged palm-like. Slender, hairy leaflets. Purple flowers. More info
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Mar. 8th, 2014. Sure enough, last weekend our more than 2 months without rain ended with a substantial rainstorm that produced from 12 to 50 mm of rain across the Sonoran Desert. A few annuals that had nearly died have been revived, but it has been the perennials that have responded strongly and are now blooming well in some places. Today along US-60 east of Mesa there were plenty blooms expecially near the roadsides including Desert Marigold, Brittlebush, Creosote Bush, Parry's Beardtongue, and Canyon Ragweed. At Boyce Thompson Arboretum the gardens were ablaze with color and the desert trails offered the following among many other species:

Purple Bladderpod
Purple Bladderpod
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. White with purple flowers have four petals. Fruit are spherical and turgid. More info
Blue Dicks
Blue Dicks
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. Slender, grass-like leaves all at ground level. Clusters of lavender-blue flowers atop tall wand stalk. More info
Miner's Lettuce
Miner's Lettuce
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. Minute white flowers in center of cup-shaped bract. Grows in shady spots along cliff faces. More info
Lacepod
Lacepod
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. Flowers white, but very small and hard to see. Fruit is a flat disc with a wonderful lacy border. More info
Bush Penstemon
Snapdragon Bush;Bush Penstemon
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. One or two-meter tall bush with abundant bright yellow snap-dragon flowers. On cliff slopes with partial shade. More info

Feb. 23rd, 2014. The peak of springtime wildflowers may well be passed. Two months without rain have left annuals very small or absent, while shrubs are putting forth lackluster shows of color. But, wait! Next weekend is predicted to bring some rain. How much is anyone's guess.

Creosote Bush
Creosote Bush
Feb. 23, 2014. Tucson Mountains. Woody shrubs, with resinous, dark green leaves and fuzzy-white seeds. Up to 2 m tall. More info
Triangle-leaf Bursage
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. Not showy, flowers greenish yellow. Frequent cause of pollen allergies. Medium-sized woody shrub. More info
Desert Marigold
 © by Mike Plagens
Feb. 23, 2014. Tucson Mountains. Low-growing perennial herb with over-sized, bright yellow daisy-flowers. Mostly at roadsides that get extra water. More info
Orange Fiddleneck
Feb. 23, 2014. Tucson Mountains. Way smaller than usual this year. Leaves feel prickly. Slender herbaceous stems. More info
Fairy Duster
Nightshade
Mar. 8, 2014, Superior, AZ. Shrubby plants with compound leaves. Largest plants with biggest flower clusters at roadsides. More info

Feb. 1st, 2014. We were surprised to find many wildflowers blooming while touring Old US-80 along Arlington Mesa and the rocky hills near Gillespie Dam (s.w of Buckeye, AZ) Some decent rains in Nov-Dec 2013 were followed by very mild Dec and January temperatures. Several hillsides were all yellow with Bladderpod, a kind of mustard. Without significant rain during this February, the spring wildflower seasonnfor 2014 will be mostly very bleak.

Fremont Thornbush
Goldeneye
Feb. 1, 2014. Woody shrubs, mostly just under 2 m tall, with fleshy leaves and small purple flowers. More info
Desert Sunflower
Feb. 1, 2014, Yellow rays and yellow discs. Herbaceous annual of sandy soils. Leaves gritty textured. More info
Coulter's Globe Mallow
 © by Mike Plagens
Feb. 1, 2014. Low-growing annual often in the partial shade of desert shrubs. Five very orange petals. More info
Bladder-Pod
Feb. 1, 2014. Bright yellow, four-petalled flowers on low herb. Fruit forms spherical pods. More info
Lamb's Quarters
Nightshade
Feb. 1, 2014, Robust weedy plant at margins of farm fields and along irrigation ditches. Flowers green-red and very small. More info

Oct. 12th, 2013. Summer monsoon rains were generous in many places across the deserts and high country of Arizona and New Mexico. The result is that there is now a profusion of fall wild flowers particularily along roadsides in the higher elevations north and east of Phoenix and Tucson. A drive out Apache Trail was very colorful with bright lichens adding to the show of color.

