Wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, USA

Desert Wildflower Reports

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 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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Aug. 28th, 2016: If for no other reason than to see the Fishhook Barrel Cactus in bloom go out and look for the late season monsoon flowers in the Sonoran Desert. Saguaro National Park (East Unit), Tucson, Arizona.

Desert Zinnia
Desert Zinnia
Aug 28, 2016. Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona. White ray florets and yellow center. More info
Chain-fruit Cholla
Chain-fruit Cholla
Aug 28, 2016. Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona. Much smaller flowers than most cactus. More info
Siphonoglossa
Siphonoglossa
Aug 28, 2016. Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona. These flowers open are over­night and soon fade after early morning. More info.
Fluff Grass
Fluff Grass
Aug 28, 2016. Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona. Small grass just a few inches tall growing in a small clump. More info.
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
Aug 28, 2016. Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona. Single stem columnar cactus about a 1½ meter tall. Flowers red, orange or yellow. More info

Aug 21st, 2016: It rained overnight and temperatures were less than hot so I went out to the Vulture Mountains southwest of Wickenberg, Arizona. The ocotillos had leafed out and the triangleleaf bursage was greening up. Freshly emerged butterflies were on the wing as well!

Paper Flower
Paper Flower
Aug 21, 2016. Vulture Peak area, Arizona. This low weak shrub puts out flowers in mid spring and again after summer rains. More info

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail
Twinberry
Desert Willow
Aug 21, 2016. Vulture Peak area, Arizona. Shrubby and about knee-high. Fruit looks like a pair of connected small spheres. More info

Cloudless Sulfur

Cloudless Sulfur
Blue Palo Verde
Blue Palo Verde
Aug 21, 2016. Vulture Peak area, Arizona. Blooms mostly in spring but a few patches open on trees after summer rains. More info.

Leilia Hackberry Butterfly

Leilia Hackberry Butterfly
Desert Senna
Desert Senna
Aug 21, 2016. Vulture Peak area, Arizona. Bright yellow flowers are bigger and showy right next to road because they get more water. More info.

Sleepy Sulphur

Sleepy Sulphur
Desert Tobacco
Desert Tobacco
Aug 21, 2016. Vulture Peak area, Arizona. Mostly herbaceous with soft, fragrant foliage and cream-colored flowers. More info

Marine Blue

Marine Blue

July 30th, 2016: Once the moisture of monsoon season arrives the brilliant summer flowers quickly emerge blooming very early in the morning or else at night. Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona.

Summer Poppy
Summer Poppy
July 30, 2016. Catalina State Park, Arizona. Large orange flowers open at dawn and fade by noon. More info
Desert Willow
Desert Willow
July 30, 2016. Catalina State Park, Arizona. Medium size tree with lavender or magenta trumpet blooms and willow-like leaves. More info
Range Ratany
Range Ratany
July 30, 2016. Catalina State Park, Arizona. Knee-high bush with week spines and wine-colored flowers. More info.
Chiricahua Spurge
Chiricahua Mountain Sandmat
July 30, 2016. Catalina State Park, Arizona. Bright white latex sap emerges from broken stems. More info.
Sandpaper Plant
Sandpaper Plant
July 30, 2016. Catalina State Park, Arizona. Shrubby plants with white flowers and small, hard, sandy-textured leaves. More info

May 22nd, 2016: Late spring flowers are most common near permanent, riparian canyons. The shade of trees or tall cliff faces are worth checking - these were seen near Sunflower, Arizona.

Tufted Globe Amaranth
Buckhorn Cholla
May 22, 2016. Sunflower, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Short spikes of whispy white flowers on low, clump-forming perennial. More info
Flat-topped Buckwheat
Flat-topped Buckwheat
May 22, 2016. Sunflower, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Woody shrub sometimes with many hundreds of small white flowers in clusters. More info
Silver-leaf Nighshade
Silver-leaf Nighshade
May 22, 2016. Sunflower, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Leaves and stem are silvery green. Bright yellow stamens in flowers. More info.
Bermuda
Bermuda Grass
May 22, 2016. Sunflower. Yes, this is the same grass in many Arizona lawns. The flowers release pollen that can cause hay-fever. More info.
Spiderwort
Spiderwort
May 22, 2016. Sunflower, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Three purple petals and three green sepals below them.. More info

May 9th, 2016: This spring has seen below average rainfall, but higher elevation areas north and east of Phoenix got a bit more and many plants can be found blooming. We drove out Seven Springs Rd. on an absolutely beautiful Monday morning.

