Wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, USA

Desert Wildflower Reports

Nov 7th, 2018: Crazy! Usually a search for wildflowers in November is a fruitless task. However, this past October was the wettest ever recorded in the Sonoran Desert and so things are very different this year. What's blooming is really confusing. Among the wildflowers showing now are those normally seen blooming in spring and others that normally bloom in summer or autumn. Blooming ought to continue until frosty weather arrives. There were dozens of species blooming along the Apache Trail east of Phoenix.

Trailing Four O'Clock
Trailing Four O'Clock
Nov. 7, 2018. Apache Trail, Superstition Mountains, Arizona. Stems, leaves and flowers hug the ground especially near washes. More info
Ragged Rock Flower
Ragged Rock Flower
Nov. 7, 2018. Apache Trail, Superstition Mountains, Arizona. This woody shrub is "supposed to" bloom in January or February. Satin white petals. More info
Desert Rose Mallow
Desert Rose Mallow
Nov. 7, 2018. Apache Trail, Superstition Mountains, Arizona. Big yellow to cream-colored blooms on rather slender, scambling branches about a meter tall. More info.
Nightshade
Whitlowgrass
Nov. 7, 2018. Apache Trail, Superstition Mountains, Arizona. Bright yellow stamens contrast agains the white flowers. More info.
Mexican Skullcap
Mexican Skullcap
Nov. 7, 2018. Apache Trail, Superstition Mountains, Arizona. Mostly herbaceous, leafy stems about 30cm tall growing among boulders near wash. Normally blooms late spring. More info

Apr. 29th, 2018: Many desert perennials are blooming now. Some palo verdes are still showing clouds of yellow and cactus are also showing. These plants can store moisture from rains past and so bloom in spite of our extended drought. These were seen along the road to Seven Springs north of Carefree, Arizona.

Paiute False Bindweed
Paiute False Bindweed
Apr. 29, 2018. Rackensack Wash, Arizona. The medium-sized flowers are tinged with mauve pink. An uncommon plant in the Sonoran Desert. More info
Desert Honeysuckle
Desert Honeysuckle
Apr. 29, 2018. Rackensack Wash. Two very long stamens are escerted from the long orange-red tubullar corollas. Meter-tall woody shrub. More info
Canyon Grape
Canyon Grape
Apr. 29, 2018. Rackensack Wash. White to green flowers in short spikes are attractive to bees. Bitter grapes ready come August. More info.
Spiny Sow Thistle
Spiny Sow Thistle
Apr. 29, 2018. Rackensack Wash. This weedy plant looks like a tall dandelion with spiny leaves. More info.
Snapdragon Vine
Snapdragon Vine
Apr. 29, 2018. Rackensack Wash. The two-lipped flowers can also be blue-purple in color. Arrow-shaped leaves. More info

Apr. 1st, 2018: I went searching for moisture and wildflowers high into the mountains east of Phoenix, near Slate Creek Divide, the high point along SR-87 to Payson. Immediately adjacent to the SR-87 roadway the usual spring perennials were blooming upon smaller,sparser bushes. Dusty conditions prevailed almost everywhere. Finding just one at a time through the day's search I finally found some interesting blooms.

Desert Paintbrush
Desert Paintbrush
March 31, 2018. Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. Red, leafy bracts at branch ends resemble paintbrushes. More info
Mock Vervain
Mock Vervain
March 31, 2018. Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. Clusters of purple-blue flowers amid glandular or bristly leaves and bracts. More info
Mojave Spurge
Mojave Spurge
March 31, 2018. Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. Large number of greenish-yellow inflorescences open together to make the whole plant conspicuous. More info.
Whitlowgrass
Whitlowgrass
March 31, 2018. Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. Normally a very small wildflower of sandy spots. Even smaller than usual this drought year! More info.
Desert Ceanothus
Desert Ceanothus
March 31, 2018. Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. Woody shrub covered in many small white flowers. Stiff twigs but no thorns. More info

Feb. 14th, 2018: This winter season has been among the driest and warmest on record. As a result wildflowers will be almost entirely absent this spring. The seeds of past seasons' wildflowers will remain dormant in the soil. Come a future year with better rains they will finally germinate and grow. Later in the spring perennials like cacti and shrubs will bloom, but with many fewer flowers. Today's rainfall (< 15mm for most of the Sonoran Desert) will be enough to keep them alive, but not enough for any significant growth or flowering.