Golden Eye
Goldeneye
Oct. 13, 2013. Yellow-rayed sunflowers that look like brittle bush but shrub has sandy-textured leaves. More info
Wright's Buckwheat
Oct. 13, 2013, Clusters of small pinkish-white flowers on soft stemmed low shrub. More info
Sweet Bush
 © by Mike Plagens
Oct. 13, 2013. Look for the Butterflies! Small yellow heads on intricately branched shrub about a meter tall and wide. More info
Broom Snakeweed
Broom Snakeweed
Oct 13, 2013, Half-meter tall shrubs covered with hundreds of small, bright yellow heads. More info
Nightshade
Nightshade
Oct. 13, 2013, White 5-petaled flowers with large yellow stamens on mostly herbaceous plant. Berries black when ripe More info

May 25th, 2013. The ephemeral spring annuals at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument have long since whithered to brown, crispy wisps. But the dominant cacti and many of the shrubs are still blooming now. Temperatures exceed 35° every day, but evenings and mornings are very pleasant. Besides those shown just below, Desert Ironwood, White-thorn Acacia, Desert Tobacco, Velvet Mesquite, and Skeleton Weed were also flowering nicely.

Desert Agave
Desert Agave
May 25, 2013, O.P,N.M. Bright yellow clusters on 3 m tall stalks arising from rosete of dagger like blue-green leaves. Plant whithers away as fruits mature. More info
Sweet Bush
 © by Mike Plagens
May 25, 2013. Look for the Butterflies! Small yellow heads on intricately branched shrub about a meter tall and wide. More info
Organ Pipe Cactus
Organ Pipe Cactus
May 25, 2013, O.P,N.M. Large white flowers opening at night and visited especially by bats. Followed by spherical, reddish, spiny fruits. More info
Wire Lettuce
May 25, 2013, O.P,N.M. Small lavender flowers - actually five to seven florets in a head. Many straw-like stems that may form a basket shape. More info
Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro Cactus
May 25, 2013, O.P,N.M. Big, fantastic white flowers usually several meters up, put keep looking to find a low swooping branch with open bloom. More info

April 21st, 2013. The desert grassland and piñon-juniper areas north and east of metropolitan Phoenix are still showing a lot of beautiful flowers. Desert Mariposa Lilies were especially glorious along Seven Springs Road north of Carefree. Many other species are in full bloom, but temperatures in excess of 30°C mean they will soon be going to seed.

Desert Mariposa Lily
Desert Mariposa Lily
April 21, 2013 north of Carefree along Seven Spring Road. Large brilliant yellow or orange blooms rising just above the short grass and rocky substrate. More info
Banana Yucca
 © by Mike Plagens
April 21, 2013. Robust succulent with dagger-like leaves and clusters of big, pendulous, white flowers. More info
Plains Blackfoot Daisey
April 21, 2013 n. of Carefree. Half-meter diameter bunches of white daisies fading maroon. More info
Desert Penstemon
April 21, 2013 n. of Carefree. Wands of pink, tubular flowers. Leaves are opposite on the stem and joined around the stem. More info
California Goldfields
 © by Mike Plagens
April 21, 2013 n. of Carefree. Diminutive daisies with yellow rays and centers, barely a few inches tall. Herbaceous. More info