Mexican Elder
Buckhorn Cholla
May 9, 2016. Seven Springs, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Numerous creamy white flowers in flat clusters on large shrubs or even a tree. More info
California Poppy
California Poppy
May 9, 2016. Seven Springs, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Some very nice clusters of orange poppies found at this late date. More info
Desert Beard Tongue
penstemon
May 9, 2016. Seven Springs, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Several tall stems with magenta Penstemon flowers. More info.
Seaside Petunia
Seaside Petunia
May 9, 2016. Seven Springs. These small petunia flowers would never sell at the garden shop cuz you gotta lie down on the ground to see them properly. More info.
Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro Cactus
May 9, 2016. Seven Springs, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Use your binoculars to get a good look at these flowers. More info

Apr. 3rd, 2016: Still no rain. At McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, a score of blooming plants could be found: Desert Marigold, Creosote Bush, Odora, Banana Yucca, Hedgehog Cactus, Goldeneye, Sweetbush, Desert Senna, Wire Lettuce, Bigelow Four O'Clock, Ocotillo, New Mexico Thistle, Paper Flower, Purple Three-awn, Brown Foot, Desert Holly, Fairy Duster, Woolly Desert Star, Prickly Pear, Mesquite, Sand-wash Groundsel, and Skeleton Weed.

Mar. 26th, 2016: The dry spell has continued for two-and-a-half months and so most of the annals have dried to crispy brown. At Phoenix Mountains Preserve cacti are the showiest blooms, but surprisingly I found a lone poppy!

Buckhorn Chollar
Buckhorn Cholla
March 26, 2016. Phoenix Mountains, Arizona. Flowers come in orange, yellow, red or green. Branched cactus 1 to 3m tall.More info
California Poppy
California Poppy
March 26, 2016. Phoenix Mountains, Arizona. A single plant with a single flower was found today. More info
Creosote Bush
Creosote
March 26, 2016. Phoenix Mountains, Arizona. Still a lot of yellow everywhere, but clearly the flowers left are drying. More info.
Compass Barrel
Compass Barrel
March 26, 2016. Phoenix Mountains, Arizona. A barrel full of sharp spines with a crown of bright yellow flowers. More info.
Hedgehog Cactus
Desert Lavender
March 26, 2016. Phoenix Mountains, Arizona. Clusters of six to a dozen or more stems, each topped with oversized flowers. More info

Mar. 11th, 2016: The dry spell continues with only a few isolated places getting some light rain on March the 7th. In the mountains around Ajo, Arizona, the annuals have dried completely and some trees are blooming way early due to the recent hot temperatures.

Little Desert Trumpet
Broomrape with purple flowers
Mar. 11, 2016. Little Ajo Mts., Arizona. A cluster of 12 flowers is only 4 mm across. More info
Ocotillo
Ocotillo
Mar. 11, 2016. Little Ajo Mts., Arizona. Here, all the ocotillo are blooming, but I saw no humming­birds, the presumed pollinator. More info
Parry Dalea
Parry Dalea
Mar. 11, 2016. Little Ajo Mts., Arizona. This small perennial is hard to see, but a beauty up close! More info
Blue Palo Verde
Blue Palo Verde
Mar. 11, 2016. Little Ajo Mts., Arizona. These amazing flowering trees are blooming several weeks earlier than usual. More info
Fairy Duster
Fairy Duster
Mar. 11, 2016. Little Ajo Mts., Arizona. Some years these shrubs are spectacular, but here I found plants with few open flowers. More info
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Feb. 21st, 2016: The Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society conducted a field trip to Tacna and the Mohawk Dunes in far southwestern Arizona. Without rain since the beginning of January meant that seeing most wildflowers required some extensive searching. In the end we saw some interesting plants including 22 species in bloom.

