Trees, Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants in Arizona's Sycamore Canyons

The trees, shrubs, perennial herbs and annuals described in this guide are those that occur in riparian woodlands within and adjacent to more-or-less permanent streams and watered canyons in Arizona. Many of the trees are Arizona Sycamore, Platanus wrightii. Depending on elevation and soil conditions a wide variety of other trees and woody shrubs are prevalent. In Arizona these sycamore-dominated canyons generally range in elevation from 1000 m to 2000 m. Interspersed between the trees are drier ledges and terraces that support vegetation typical of surrounding semi-arid habitats. These drier spots within the galleries are often shaded either by the trees or by high canyon walls and so as a result often support a rich variety of mesic flora. If a plant species is covered in detail in another guide on Arizona Naturalists an icon will so indicate. The user should use the 'back button' on the browser to return to this guide page.

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Arizona Sycamore

Arizona Sycamore

Tree of grand proportions with white peeling bark and large palmately lobed leaves. Pendulous spherical fruit. More ...

Arizona Walnut

Arizona Walnut

Medium to large-sized tree with large, alternate, compound leaves. Bark is dark and fissured. Fruit a thick-shelled, nut. More ...

Arizona Alder

Arizona Alder

Medium to large-sized tree with mostly smooth bark and simple, serrated-edge leaves. Fruit in short, dense catkins. More ...

Box Elder leaf

Box Elder

Medium to large-sized tree. Leaves are compound with 3 to 7 segments. Seeds with papery wings like other maples. More ...

Velvet Ash

Velvet Ash

Medium to large tree with compound, opposite leaves. Dark, fissured bark. Seeds with papery wing. More ...

Net-leaf Hackberry

Net-leaf Hackberry

Alternate elliptical leaves are prominently veined and tough. Med. to large tree with distinct warty bark. Small orange berries. More ...

Fremont Cottonwood

Fremont Cottonwood

Also occurs in the Sonoran Desert Large, deciduous tree in sycamore canyons mostly at the lower elevations. More ...

Tree of Heaven

Tree of Heaven

Fast growing tree with large, pinnately compound leaves and large clusters of winged fruits. Exotic invasive! More ...

Gooding's Willow Willow

Goodding's Willow

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Version of black willow; medium to large tree growing usu. close to water's edge . More ...

Red Willow

Red Willow

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Small tree or shrubby. Leaves distinctly whitish on reverse. Margin teeth minute. More ...

Coyote Willow

Coyote Willow

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Shrubby willow growing especially in zones that get scoured by flash floods frequently. More ...

Arizona Madrone

Arizona Madrone

Evergreen tree in canyons of southeastern Arizona. Dark green leaves with red petioles. Trunk also reddish brown. More ...

Gambel's Oak

Gambel Oak

Medium to large tree. Light green, deciduous leaves with several prominent, rounded lobes. Acorns. Bark fissured and scaly. More ...

Mistletoe

Mistletoe on Oaks

Woody parasite growing directly out of twigs and branches of mostly Quercus spp. Oaks). Minute green flowers in clusters. More ...

Shrub Live Oak

Scrub Live Oak

Medium-sized shrub or small tree. Sharp spines at margins of oval leaves. Acorns often present. Evergreen. More ...

Emory Oak

Emory Oak

Medium to large tree. Dark, evergreen leaves usu. have several sharp-pointed serrations. Acorns mature one year. More ...

Mexican Blue Oak

Mexican Blue Oak

Medium-sized trees with tough, blue-green leaves and deeply fissured bark. Leaf margins mostly smooth. Canyons along Mex. border. More ...

Silver-leaf Oak

Silver-leaf Oak

Medium sized tree in mountains near Arizona-Mexico borderlands. Elliptical leaves are mostly white below. Fruit an acorn. More ...

Net-leaf Oak, Quercus rugosa

Net-leaf Oak

Unique oak in moist canyons along the so. border. Velvety, oblong leaves are prominently net-veined, esp. below. More ...

Hop Tree

Hop Tree

Medium-sized tree or shrub with dark green, trifoliate, aromatic leaves. Small, cream flowers give rise to paper-winged seeds. More ...

California Buckthorn

California Buckthorn

Medium to large shrub with dark green, elliptic leaves. Fruit a small dark berry. Frequent in the understory along wooded canyons. More ...

Utah Juniper

Utah Juniper

Medium-sized tree with small, scale-like leaves. Seeds are embedded in berry-like aril. Bark is gray and fibrous. More ...

Aligator Juniper

Aligator Juniper

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Medium to large tree with dark bark divided into reptilian-like plates. Bright, glaucous berries. More ...

Juniper Mistletoe

Juniper Mistletoe

Pendulous shrub with numerous brittle stems with only scale-like leaves growing parasitically in juniper or cypress trees. More ...