Oct. 9th, 2017: More than a month without rain and temperatures above 40°C have left most corners of the Sonoran Desert wilted and brown. Members of the Arizona Native Plant Society searching along riparian habitats at Mesquite Wash northeast of Phoenix located more than a dozen plants still in bloom!

Centaury
Centaury
Oct. 9, 2017. Mesquite Wash, Arizona. Five-pointed stars in bright magenta. Low, grass like leaves. More info
Fringed Amaranth
Fringed Amaranth
Oct. 9, 2017. Mesquite Wash. Silky white and green inflorescence is spike shaped. More info
Yuma Sandmat
Yuma Sandmat
Oct. 9, 2017. Mesquite Wash. Grows flat on the ground in sandy soil. You will need a magnifier to see the flowers. More info.
Clammy Weed
Clammy Weed
Oct. 9, 2017. Mesquite Wash. Sticky three-part leaves. A butterfly favorite. More info.
Seaside Petunia
Seaside Petunia
Oct. 9, 2017. Mesquite Wash. You might not see familiar petunias on this diminutive plant. More info

July 30th, 2017: Summer rains in the desert bring out fewer wildflowers than those of winter. Then there is heat, harsh sun, biting insects and active snakes. Nonetheless, intrepid nature lovers will find much of interest. Summmer rains can be very spotty so use the greening of Ocotillo to guide you to productive areas.

Oreganillo
Oreganillo
July 30, 2017. Superior, Arizona. Very small white flowers in staight spikes on an intricately branched, aromatic shrub. More info
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
July 30, 2017. Superior, Arizona. The squat barrels have conspicuously hooked spines. The orange or red flowers appear in summer after rains. More info
Plains Blackfoot Daisy
Plains Blackfoot Daisy
July 30, 2017. Superior, Arizona. These white daisies erupt from low shrubby, leafy plants. Rocky slopes are their frequent habitat. More info.
Graham's Pincushion Cactus
Graham's Pincushion Cactus
July 30, 2017. Superior, Arizona. Small bristly cactus puts up over-sized, gorgeously pink flowers. Brave the sweat to find them! More info.
Desert Senna
Desert Senna
July 30, 2017. Superior, Arizona. Really abundant along roadsides because of wilflower seed planting by the highway dept. More info

May 14th, 2017: Spring wildflowers are followed by the seeds and fruit which are often just as amazing and beautiful to behold. A drive out Bartlet Dam Road north of Scottsdale revealed more than a dozen flowers still blooming, but here are some of the fruits I found:

Canyon Ragweed
Canyon Ragweed
May 14, 2017. Bartlet Dam Road, Arizona. Course shrubby plant with big leaves. Fruits resemble small cockleburs. More info
Red-berry Barberry
Red-berry Barberry
May 14, 2017. Bartlet Dam Road. Holly like leaves on a large shrub. Fruits are eaten by phainopeplas and other birds. More info
Bigroot
Bigroot
May 14, 2017. Bartlet Dam Road. A large underground root persists as the leafy spring growth withers. More info.
San Felipe Marigold
San Felipe Marigold
May 14, 2017. Bartlet Dam Road. Several different composites present seed heads with wind sails. More info.
Paper Bag Bush
Paper Bag Bush
May 14, 2017. Bartlet Dam Road. A small bush with many of these 'bags' will rattle in the breeze. More info

Spring 2017 wildflowers near Gila Bend, Arizona

Mar. 5th, 2017: A drive out Agua Caliente Road southwest of Phoenix revealed a landscape blanketed with blooming wildflowers! Nearly every direction west, north and east from the metro area is likely to be similarly colorful. Many of the flowers in the above photo are Notch-leaved Phacelia.

Desert Sunflower
Desert Sunflower
March 5, 2017. Agua Caliente Road, Arizona. An alternate common name is Desert Gold. Did the prospectors notice them? More info
Mojave Desert Star
Mojave Desert Star
March 5, 2017. Agua Caliente Road, Arizona. These little daisies hug the ground. They fade to pink after pollination. More info
Desert Bladderpod
Desert Bladderpod
March 5, 2017. Agua Caliente Road, Arizona. The spherical seed pods are on the stalk below the flowers and hold next year's flowers as seeds. More info.
Coulter's Globe Mallow
Coulter's Globe Mallow
March 5, 2017. Agua Caliente Road, Arizona. These are annuals and like to grow where the soil is thin. More info.
Purple Owl's Clover
Purple Owl's Clover
March 5, 2017. Agua Caliente Road, Arizona. A favorite of many wildflower enthusiasts. More info

Mar. 1st, 2017: Four significant rain events have passed through the Sonoran Desert this winter season and some areas have gotten a lot of rain. As a result Banner-Year Wildflowers can be expected at many locations, particularly north and east of Phoenix. These areas are higher elevation so the peak flower season may begin in a week or two and last through the end of April. At McDowell Mountain Park in Maricopa County most blooming plants are pretty small, but a field trip there by Arizona Native Plant Society located 37 species in flower.