Burroweed Strangler
Broomrape with purple flowers
Feb. 21, 2016. Tacna, Arizona. These perennial plants survive the desert by remaining underground until blooming. More info
Phacelia
Phacelia
Feb. 21, 2016. Mohawk Mountains, Arizona. Delicate blue-purple flowers in a scorpion-tail inflorescence. More info
Creosote Bush
Creosote
Feb. 21, 2016. Tacna and Mohawk Valley, Arizona. Using water soaked up 2 months ago, now green and flowering profusely. More info
Ajo Lily
Desert Lily
Feb. 21, 2016. Tacna and Mohawk Valley, Arizona. Lots of leaves and buds up but no blooms yet. In a week or two flowers will be open! More info
Desert Lavender
Desert Lavender
Feb. 21, 2016. Mohawk Mountains, Arizona. These large shrubs of canyons and washes were massed with thousands of flowers. More info

Feb. 8th, 2016: Only the most observant hikers in Phoenix Mountain Preserves would notice that the wildflower season has started. The first clue might be so many honeybees crawling on the ground like oversized ants! They're visiting flowers alright, on plants less than a centimeter tall showing flowers even more minute. Everything blooming now is stunted because of the long dry spells between rain events. The last significant rain was back on Jan. 6th, 2016.

Arch-nutted Comb Bur
Arch-nutted Comb Bur
Feb. 7, 2016. Phoenix, Sonoran Preserve. White flowers are smaller than a rice grain on plants the size of a dime. More info
Peppergrass
Peppergrass
Feb. 7, 2016. Phoenix, Sonoran Preserve. Greenish flowers might require a hand lens to be seen. More info
Eucrypta
Eucrypta
Feb. 7, 2016. Phoenix, Sonoran Preserve. Tiny pale blue flowers on frail plants that grow mostly in the shade of boulders or desert trees. More info
Ocotillo
Ocotillo
Feb. 7, 2016. Phoenix, Sonoran Preserve. Most ocotillo wait till April, but one on Apache Wash trail was in bloom. More info
Desert Globe Mallow
Desert Globe Mallow
Feb. 7, 2016. Phoenix, Sonoran Preserve. Bigger, healthier plants grow right next to the road where they get bonus water runoff. More info

Jan 19th, 2016: Lower Colorado River in Western Arizona and Southeastern California. November and early January rains plus the warmer temperatures of these lower elevations have already brought forth some early, beautiful wildflowers. Reported by Steve Ganley.

Desert Sunflower
Desert Sunflower
Jan 19, 2016, Davis Dam, AZ. Two inch plus diameter sunflowers with sandy textured leaves. More info
Lupine
Arizona Lupine
Jan 19, 2016, Davis Dam, AZ. The leaves are palmately compound: arranged like the fingers of a hand. More info
Sand Verbena
Jan 19, 2016, Davis Dam, AZ. Stems trail in deep accumulations of sand. Cluster of pink to lavender flowers. More info
Sun Cup
Sun Cup
Jan 19, 2016, Davis Dam, AZ. Four, large bright yellow petals. More info
Phacelia
Phacelia
Jan 19, 2016, Davis Dam, AZ. Bell-shaped flowers with five lobes and several shades of purple to blue among several types. More info

2015 Wildflower Archive

2014 Wildflower Archive

2013 Wildflower Archive

2012 Wildflower Archive

2010 Wildflower Archive

Great Wildflower Websites for North America:

  1. Wildflower Sightings - Help create the most extensive and comprehensive wildflower database in the world!
  2. Boundary Waters Canoe Area - Northern Minnesota and Southern Manitoba
  3. Illinois Wildflowers
  1. Missouri Wildflower Guide
  2. New England
  3. Southwest Colorado
  4. Tucson, Arizona

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2016