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Palm Canyon
KOFA Mountains, Yuma County, Arizona

Photo copyright Michael Plagens


About 20 miles south of the snowbird mecca of Quartzite, Arizona are the beautiful and impresive KOFA Mountains. The name derives from the inactive King of Arizona mine, but now the principal wealth of this range derives from its wildlife and as a botanical refugium. Palm Canyon is home to probably the only native grove of palm trees in Arizona, as well as many other plant species not found within a 100 kilometers or more. For example there are scrub oaks and barberry within the often deeply shaded canyon. The KOFA National Wildlife Refuge was established especially for protection of Big Horn Sheep.

Directions: Drive 18 miles south from Quartzite on US95 to the Palm Canyon road and turn east (left) about 7 miles to trailhead parking. Topozone Map! The elevation within the canyon bottom is ca. 800m.

In the photo above conspicuous plants are the saguaro cactus, ocotillo and teddy bear cholla.

Field Trip Reports:
February 19 - 20, 2005

The Arizona Native Plant Society's field trip took place here despite the threat of wet weather. Three society members camped about two kilometers from the Palm Canyon trail head parking area Satruday night and were treated to heavy rain, lightning and thunder overnight. By morning it was clearing but quite chilly and densely foggy ... rare events in the desert. By mid morning Sunday the Sun was out and the temperatures had reached a very comfortable 18°C. And the nature lovers arrived including some very knowledgeable botanists and and all around naturalists like Steve Ganley and John Anderson. In all there were sixteen participants in this trip organized by Mike Plagens. Among the dozens of flowering species found were Koeberlinia spinosa (all thorn), Berberis harrisoniana (KOFA Barberry) and Mohavea confertifolia (Ghost Flower) -- see the complete list in the chart at the bottom of this page. Few could remember this desert looking so colorful and verdant. Meanwhile an American Kestrel was flaunting is aviator skills diving up and down and around steep cliff faces, while Canyon Wrens' beckoning call reverberated about. It was a stunning day in one of our state's most beautiful spots.

January 22, 2005

Brilliant green carpets the desert in anticipation of many wildflowers to come in a few weeks. Already dozens of species have opened to reveal a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. Here and there we found brittle bush, ocotillo and ironwood with frost-burnt growth ... the frost having occurred a couple of weeks ago ... regrowth had begun again. Desert Olive, jojoba, desert lavender, chuparosa and wolfberry were among the woody shrubs in bloom. On the road we spotted a Kit Fox. A weak low pressure system in northwest Mexico had pushed in some mild, humid air allowing some clouds to form but leaving temperatures very comfortable from 18°C. to 20°C.

More information at Southwest Birder.

Photo copyright Michael Plagens

Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)

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  (more frequent towards top of list)

  1. Rock Wren -- Salpinctes obsoletus -- S,F,W,Sp --
  2. Canyon Wren -- W,Sp,Su,F --
  3. Canyon Towhee -- Pipilo fuscus -- S,F,W,Sp --
  4. Guilded Flicker -- S,F,W,Sp --
  5. Common Poorwill -- Sp,S --
  6. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher -- Polioptila melanura -- S,F,W,Sp --
  7. Cactus Wren -- S,F,W,Sp --
  8. Black-throated Sparrow -- Amphispiza bilineata -- S,F,W,Sp --
  9. House Finch -- -- S,F,W,Sp --
  10. Elf Owl -- Sp,S --
  11. Common Raven -- Corvus corax -- W --
  12. Ladder-backed Woodpecker -- S,F,W,Sp --
  13. Western Screech Owl -- Sp,S --
  14. Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- Regulus calendula -- -- W,Sp --
  15. Ash-throated Flycatcher -- Myiarchus cinerascens -- S,F,W,Sp --
  16. Gambel's Quail -- Callipepla gambelii -- S,F,W,Sp --
  17. Lesser Nighthawk -- Sp,S --
  18. American Kestrel -- Falco sparverius -- S,F,W,Sp --
  19. White-throated Swift -- Sp,S --
  20. Phainopepla -- Phainopepla nitens -- W, Sp --
  21. Scott's Oriole -- Sp,S --
  22. Costa's Hummingbird -- Calypte costae -- W, Sp -
  23. Anna's Hummingbird -- S,F,W,Sp --
  24. Curve-billed Thrasher -- Toxostoma curvirostre -- S,F,W,Sp --
  25. Greater Roadrunner -- Geococcyx californianus -- S,F,W,Sp --
  26. Lesser Goldfinch -- Carduelis psaltria -- S,F,W,Sp --
  27. Crissal Thrasher -- S,F,W,Sp --
  28. Western Tanager -- Sp,F --
  29. Prairie Falcon -- W,Sp,F --
  30. Peregrine Falcon -- S,F,W,Sp --
  31. Rufous-crowned Sparrow -- Sp --
  32. Green-tailed Towhee -- W,Sp --
  33. Spotted Towhee -- W,Sp --

List includes observations by Henry Detwiler

photo © Mike Plagens

Cactus Wren
(Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) -
Photo by Mike Plagens.


