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Caesalpinia virgata
Hoffmannseggia microphylla

Pen & Ink Illustration © by Michael Plagens

From live specimen found in the Gila Mountains, Yuma County, Arizona.

flower spike of Caesalpinia virgata RANGE: Locally common in the far southwestern portions of Arizona and southeastern California and adjacent northern Mexico. Sandy washes in canyons.

SHRUB: A wispy shrub with rushlike stems and very few if any leaves. Rarely exceeding 1½ m tall.

FLOWERS: Yellow petals with orange markings aranged in few-flowered spike.

LEAVES: Bipinnate compound leaves are minute and found only on fresh new growth. These soon wither leaving green stems to conduct photosynthesis.

FRUIT: Small pod, about 2 cm.


Such a quintessential desert plant. Looking so frail, easily overlooked. Yet surviving in some of the harshest environments the Sonoran Desert has to offer. Taxonomists have recently paid some attention to this uncommon plant moving it from the genus Hoffmannseggia to Caesalpinia.

Fabaceae -- Bean Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009