Wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, USA

Desert Wildflower Reports

May 31st, 2015: Catalina State Park. Tucson's urban sprawl has reached right to the park boundary. Within the preserve wildflowers and nature still prevail. Recent, but very atypical rains have kept the park unusually green for the season.

Desert Willow
Desert Willow
May 31, 2015, Catalina Park, AZ. Dark green trees covered with pale pink trumpet flowers. More info
Cane Cholla
Cane Cholla
May 31, 2015, Catalina Park, AZ. Large cholla cactus with rather long straight joints. Often with a single tree-like trunk. More info

Trailing Four O'Clock

Trailing Four O'Clock
May 31, 2015, Catalina Park, AZ. Stems trail along the sandy soil with bright pink flowers at regular intervals. More info
Virgin's Bower
Virgin's Bower
May 31, 2015, Catalina Park, AZ. Satin white flowers on a woody vine. Later, the maturing seeds are even more conspicuous. More info
Woody Crinklemat
Lacy Tansy-Aster
May 31, 2015, Catalina Park, AZ. Miniature woody shrubs with over-sized flowers by comparison. More info

May 24th, 2015: I-17 exit to Bumble Bee. The Crown King Road crosses a dozen kilometers of upland Sonoran Desert with many cacti and desert shrubs. May 2015 has been unusually cool and wet so that the spring flowering season has continued and some summer bloomers have started already.

Catclaw Acacia
Catclaw Acacia
May 24, 2015, Crown King Rd., AZ. Small cream-colored flowers in dense compact spikes. A honeybee favorite. More info
Centaury
Centaury
May 24, 2015, Crown King Rd., AZ. A few plants in the deep sandy washes were revived by unusual May rains. More info

Range Ratany

Range Ratany
May 24, 2015, Crown King Rd., AZ. This woody plant grows stronger by tapping into the root systems of neighboring shrubs. More info
Paper Flower
Paper Flower
May 24, 2015, Crown King Rd., AZ. Many slightly woody stems about 80cm tall all with bright yellow flowers. More info
Tamarisk
Tamarisk
May 24, 2015, Crown King Rd., AZ. Also called Salt Cedar. True cedars don't get flowers at all. This is an exotic invasive plant. More info

April 19th, 2015: North of Glendale and Peoria, Arizona, along Carefree Highway and up Lake Pleasant Road and out Castle Hot Springs Road the annuals have all dried and gone to seed. But the trees, shrubs and succulent cacti are blooming full bore.

Foothills Palo Verde
Foothills Palo Verde
April 19, 2015, Castle Hot Sprgs. Rd., AZ. In any given area this paler yellow palo verde blooms about 2 weeks later than the blue palo verde. More info
Desert Ironwood
Desert Ironwood
April 19, 2015, Castle Hot Sprgs. Rd., AZ. Blooming a week or two earlier perhaps because we've had an exceptionally warm late winter to spring. More info

Engelmann Prickly-Pear

Engelmann Prickly-Pear
April 19, 2015, Castle Hot Sprgs. Rd., AZ. Big, saucer sized flowers with numerous tepals (petals and sepals). Numerous on old cattle pastures. More info
Velvet Mesquite
Velvet Mesquite
April 19, 2015, Castle Hot Sprgs. Rd., AZ. Lots of tassled flowers but they are a few weeks old and there's almost no nectar left for the bees. More info
Lacey Tansy-Aster
Lacy Tansy-Aster
April 19, 2015, Castle Hot Sprgs. Rd, AZ. Many stems from a woody crown with pinnately divided leaves. More info

March 29th, 2015: Vekol Valley, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona. Day time temperatures are pushing above 35°C (95°F) most every day recently, drying the ephemeral flowers quickly. Still lots of great things to see.

Desert Evening Primrose
Desert Evening Primrose
March 29, 2015, Vekol Valley, AZ. Big, bright yellow - like a pats of fresh butter dropped in the sandy washes. More info
Lobed Ground Cherry
Lobed Ground Cherry
March 29, 2015, Vekol Valley, AZ. Leaves, fruit and purple flowers hug the ground remaining in the shallow boundary layer. More info

Blue Palo Verde

Blue Palo Verde
March 29, 2015, Vekol Valley, AZ. Truly splendid show with tens of thousands of flowers open in the trees at once. More info
Desert Holly
Desert Holly
March 29, 2015, Vekol Valley, AZ. Holly-like leaves and small heads of pinkish flowers. Growing in shade of wash bank trees. More info
Ocotillo
Coachwhip
March 29, 2015, Vekol Valley, AZ. Bright red flowers at the tips of coachwhip branches visited by hummingbirds. More info

March 22nd, 2015: We could easily have listed a hundred species of blooming plants along the Seven Springs Road north of Carefree, Arizona.