Holy-leaf Buckthorn

Holy-leaf Buckthorn

Medium-sized shrub with evergreen, holly-like leaves and bright red berries in season. Small cream flowers. More ...

Ashy Silktassel

Ashy Silktassel

Intricately branched, large shrub with broadly elliptical, smooth-margined, opposite leaves. Leaves have an ashy cast due to minute hairs. More ...

Mountain Mahogany

Birch-leaf Mountain Mahogany

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Medium to large shrub on rocky sites. Tough leaves wedge-shaped. Whitish-cream flowers. More ...

Manzanita

Point-leaf Manzanita

Evergreen shrub on drier ledges and in chaparral. Urn-shaped, white flowers. Bark smooth, reddish. More ...

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac

Thicket-forming shrub with long, compound leaves. Yellowish flowers in dense panicle later with red berries. More ...

Skunk Bush

Skunk Bush

Medium-sized shrub with three-parted leaves and strongly aromatic odor. Yellowish flowers followed by fuzzy red berries. More ...

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Low shrubby plant or weakly climbing vine usually in partial shade. Three-parted, shiny, dark-green leaves. Small spikes of white flowers. More ...

New Mexico Locust

New Mexico Locust

Small trees often forming thickets with sharp thorns. Leaves pinnately compound. Clusters of showy pink pea-flowers. More ...

Wood's Rose

Wood's Rose

Medium-sized shrub with pink rose flowers with five petals. Numerous stamens and pistils. Leaves three or five parted and with serrate margins. More ...

Santa Rita Mountain Bean

Sta. Rita Bean

Vine-like herb with pink flowers, bean pod fruit and broad leaflets. S. Arizona. More ...

Choke Cherry

Choke Cherry

Simple, alternate leaves with serrated margin. White flowers in spikes. Small tree or shrubby thicket. More ...

Common Apple

Apple

Medium sized deciduous tree with dark scaly bark and broadly elliptic, serrated leaves. Large 5-petaled, white flowers. More ...

Southern Catalpa

Southern Catalpa

In Arizona this non-native tree is usu. small. Large heart-shaped leaves, white-purple trumpet flowers and long seed pods. More ...

Apache Plume

Apache Plume

Intricately branched shrub with white rose-flowers and fruit with long, feathery plumes. More ...

Arizona Blackberry

Arizona Dewberry

White flowers on thorny, woody vine with palmately compound leaves. More ...

Doubting Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily

Low growing, herbaceous, with large showy flowers. Three white petals. Rocky slopes in southeast Arizona. More ...

Western White Honeysuckle

White Honeysuckle

Leaves below flowers are opposite and joined together. Clusters of narrow white flowers. More ...

Canyon Grape

Canyon Grape

Woody vine climbing by tendrils. Broadly orbicular leaves with coarsely toothed leaves. Small grapes in cluster. More ...

False Indigo

False Indigo

Medium-sized shrub with a number of stems arising from crown and spreading into a small thicket. Very small dark purple flowers on a spike. Foliage smells unpleasant; leaves pinnately compound. More ...

Indian Hemp;Dogbane

Indian Hemp

Mostly herbaceous shrub with long, flexible stems that ooze milky sap when broken. Clusters of pink or white flowers. unpleasant; leaves pinnately compound. More ...

Spider Milkweed

Spider Milkweed

Herbaceous perennial bearing clusters of green-purple flowers and leaves that exude milky sap from breaks. More ...

Coralbells

Coral Bells

Leaves on slender petioles have distinct rounded, toothed lobes and are clustered at ground level. S. Arizona canyons. More ...

Desert Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily

Huge bright orange or yellow flowers appearing like magic on dry, grassy mesas and slopes in spring. More ...

Velvet Mesquite

Velvet Mesquite

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Medium to large tree, sometimes a shrub, with twice-pinnately compound, deciduous leaves. Flowers minute in dense, elongate spikes. Bean pods. More ...

Catclaw Acacia

Cat-Claw Acacia

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Rambling shrub with so-so-sharp hooked thorns. Short dense spikes of highly fragrant cream-colored flowers. More ...

Wait-a-Minute

Wait-a-Minute

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Viciously thorny shrub with pairs of hooked thorns on twigs. Flowers are very small, white and arranged into ball. More ...

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

Stiff-branched shrub of chaparral. Small, leathery leaves. Numerous white flowers in dense clusters. More ...

wolfberry

Pallid Wolfberry

Woody shrub with at first obscure green flowers. On closer look the flowers are really beautiful. Leaves are an odd gray-green. More ...

Tree Tobacco

Tree Tobacco

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Small tree with one or a few main stems. Large smooth leaves. Tubular yellow flowers. More ...

Yellow Columbine

Yellow Columbine

Herbaceous perennial with large, bright yellow flowers. Long spurs from base of each petal. Leaves compound. More ...

