Saddle Mountain and Palo Verde Hills
Tonopah, Arizona

Gordon's Bladderpod Cover hillsides near Saddle Mountain. Photo © Mike Plagens

Bladderpod wildflowers cover a hillside near Saddle Mountain


About 40 miles (65 km.) west of Phoenix and to the south of Interstate 10 at Tonopah are a pair of volcanic mountains linked by a saddle of lower hills. The more dramatic western peak is Saddle Mountain. It is composed of lighter-colored lava, tuff and rhyolite. The eastern peaks are nearly black basaltic lava of Quaternary Age. The Bureau of Land Management controls the major portions but there are a number of private holdings surrounding the mountains and there are quite a few mining claims (none of which appear to be active). There are nonetheless many entryways and easy hiking. As the Tonopah area grows this will be an important asset for recreation.

The most direct access is from Exit #94 off I-10, turning south on 411th Ave. Saddle Mountain RV Park on the left offers civilized camping. Several miles south 411th Ave intersects the Buckeye-Salome Hwy. Drive west or east on this little used road to find a number of trails or jeep roads leading into the foothills.

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View Larger Map -- The green hiker symbol indicates location of Saddle Mountain

Saddle Mountain as viewed from the east.  Photo © Mike Plagens


Commonly Encountered Species:

  1. Northern Mockingbird - S,F,W,Sp
  2. House Finch -- - S,F,W,Sp
  3. Verdin -- - S,F,W,Sp
  4. Phainopepla -- - W,Sp
  5. Black-throated Sparrow -- - W,Sp
  6. White-crowned Sparrow -- - W,Sp
  7. Cactus Wren -- - S,F,W,Sp
  8. Mourning Dove -- - F,W,Sp
  9. Costa's Hummingbird -- - S,F,W,Sp
  10. Rock Wren -- - S,F,W,Sp
  11. Gila Woodpecker -- - S,F,W,Sp
  12. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher -- - S,F,W,Sp
  13. Gambel's Quail -- - S,F,W,Sp
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Rock Wren hunting for spiders and insects among rocks.


After visits on March 8, 2003, and Aug. 29, 2004, I have recorded just one mammal species; numbers are low due to several years of drought.

  1. Audubon's Cottontail


In general order of Abundance:

  1. Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) --
  2. Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) --
  3. Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea giganteus) --
  4. Fishhook Pincushion (Mammalaria grahamii)
  5. Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) -- Spines often tinged with red and yellow.
  6. Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) --
  7. Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa) --
  8. Desert Christmas Cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) --
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Shrubs and Trees

In general order of Abundance:

  1. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
  2. Trangle-leaf Bursage(Ambrosia deltoidea) --
  3. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) -
  4. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) - A few along drainages
  5. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) - Parasitic shrub growing upon various desert trees including Palo Verde and Ironwood.
  6. White Ratany -- Krameria grayi -- purplish cast to woody stems
  7. Cat-Claw Acacia (Acacia greggiii) - mostly along the washes
  8. Wolfberry (Lycium spp.) - concentrated along wash banks
  9. Chuparosa (Justicia californica ) - along wash banks
  10. Bladder Sage (Salazaria mexicana) -- along wash banks
  11. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) -
  12. Crucifixion Thorn (Castela emoryi) - the thorns are truely impressive
  13. Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) - mostly along road sides
  14. Virgin's Bower (Clematis drummondii) -- along wash


August 29, 2004

A few summer thunderstorms pushed into the desert over the past few weeks. As a result some summer monsoon species were open. Twenty-two species in bloom were counted, the most unusual for the location was Aristolochia watsonii.

March 9, 2003

Carpets of gordon bladderpod and big patches of poppies, phacelia and lupine. Spectacular! Show should last through early April.