Violet Snapdragon
Violet Snapdragon
March 22, 2015, Seven Spring Rd., Carefree, AZ. Rather small plant with sticky leaves and small, beautiful flowers. More info
Tufted Evening Primrose
Tufted Evening Primrose
March 22, 2015, Seven Spring Rd., Carefree, AZ. Very large, white flowers with four petals. They close up and turn pink by afternoon. More info

Whispering Bells

Whispering Bells
March 22, 2015, Seven Spring Rd., Carefree, AZ. Pale yellow, bell-shaped plants stay on the plant after they wither and a jostled in the wind making soft sounds. More info
Chia
Chia
March 22, 2015, Seven Spring Rd., Carefree, AZ. Small purple flowers in round clusters that appear stacked up on the stem. More info
Sugar Berry
Sugar Sumac
March 22, 2015, Seven Spring Rd., Carefree, AZ. Evergreen trees with glossy, leathery leaves. Flowers cream-color and accented by red stems. More info

March 8th, 2015: Many wild flowers were found blooming along the Bartlett Dam Road northeast of Carefree, Arizona.

California Poppy
California Poppy
March 8, 2015, Bartlet Dam Road, Carefree, AZ. Spectacular annuals with 5 petals often in large patches on gentle slopes. More info
Canaigre
Wild Rhubarb
March 8, 2015, Bartlet Dam Road, Carefree, AZ. Large leaves set at ground level. Tall reddish spikes of seeds. More info

Snapdragon Bush

Bush Penstemon
March 8, 2015, Bartlet Dam Road, Carefree, AZ. Yellow snapdragons on an intricately branched, leafy bush. More info
Bigroot
Bigroot
March 8, 2015, Bartlet Dam Road, Carefree, AZ. Small flowers on leafy vines followed by prickly, spherical cucumbers. More info
Desert Windflower
Desert Windflower
March 8, 2015, Bartlet Dam Road, Carefree, AZ. Low-growing perennials with finely divided leaves and up to ten tepals. More info

March 5th, 2015: Over a long lunch break I hiked up Shaw Butte in Phoenix, Arizona. Plants are blooming, but mostly perennials and very few annuals. I suspect the long gaps in the rainfall pattern kept annuals from prospering this year.

Compass Barrel
Barrel Cactus
March 5, 2015, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, AZ. Normally blooms April and May, but February was way warmer than usual this year. More info

Fiddleneck

Orange Fiddleneck
March 5, 2015, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, AZ. In wet years grows a meter or more tall. More info
Buffel Grass
Buffle Grass
March 5, 2015, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, AZ. The reddish spikes look pretty, but this exotic is bad for the Sonoran Desert! More info
Creosote Bush
Creosote Bush
March 5, 2015, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, AZ. Woody shrub with shiny, compound leaves and flowers with five petals. More info
Phacelia
Phacelia
March 5, 2015, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, AZ. These annuals are in full bloom, but smaller and fewer than usual. More info

Feb. 15th, 2015. Brittle Bush with its numerous yellow heads is leading the way into spring in the deserts surrounding the Phoenix area. I drove a few miles north of Lake Pleasant on the back road to Crown King and found quite a number of species blooming: Blue Dicks, Triangle-leaf Bursage, Brittlebush, London Rocket, Jojoba, Red-stemmed Fillaree, Comb Bur, Parry Dalea, Desert Windflower, Chia, Lacepod, Seaside Deervetch, Ragged Rock Flower, Paper Flower, Rumex, Fairy Duster, Bigroot, Hairy Bowlesia, and Henbit.

Feb. 1st, 2015. Rackensack Wash: Early spring flowers and 11 butterflies on the wing. The last week of January brought substantial rains to the southern and eastern portions of the Sonoran Desert. The low elevation, western areas of Arizona and southern California remain very dry and likely to have few if any wildflowers showing this spring.

Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled Eggs
Feb. 1, 2015, Rackensack Wash., AZ. Low growing plant with tubular flowers and finely dissected leaves. More info

Fillaree

Red-stemmed Fillaree
Feb. 1, 2015, Rackensack Wash., AZ. Often growing very low to the ground. Spring Azure butterfly. More info
Mock Vervain
Mock Vervain
Feb. 1, 2015, Rackensack Wash., AZ. Clumps of lavender flowers also popular with butterflies. More info
Desert Rock Pea
Desert Rock Pea
Feb. 1, 2015, Rackensack Wash., AZ. Big velvety soft leaves. Five free petals. Schizocarp fruit. More info
Wild Oats
Wild Oats
Feb. 1, 2015, Rackensack Wash., AZ. Tall grass with pendulous spikelets bearing long awns. More info

Oct. 12th, 2014. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Arizona-Mexico border south of Gila Bend. September 2014 was one of the wettest on record in the Sonoran Desert. The low desert areas of Organ Pipe were verdent green with creosote bush, palo verdes and brittle bush putting forth abundant new foliage. Few flowers though except for the not showy Mexican Jumping Bean. The foothills of the Ajo Mountains on the other hand had numerous things in bloom.

