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Sonoran Desert Beans

The most diverse and familiar of the bean subfamilies, Papilionoideae. The others are Mimosoideae and Ceasalpinioideae. Flowers are strongly bilaterally symmetrical - i.e. a pea flower. Fruit is a legume, although some species have one-seeded bean pods. Leaves of many species are once compound. Herbs, vines, shrubs and trees.

Desert Rock Pea

Lotus rigidus

Foothill Deervetch

Lotus humistratus

Watercolor Illustration © by Michael Plagens

Mostly herbaceous perennial of rocky slopes with yellow + orange pea flowers. Common spring bloomer. Important as a browse plant for mammal herbivores.    Detailed Description

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Spring annual with bright yellow pea-flowers and growing mostly prostrate on soil. Leaves often with silky pubescence.   Detailed Description

Seaside Deervetch

Lotus salsuginosus

Arizona Lupine

Lupinus arizonicus

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Low-growing annual of spring with very small yellow pea-flowers. Mostly without hairs. Blooms Feb. to April Detailed Description

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Flowers are pink-purple and the palmate leaves are mostly smooth and not Annual of gravely or sandy soils in spring. Detailed Description

Coulter's Lupine

Lupinus sparsiflorus

Bajada Lupine

Lupinus concinnus

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Narrow, compound leaflets arrayed radially, i.e. palmate. Annual of spring mostly along desert washes. Flowers blue-purple.    Detailed Description

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Pinkish pea flowers on low growing lupine. Palmate leaves densly hairy. Annual of gravely or sandy soils in spring. Detailed Description

False Indigo

Amorpha fruticosa


Pediomelum mephiticum

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Partly woody shrub with dark purple spikes of flowers. Malodorous. Pinnately compound leaves. Riparian areas. Detailed Description

Photograph © by Michael Plagens

Herbaceous spring perennial with palmate, odorous, silvery leaves. Flowers in short, dense, plume-like spikes. Uncommon or rare. Detailed Description

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Emory Dalea

Psorothamnus emoryi

Parry Dalea

Marina parryi

Watercolor © by Michael Plagens

Small, drought deciduous shrub or sub-shrub of southwestern Arizona. Obscure after periods od drought. Orange glands on calyx of vivid purple flowers.    Detailed Description

Watercolor © by Michael Plagens

Diminutive perennial or subshrub blooming with dark purple flowers in spring and again in autumn. Fairly common in sandy soil along washes. Legumes small, one-seeded.    Detailed Description

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White Sweet Clover

Melilotus albus

Yellow Sweet Clover

Melilotus indicus

Photograph image © by Michael Plagens

Spikes of small, white, pea-flowers atop herbaceous plants reaching 1 to 2 meters tall. Restricted to riparian zones or ditches with irrigation. Leaves palmately 3 to 5 lobed.    Detailed Description

Melilotus indicus, photo © by Michael Plagens

Spikes of small yellow pea-flowers on tall, herbaceous annual in riparian and irrigated settings. Blooming mid spring to early summer. Detailed Description


Medicago polymorpha

Bigpod Sesbania

Sesbania herbacea

Photograph image © by Michael Plagens

Winter weed of lawns and roadsides mostly in urban and agricultural settings. Flowers small and yellow; bean pod is a coiled bur.    Detailed Description

Photograph image © by Michael Plagens

Tall annual growing in wet places only. Long slender pods, long-pinnate leaves, and small yellow-orange flowers. Along Sonoran Desert rivers and in irrigated field.    Detailed Description


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010