In order of Abundance:

  1. Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) --


  1. Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus ) -- one crossed the road on our drive out of Palm Canyon

Harris' Antelope Squirrel
(Ammospermophilus harrisii) -
Photo by Mike Plagens.


In general order of Abundance:

  1. Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) --
  2. Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus) --
  3. Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) --
  4. Diamond Cholla -- Cylindropuntia ramosissima
  5. Engelmann Hedgehog Cactus -- Echinocereus engelmannii
  6. Beavertail Pricklypear -- Opuntia basilaris

Buckhorn Cholla
(Opuntia acanthocarpa).
Photo by Mike Plagens.

Shrubs and Trees

In order of Abundance:
The common species are listed first.

  1. White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa) -- Often leafless after periods of drought or hard frost.
  2. Creosote Bush(Larrea tridentata)
  3. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) - many specimens are only shrub-size.
  4. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) -
  5. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) -
  6. Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) - Bares peach colored blooms after periods of rain otherwise it is difficult to find
  7. Wolfberry (Lycium andersonii) - common along the washes. 1 to 2 meter tall shrub with noticeably dark twigs.
  8. Lance-leaf Ditaxis (Argythamnia lanceolata) - low-growing, silvery-green plant
  9. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) -
  10. Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) - along washes adjacent esp. to shady cliffs
  11. White Ratany -- Krameria grayi -
  12. Wolfberry -- Lycium andersonii - along the washes
  13. Mormon Tea (Ephedra aspera) -
  14. Shrub Live Oak (Quercus turbinella -
  15. Trixis (Trixis californica) -- a few along washes and under trees
  16. Four-winged Saltbush -- Atriplex canescens -
  17. Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) -
  18. Bernardia (Bernardia incana) -
  19. Janusia (Janusia gracilis) -
  20. Foetid Marigold (Adenophyllum porophylloides) -
  21. Bladder Sage (Salazaria mexicana) -
  22. Climbing Milkweed (Sarcostemma cynanchoides) -
  23. Fagonia (Fagonia laevis) -
  24. Shrubby Coldenia (Tiquilia canescens) - diminutive shrub
  25. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) -
  26. Bitter Condalia (Condalia globosa) -
  27. Bigelow Nolina (Nolina bigelovii) -
  28. All-Thorn (Koeberlinia spinosa) -
  29. Oreganillo (Aloysia wrightii) -
  30. Skunkbush -- Rhus trilobata -
  31. Desert Olive -- Forestiera pubescens -
  32. Shrubby Bedstraw -- Galium stellatum -
  33. Gray Thorn (Zizyphus obtusifolia) -
  34. California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) -
  35. Trixis (Trixis californica) -
  36. Desert Beard-tongue -- Penstemon pseudospectabilis -
  37. KOFA Barberry (Berberis harrisoniana) - not easily found
  38. Princes Desert Plume -- Stanleya pinnata -
  39. Big Galeta (Hilaria rigida) -
  40. Golden Eye (Viguiera deltoidea) -
  41. Chuparosa (Justicia californica) -
  42. Cat-claw Acacia (Acacia greggii) - Found growing along washes
  43. Velvet Mesquite -- Prosopis velutina - a few only - and only shrub sized



Under Construction ... Please return soon.

  Month Name Only : no flowers. no live plants.
   : usually no or very few blooms open
   : a few scattered blooms likely to be seen
   : quite a few blooms likely to be seen, depending on past rainfall
   : abundant blooms dependent on favorable rainfall

Common Name Scientific name Color Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Pelitory Parietaria hespera Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Arch-nutted Comb Bur Pectocarya recurvata Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Tansy Mustard Descurainia pinnata / Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Whitlow Grass Draba cuneifolia May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Little Gold Poppy Eschscholzia minutiflora Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Wooly Plantain Plantago insularis Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Sand Peppergrass Lepidium lasiocarpum Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Thelypody Mustard Caulanthus lasiophyllus / Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Orange Fiddleneck Amsinckia intermedia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Bearded Cryptantha Cryptantha barbigera Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Popcorn Flower Cryptantha spp. Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Notch-leaved Phacelia Phacelia ambigua Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Torrey Eucrypta Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Shrubby Coldenia Tiquilia canescens
Mustard (weed) Brassica tournefortii Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Gordon's Bladderpod Lesquerella gordonii Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
'Bottle Washer' Cammissonia boothii var. condensata Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Desert Globe Mallow Sphaeralcea ambigua
Wolfberry Lycium andersonii //
Desert Lavender Hyptis emoryi
Lance-leaf Ditaxis Argythamnia lanceolata
Ditaxis Argythamnia neomexicana
Desert Rock Daisy Perityle emoryi Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Purple Three-awn Aristida purpurea
Brittle Bush Encelia farinosa
Desert Marigold Baileya radiata
White Tack Stem Calycoseris wrightii Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rock Gilia Gilia scopularum Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Mentzelia Mentzelia involucrata Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Purple Mat Nama demissum Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Desert Poinsettia Euphorbia eriantha
Ghost Flower Mohavea confertifolia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Desert Trumpet Eriogonum inflatum
Parry Dalea Dalea parryi
Arizona Lupine Lupinus arizonicus Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Odora Porophyllum gracile
Golden Eye Viguiera deloidea

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