Jumping Bean
Jumping Bean
Oct. 12, 2014, Organ Pipe N.M., AZ. No beans yet, just very obscure spikes on dark green shrubs 2 to 4m tall. More info

Goldeneye

Goldeneye
Oct. 12, 2014, Organ Pipe N.M., AZ. Shrubs about a meter tall and with small, sandy-textured leaves. More info
Three-seeded Mercury
Three-seeded Mercury
Oct. 12, 2014, Organ Pipe N.M., AZ. Smaller shrubs with dark green leaves turning coppery. Peculiar red-green flowers. More info
Palmer's Indian Mallow
Palmer's Indian Mallow
Oct. 12, 2014, Organ Pipe N.M., AZ. Big velvety soft leaves. Five free petals. Schizocarp fruit. More info
White-thorn Acacia
White-thorn Acacia
Oct. 12, 2014, Organ Pipe N.M., AZ. Large shrub with feathery leaves and straight thorns. Flowers are a yellow puff-ball of stamens. More info

Aug. 31st, 2014. Apache Trail northeast of Apache Junction passes between the north side of the Superstition Mountains and the string of man-made lakes and reservoirs on the Salt River. The spectacular geology of rhyolite is also very amenable to blooming shrubs and wildflowers.

Thurber's Cotton
Thurber's Cotton
Aug. 31, 2014, Apache Trail, AZ. Leafy shrubs with large white flowers marked with pink. Small boles with only a few threads of cotton. More info
Sacred Datura
Sacred Datura
Aug. 31, 2014, Apache Trail, AZ. Very large, dark green leaves on robust herbaceous plant. Fruit covered with sharp spines. More info
Colubrina
Colubrina
Aug. 31, 2014, Apache Trail, AZ. The flowers are very small and green. Huge numbers of bees and other insects will draw your attention. More info
Trailing Four O'Clock
Trailing Four O'Clock
Aug. 31, 2014, Apache Trail, AZ. Bright pink flowers on a vine-like plant that runs along the ground. Common across Sonoran Desert. More info
Fountain Grass
Fountain Grass
Aug. 31, 2014, Apache Trail, AZ. An escape from decorative landscapes and now a serious threat to native wildflowers. More info

Aug. 25th, 2014. A week ago wide swaths of the Sonoran Desert were inundated with heavy tropical rains. With hot temperatures the floral response is nearly instantaneous.

Trailing Four O'Clock
Trailing Four O'Clock
Aug. 24, 2014, White Tank Mountains, AZ. Bright pink flowers on a vine-like plant that grows along the ground. More info
Scarlet Spiderling
Scarlet Spiderling
Aug. 24, 2014, White Tank Mountains, AZ. Small magenta flowers on fast-growing, slender stems. Leaves feel sticky. More info
California Caltrop
California Caltrop
Aug. 24, 2014, White Tank Mountains, AZ. The summer annual also grows prostrate along the soil forming an expanding mat of vegetation. More info
Desert Hackberry
Desert Hackberry
Aug. 24, 2014, White Tank Mountains, AZ. Very small green flowers on thorny shrub. New leaves appeared very quickly after the rain. More info
Desert Senna
Desert Senna
Aug. 24, 2014, White Tank Mountains, AZ. Low shrubby plant with clusters of big yellow flowers. Flourishes especially at road sides and in washes. More info

May 10th, 2014. With a high temperature expected above 35° myDesert Hackberry effort to find wildflowers ended before noon. What's blooming now is limited to mostly perennial herbs and woody shrubs. In canyon bottoms where available water is concentrated there remains plenty of color and great nature watching.

Holly-leaf Buckthorn
Holly-leaf Buckthorn
May 10, 2014, North of Carefree, AZ. Large shrub w/holly-like leaves. Clusters of small yellow-green flowers. More info
Desert Honeysuckle
Desert Honeysuckle
May 10, 2014, North of Carefree, AZ. 1-½ m tall shrub with long tubular orange-red flowers with hummingbirds in attendence. More info
Buckhorn Cholla
Buckhorn Cholla
May 10, 2014, North of Carefree, AZ. Succulent stems appearing segmented and covered with sharp spines and minute spines. Numerous petals and stamens. More info
Engelmann Prickly-Pear
Engelmann Prickly-Pear
May 10, 2014, North of Carefree, AZ. Stems forming flat, disc-shaped pads. Large yellow flowers arrated on margins of top pads. More info
Woolly Desertstar
Woolly Desertstar
May 10, 2014, North of Carefree, AZ. Herbaceous annuals now almost completely whithered away. Long cottony hairs on stems and sepals. More info

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 found 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

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2013 Wildflower Archive

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Great Wildflower Websites for North America:

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  2. Arches National Park, Utah
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  4. California Academy of Sciences
  5. Illinois Wildflowers
  1. Missouri Wildflower Guide
  2. New England
  3. Southwest Colorado
  4. Tucson, Arizona

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2014