March 21st, 2013. An abundance of wildflowers were observed and identified by members of the Arizona Native Plant Society field trip northeast of Mesa, Arizona. Among the many species seen in bloom include: Chuparosa (Justicia californica), Hairy Bowlesia (Bowlesia incana), Triangle-leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea), Mojave Desert Star (Monoptilon bellioides), Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana), San Felipe Marigold (Adenophyllum porophylloides), Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) California Goldfields (Lasthenia californica), Orange Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia), Wingnut Cryptantha (Cryptantha pterocarya), Comb Bur (Pectocarya platycarpa), Asian Mustard;Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii) California Mustard (Guillenia lasiophylla), Peppergrass (Lepidium lasiocarpum), London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio), Lacepod (Thysanocarpus curvipes), Bigroot (Marah gilensis), Small-seed Sandmat (Chamaesyce polycarpa) Red-stemmed Fillaree (Erodium cicutarium), Eucrypta (Eucrypta micrantha), Notch-leaved Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), Blue Fiesta Flower (Pholistoma auritum), Chia (Salvia columbariae), Blazingstar -- Mentzelia, Desert Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcia ambigua),. Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), Pale Evening Primrose (Camissonia pallida), California Sundrop (Camissonia californica), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Seaside Deervetch (Lotus salsuginosus), Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus), Woolly Plantain (Plantago patagonica), Red Brome Grass (Bromus rubens), Yellowthroat Gilia (Gilia flavocincta), Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), Desert Windflower (Anemone tuberosa), Shrubby Bedstraw (Galium stellatum), Thornbush;Wolfberry (Lycium spp), and Pellitory (Perietaria pennsylvanica).
With very warm, dry conditions the show won't last long!

March 12th, 2013. Rains in December were a hopeful sign that Spring 2013 would be good for wildflowers. Most of January was quite dry, there was a hard freeze, and prospects for a showy spring were dim. From Friday January 25th thru Monday the 28th rainfall arrived across much of the Sonoran Desert. Since January only a few light rain showers have kept the annuals small and widely spaced. There are no fabulous shows, but by searching many of the desert beauties can be found.

On March 8th and 9th a late winter storm brought significant rain to parts of the Sonoran Desert, particularly north and east of Phoenix and Tucson. The annuals are revived and the perennial shrubs and cacti will bloom nicely through May. In the weeks after the rain record high temperatures above 30°C will propel growth as well as drying. Along the Bartlet Dam Road north of Scottsdale there are slopes covered with bright California Poppies:

California Poppy
California Poppy
March 14, 2013 east of Carefree. Broad swaths of poppies on rocky slopes. More info
Perennial Rock Cress
 © by Mike Plagens
March 14, 2013 east of Carefree. Perennial mustard grows straight out of rock crevices. More info
Holly-leaf Barberry
March 14, 2013 east of Carefree. Woody shrub with bright yellow, incredibly sweet flowers. Also called Red-berry Barberry. More info
Wingnut Popcorn Flower
March 14, 2013 east of Carefree. Abundant small white flowers on low herb with rather bristly folliage. More info
Curly Dock
March 14, 2013 east of Carefree. Large, slightly rubbery leaves. Spikes of flowers with green-red bracts. More info


Blue Fiesta Flower
February 28, 2013 at Thunderbird Park, Glendale, AZ. Delicate blue flowers on scrambling vine-like herb. More info
Small-Flowered Hideseed
 © by Mike Plagens
February 28, 2013. Even smaller, minute pale blue flowers with four petals and soft, pinnately cleft leaves. More info
London Rocket
February 28, 2013. Abundant weed in the city and sometimes in desert along washes. Small yellow flowers. More info
Yellow Bladderpod
Feb. 28, 2013. Bright yellow, four-petalled flowers on low herb. Fruit forms spherical pods. More info
Woolly Plantain
February 28, 2013 at Thunderbird Pk, AZ. Small greenish white flowers with browning bracts. Diminutive. More info


Sand Verbena
February 18, 2013 at Ehrenberg, AZ. Hemispheres of bright pink flowers forming carpets on sand dunes. More info
Mexican Poppy
California Poppy
February 18, 2013 at Ehrenberg, AZ. Large orange-yellow petals on plants growing close to ground. More info
Brittlebush
Brittlebush
February 18, 2013 at Ehrenberg, AZ. Abundant yellow flowers on meter-tall shrubs at roadsides and on hillsides. More info
Arizona Lupine
Arizona Lupine
February 18, 2013 at Ehrenberg, AZ. Lavender-blue pea-flowers on plants mostly a roadside. More info
Pepper-grass
February 18, 2013 at Ehrenberg, AZ. Technically a wildflower but with no obvious petals or colors. Diminutive. More info
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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2014