Jones' Spiderflower

Jones Spiderflower

Tall herbaceous plant with palmately compound leaves and clusters of yellow, long-stamen, flowers. Late summer to fall. More ...

Hartweg's Sundrops

Hartweg's Sundrops

Stunning yellow chiffon flowers with four petals. Low growing spring perennial on sunny slopes. More ...

Plains Flax

Plains Flax

Small, spring annual of slopes and grassy areas. Narrow, grass-like leaves. Five free petals and five stamens. More ...

New Mexico Groundsel

New Mexico Groundsel

Bright yellow daisies on perennial with oblong, toothed, tomentose leaves. Seeds with capillary bristles. More ...

Uropappus lindleyi

Silver Puffs

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Spring wildflower looks like a tall dandelion resulting in a big, silvery puff of seeds. More ...

Annual Sunflower

Annual Sunflower

Also occurs in Sonoran Desert Tall herbaceous plants with several branches ending in small to large heads with bright yelow rays. Leaves simple. More ...

Tithonia thurberi

AZ Sunflower-weed

Similar to Mex sunflower but rays are fewer and short. Leaves mostly unlobed with crenulate margins. More ...

Silver Wormwood

Silver Wormwood

Related to sage brush of Great Basin. Stems and leaves silvery and mostly herbaceous except about woody crown. Small, rayless flower heads with yellow disc. More ...

Ivy-leaf Groundcherry

Groundcherry

Low growing herbaceous plant from a perennial with yellow flowers usu. obscured by leaves. Fruit in a papery sac. More ...

Common Mullein

Common Mullein

Large, elliptical, mostly basal leaves are covered with thick, silky pubescence. Yellow flowers on tall spikes. More ...

Yellow Sweet Clover

Yellow Sweet Clover

Tall herbaceous perennial with trifoliate leaves and spikes of small yellow pea-flowers. Grows in moist soil adjacent to riparian streams. More ...

Seep Monkey Flower

Seep Monkey Flower

Herbaceous annual or perennial growing in moist to wet sand. Bright yellow, monkey-faced flowers. Nearly orbicular leaves with rounded lobes. More ...

Buffalo Gourd

Buffalo Gourd

Robust vine with large triangular leaves runs along ground. Leaves and fruit with strong odor. More ...

Spreading Fanpetals

Spreading Fanpetals

Narrowly triangular leaf with rounded teeth. Flower 1 cm wide. Five yellow petals with prominent stamen column. More ...

Mexican Yellow-Show

Mexican Yellow-Show

Bright yellow flowers and palmately lobed leaves on a monsoon season perennial herb. Southeast Arizona. More ...

Golden-flowered Agave

Golden-flowered Agave

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Roseate of large sword-like leaves giving rise to very tall flower spike. More ...

London Rocket

London Rocket

Also occurs in Sonoran Desert Weedy mustard with small, four-petaled flowers followed by long slender pods. More ...

Mojave Spurge

Mojave Spurge

Green and yellow inflorescence looks like one complex flower. Milky sap from broken stems. Herbaceous. More ...

Warty Spurge

Warty Spurge

Herbaceous, yellow-green foliage releases milky sap when broken. Clusters of green flowers. Fruit with warts. More ...

Mexican Fire Plant

The upper leaves below green flowers have varied shapes and are partly white, red or only green. More ...

Miner's Lettuce

Miner's Lettuce

Also occurs in Sonoran Desert Low annual growing from shady crevices among rocks up the canyon walls. Small white flowers above joined leaves. More ...

Yerba Santa

Yerba Santa

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Medium shrub on dry, rocky sites in and near sycamore woods. Leaves linear, shiny resinous. Inflorescence scorpioid. More ...

Nolina Bear Grass

Bear Grass

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Long, slender, grass-like leaves are much tougher in texture than any Arizona grass. Big panicles of small flowers. More ...

Banana Yucca

Banana Yucca

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Leaves shaped like daggers with fibers shredding from margin. Big flowers with 6 white petals. More ...

Sotol

Numerous, tough, long, strap-like leaves from a basal rosette of on a short trunk. Margins of leaves with sharp prickles. More ...

Watercress

Watercress

Semi-aquatic plant rooted in wet or submerged soil along gently flowing streams. Small white flowers and small turgid pods. More ...

Water Speedwell

Water Speedwell

Herbaceous plant of wet sandy soil along streams. Light blue, symmetrical flowers on open, branching spikes. Seed in dry capsules. More ...

Spearmint

Spearmint

Mid-height, herbaceous perennial with highly aromatic foliage. Leaves opposite, serrate. Small white flowers clustered in spikes at branch tips. More ...

Tufted Evening Primrose

Tufted Evening Primrose

Also occurs in Sonoran Desert Over-sized white flowers that open at night, fade pink and shrivel by noon. Herbaceous perennial on sandy margins of sycamore creeks. More ...