  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
Carrot Family Apiaceae
Hairy Bowlesia Bowlesia incana Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sunflower Family Asteraceae
Brownfoot Acourtia wrightii
Canyon Ragweed Ambrosia ambrosioides
Triangle-leaf Bur-sage Ambrosia deltoidea
White Bur-sage Ambrosia dumosa
Desert Marigold Baileya multiradiata |
Wooly Marigold Baileya pleniradiata
Sweet-bush Bebbia juncea /
Dusty Maiden Chaenactis stevioides /
Brittlebush Encelia farinosa
Goldfields Lasthenia californica
Mojave Desert Star Monoptilon bellioides
Chinch Weed Pectis papposa Jan Feb Nov Dec
Rock Daisy Perityle emoryi
Trixis Trixis californica
Goldeneye Viguiera parishii
Borage Family Boraginaceae
Orange Fiddleneck Amsinckia intermedia Jul Aug S ep Oct Nov
Bearded Cryptantha Cryptantha barbigera Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
White-haired Cryptantha Cryptantha maritina Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Wing Nut Cryptantha Cryptantha pterocarya Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Narrow-leaved Cryptantha Cryptantha angustifolia Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Arch-nutted Comb Bur Pectocarya recurvata Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Buttercup Family Ranunculaceae
Virgin's Bower Clematis drummondii
Poppy Family Papaveraceae
California Poppy Eschscholzia californica | Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Mustard Family Brassicaceae
Sahara Mustard Brassica tournefortii Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Thelypody Caulanthus lasiophyllus Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Tansy Mustard Descurainia pinnata Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Peppergrass Lepidium lasiocarpum / Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Bladder Pod Lesquerella sp. Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
London Rocket Sisymbrium irio Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Lace-pod Thysanocarpus curvipes May Jun J ul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Narrow-leaved Ditaxis Ditaxis lanceolata /
Spurge Family Euphorbiaceae
New Mexico Silverbush Ditaxis neomexicana / Jan Jun Jul A ug Sep
Spurge Chamaesyce pediculifera |
Bean Family Fabaceae
Milk-vetch, Loco-Weed Astragalus nuttallianus Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Gregg's Prairie Clover Dalea mollis Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Deer-vetch Lotus salsuginosus Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Coulter's Lupine Lupinus sparsiflorus Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Parry Dalea Marina parryi Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Ocotillo Family Fouquieriaceae
Ocotillo Fouquieria splendens
Geranium Family Geraniaceae
Red-stemmed Filaree Erodium cicutarium Jul Aug S ep Oct
Waterleaf Family Hydrophylaceae
Wild Heliotrope Phacelia distans Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Eucrypta Eucrypta micrantha Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Mint Family Lamiaceae
Desert-lavender Hyptis emoryi
Mallow Family Malvaceae
Desert Globe Mallow Sphaeralcea ambigua
Coulter's Desert-mallow Sphaeralcea coulteri Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Globe-mallow Sphaeralcea emoryi Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Amaranth Family Amaranthaceae
Wooly Tidestromia Tidestromia lanuginosa Jan Feb Mar
Four O'Clock Family Nyctaginaceae
Red Spiderling Boerhaavia coccinea Jan Feb
Boerhaavia Boerhaavia torreyana Jan Feb
Boerhaavia Boerhaavia wrightii Jan Feb
Bigelow's Four O'Clock Mirabilis bigelovii
Plantain Family Plantaginaceae
Woolly Plantain Plantago ovata Jun Jul A ug Sep Oct Nov
Acanthus Family Acanthaceae
Chuparosa Justicia californica
Phlox Family Polemoniaceae
Gilia Gilia flavocincta Jan Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Snapdragon Family Scrophulariaceae
Owls-Clover Castilleja exserta / Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Morning Glory Family Convolvulaceae
Dodder Cuscuta tuberculata / Jan Feb
Nightshade Family Solanaceae
Wolfberry Lycium andersonii /
Wolfberry Lycium exsertum /
Tamarisk Family Tamaricaceae
Salt-cedar Tamarix chinensis
Evening Primrose Family Onagraceae
Sun-drops Camissonia californica Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Mistletoe Family Viscaceae
Desert Mistletoe Phoradendron californicum
Birthwort Family Aristolochiaceae
Indian Root; Pipevine! Aristolochia watsonii
Nettle Family Urticaceae
Pellitory Parietaria hespera May Jun J ul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Catrop Family Zygophylaceae
Summer Poppy Kallstoemia parviflora Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Nov Dec
Creosote Bush Larrea tridentata
Lilly Family Lilliaceae
Bluedicks Dichelostemma congestum May Jun J ul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Grass Family Poaceae
Six-weeks Three-awn Aristida adscencionis May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Purple Three-awn Aristida purpurea Nov Dec
Bigelow Bluegrass Poa bigelovii Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Common Name Scientific name Color Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 20 March 2003,
updated 18 Oct. 2018.