Jojoba
Jojoba
Feb. 25, 2017. McDowell Mtn, Fountain Hills, Arizona. The flowers are green and yellow with pollen on this shrub. More info
Arizona Popcorn Flower
Az Popcorn Flower
Feb. 25, 2017. McDowell Mtn, Fountain Hills. Small plant with white flowers and red dye in the veins. More info
Spotted Hideseed
Spotted Hideseed
Feb. 25, 2017. McDowell Mtn, Fountain Hills. Finely divided leaves and very small pale blue flowers. More info.
Pelitory
Pelitory
Feb. 25, 2017. McDowell Mtn, Fountain Hills. Count yourself a knowledgeable botanist if you can find the tiny green flowers on this delicate herb. More info.
Notch-leaved Phacelia
Notch-leaved Phacelia
Feb. 25, 2017. McDowell Mtn, Fountain Hills. Lavender to purple bell-shaped flowers on 30 cm tall herbs. More info

Feb. 3nd, 2017: At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument the ocotillo have leafed out as have the bursages. The saguaros have taken up a lot of water, but have not swollen to their maximum storage. Below the soil surface just a small amount of moisture remains from the modest precipitation events of the past six weeks. As a result annuals are sparse and much smaller than usual. There will be more annual flowers in the coming weeks, but it won't be a big show unless there is another major rain. Perennial shrubs and cacti should begin blooming well from mid March or so regardless. The best rains in Arizona occurred north and east of the Phoenix area where cooler temperatures will push the flowering to commence in earnest in about two weeks.

Desert Mistletoe
Desert Mistletoe
Feb. 3, 2017. Organ Pipe Cactus Monument, Arizona. Tiny incon­spicuous flowers on wiry, parasitic clumps that grow upon palo verde and ironwood trees. More info
Desert Marigold
Desert Marigold
Feb. 3, 2017. Organ Pipe Cactus Monument, Arizona. Leaves sit at ground level whereas the big yellow flower head is on a tall slender stalk. More info
Arch-nutted Comb Bur
Arch-nutted Comb Bur
Feb. 3, 2017. Organ Pipe Cactus Monument, Arizona. The most abundant annual blooming now but you won't see them unless you get down close to the ground! More info.
Ocotillo
Ocotillo
Feb. 3, 2017. Organ Pipe Cactus Monument, Arizona. Fewer than 1 in 100 have flowers now. Many more will bloom in a few weeks. More info.
Brittlebush
Brittlebush
Feb. 3, 2017. Organ Pipe Cactus Monument, Arizona. Only a few bushes mostly next to the road are blooming now. In two weeks they will be blooming like heck. More info

Jan. 22nd, 2017: Beginning in the last week of Dec. 2016 through at least Jan. 23rd many areas of the Sonoran Desert have benefited from a series of wet Pacific weather systems. Already the washes and normally dry hills have been converted to a carpet of green - germinating annuals and revived perennials. 2017 is shaping up to be a superb year for wildflowers. By mid to late February abundant color should become widespread. For now just the earliest blooming species are showing color.

Desert Lavender
Desert Lavender
Jan. 22, 2017. Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona. Large shrub with small purple flowers and silvery leaves. More info
Six-weeks Three-Awn
Six Weeks Three-awn
Jan. 22, 2017. Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona. Small annual grass with long awns on the spikelets. More info
Wolfberry
Wolfberry
Jan. 22, 2017. Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona. Pale yellowish flowers are hard to see, but hummingbirds and bees find them okay. More info.
Hairy Bowlesia
Hairy Bowlesia
Jan. 22, 2017. Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona. Very small plants with even smaller green flowers. Leaves distinctive. More info.
African Sumac
African Sumac
Jan. 22, 2017. Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona. These trees don't belong in the Sonoran Desert! Abundant yellow-green flowers. More info
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