Longleaf Phlox

Longleaf Phlox

Mostly herbaceous perennial with showy pink or white, tubular flowers. Leaves opposite and long-linear. More ...

California Chicory

California Chicory

Herbaceous annual with white, strap-shaped florets and seeds with a plumose top. Milky sap from broken stems. More ...

Plains Blackfoot

Blackfoot Daisy

Low perennial forming hemispheric mounds covered in season with numerous white daisies. More ...

Fleabane

Fleabane

Also occurs in Sonoran Desert Many, many white ray flowers around a yellow-center of disc flowers. Mostly smaller than a nickel in diameter. Several similar and common species. More ...

desert zinnia

Desert Zinnia

Four to eight broad white rays surround a center of yellow disc florets on a low perennial. More ...

Lewis Flax

Lewis Flax

Herbaceous spring perennial growing in open sunny areas. Five free petals and five stamens. More ...

Purple Bladderpod

Purple Bladderpod

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Flowers with four white petals that become purplish after blooming. Seeds within a spherical, airy pod. More ...

Flat-topped Buckwheat

Flat-topped Buckwheat

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Shrubby plant with linear leaves and dense, flat-topped clusters of small white and pink flowers. More ...

Mirabilis longiflora

Sweet Four O'clock

Herbaceous plant growing with summer rains. Flowers white or pale pink with very long slender tubes and opposite leaves heart-shaped. More ...

Delphinium parishii

Desert Larkspur

Spikes of dark purple flowers on herbaceous perennial. Spur from base of flower. More ...

Small Seaside Germander

Small Seaside Germander

Herbaceous annual with small bluish flowers, squarish stems, fruit four-nutlets. Leaves with petiole winged. More ...

Blue Curls

Pine-lands Figwort

Above ground herbaceous with triangular, serrated leaves. Small, short-tubed, two-lipped flowers in red to pale purple. More ...

Desert Beard-tongue

Desert Beard-tongue

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Robust perennial herb with large glossy leaves and spikes of bright pink blooms in spring. More ...

New Mexico Thistle

New Mexico Thistle

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Biennial grows a rosette of elongate spiny leaves then shoots up a tall flowering stalk with lavender-pink flower heads. Butterfly favorite. More ...

Velvet-pod Mimosa

Velvet-pod Mimosa

Thorny shrubs, about a meter tall, with feathery leaves and spikes of pink flowers. Canyons and hillsides in the borderlands. More ...

Blue Curls

Arizona Bluecurls

A delicate-flowered, small perennial. Leaves elliptic and relatively small. Blooming after start of monsoon. More ...

Birdbill Dayflower

Bird-bill Dayflower

Low growing herb in partial shade with 3-petaled flowers and bill-shaped bract. Parallel vein leaves. More ...

Hummingbird Trumpet

Hummingbird Trumpet

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Tall, slender, herbaceous stems with bright red tubular flowers at summit. Four, bilobed petals. Seeds with long silk hairs. More ...

Fire Cracker Bush

Firecracker Bush

Bright red, long tubular flowers on shrubby plants in the partial shade along margins of wooded canyons. Leaves 3 per node. More ...

Foothills Paintbrush

Foothills Paintbrush

Low herbaceous perennial with bright red bracts hide smaller, less colorful flowers and hairy leaves. More ...

big-flowered brickell bush

Brickell Bush

Leafy, mostly herbaceous bush with triangular leaves and white-green flower heads. Seeds with long, fine bristles. More ...

Horehound

Horehound

Herbaceous perennial possibly a meter tall forming clumps of many stems. Gray-green leaves opposite and intricately textured. Clustered white-pink flowers. More ...

small matweed

Small Mat-weed

Among a number of mat-forming plants found in areas that are sometimes wet. Minute greenish-white flowers. More ...

Clustered Dock

Perennial herb regrowing in early spring from underground root. Elliptical leaves and dense spikes of small greenish-red flowers. More ...

irisleaf rush

Iris-leaf Rush

Herbaceous plant with grass or iris-like leaves. Small reddish-green flowers in panicles. More ...

Red Brome Grass

Red Brome Grass

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Moderately tall grass of springtime with long reddish awns on the spikelets. When dried these awns and barbed seeds catch into clothing. More ...

weeping brome grass

Weeping Brome

Medium-size grass with graceful, weeping panicles of spikelets. More ...

Fountain Grass

Fountain Grass

Also occurs in upland Sonoran Desert Tall bunch grass with long feathery plume-inflorescences. Invasive weed often within riparian corridors. More ...

squirrel-tail grass

Squirrel-tail

Bunch grass with many dozens of stems when mature. Spikes with long, wiry bristle-awns. Mostly on terraces and hillsides near sycamore canyons. More ...


Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons


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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2014,
page updated 21 January 2014