Phoenix Area and Northern AZ

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Wildflowers and Plants - Descriptions with Photos

We'd like to see your pictures too. E-mail your digital photos and reports to Jim@desertusa.com. Use Wildflower Report as the subject of your e-mail. Let us know where you took the photo and the date.

Note: Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the desert, but it can also be a time for caution. Rattlesnakes lie dormant during the cold fall and winter months and awaken from hibernation in the warm months of March and April. Another reason to stay on the trails. More...

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2018 Phoenix Area and Northern AZ Reports

August 19, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: Here are more flowers from Petrified Forest National Park!

Colorado Four o'Clock (Mirabilis multiflora) forms a hemispheric mass of darker green ovate to heart shaped leaves. Flowers are early bloomers, already starting to crumple by 8am. The flowers are big showy magenta funnels formed by fused sepals. (Image taken on 08-09-18 near North No Name Point, Petrified Forest National Park)

Rocky Mountain Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora) is perennial subshrubs with many green stems and linear leaves. The showy flower heads are composed of droopy ray florets with golden yellow corollas and red-orange disc floret corollas. Often found on rocky slopes in brightly hued colonies late summer into fall. (Image taken on 08-09-18 near North No Name Point, Petrified Forest National Park)

Lemonscent (Pectis angustifolia) can be annual or perennial, sometimes creating a low growing yellow and green carpet. The linear leaves have a little tooth near the base and are dotted with oil-glands that provide the lemon fragrance. The flower heads gather in groups, each made up of yellow ray and disc florets. They show up late summer into fall. (Image taken on 08-16-18 at Jasper Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

Rush pea (Peteria scoparia) is a large airy shrub with long, arching branches and a few pinnate leaves with tiny leaflets. The pea-like flower is white with touches of pink and/or purple with a maroon calyx. (Image taken on 08-16-18 at Tiponi Point, Petrified Forest National Park)

Aug 4, 2018 Ron reports: Saw these flowers, August 9th. The plants were seen in grassland in the Pinyon Juniper environment in Vernon, AZ. 85940 , 6870 ft elevation.  I do not know the names for these clowers. The orange color flowers were prevalent but only 1 plant of the yellow colors found. I am not certain if these are wildflowers or if escaped ornamentals but quite pretty.

Aug 4, 2018 David reports: Yes, spring and summer wildflowers can bloom at same time.  Amazing what fertilizer, water, cut back plant, can achieve.  Area is backyard wild section, Page, Arizona, 4,300’ elevation, date 8/3/18.

June 18, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: Sacred Thornapple (Datura wrightii) is a showy perennial with large silvery leaves and big white trumpet flowers. The fruit is a thorny ball. This plant is toxic, but pollinators like the nectar and flower spiders eat the pollinators. (Image taken on 06-16-18 near Painted Desert Visitor Center, Petrified Forest National Park)

Southwestern Prickly Poppy (Argemone pleiacantha) is another showy perennial with white flowers. The petals are crepy and delicate surrounding a yellow center. The leaves are lobed and very prickly. The fruit are ovoid, thorny capsules. Last year’s fruit still cling to old growth. (Image taken on 06-16-18 near Nizhoni Point, Petrified Forest National Park)

Walking Stick Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) is the tallest of the branched chollas in the park. It easily spreads through pups, although the branches are firmly attached. The flowers are magenta with yellow centers, becoming yellow fruit that linger. It is a good food for animals in the winter. (Image taken on 06-01-18 near Giant Logs, Petrified Forest National Park)

Whipple’s Cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei) is the shorter of the branched chollas in the park. It easily spreads through pups. The branches can turn purple, particularly drying cold or dry spells. The flowers are chartreuse green with yellow centers, becoming yellow fruit that linger. It is a good food for animals in the winter. (Image taken on 05-30-18 near Rainbow Forest, Petrified Forest National Park) 

May 25, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: The biscuitroot, skunkbush, fishhook cactus, and stretchberry are gone. Most of the cliffroses are now covered with fuzzy seeds. Many of the vetch have gone to pods, although a few are still blooming. There are still so few flowers compared to past years. Here are a few from the last couple of weeks.

Thread-leaf Groundsel (Senecio flaccidus) is a tousled, cheerful shrub-like perennial with slender, downy leaves and bright yellow flowers. The blooms have both disk and ray flowers, loved by pollinators such as duskywing butterflies. (Image taken on 05-18-18 near Rainbow Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

Crown-leaf Evening Primrose (Oenothera coronopifolia) is one of several white evening primroses found in the park. O. coronopifolia tends to be rangy with dissected leaves, no stem leaves, and reddish stems. (Image taken on 05-17-18 at The Tepees, Petrified Forest National Park)

Gladiator Milkvetch (Astragalus xiphoides) isn’t common and often hard to see due to the tiny flowers and mainly leafless, wispy stems. The small bilateral flowers are ivory with maroon calyx. There are hairs on the stems. Last year’s growth surrounds the new stems. (Image taken on 05-18-18 at Petrified Forest National Park)

Hairy False Goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa) will line the park road during normal to good years. It forms rounded subshrubs with downy twisted leaves and bright gold compound flowers. The blossoms are composed of both ray and disk flowers. The plant often has a pleasant herbal fragrance. (Image taken on 05-19-18 at Jasper Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

This Pink-Flower Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus fendleri) has had a rough year. The mature stems are turning maroon and slumping. A new stem is forming under the blossoms. The silky magenta petals are dusted with abundant pollen. The loose clumps can have up to twenty stems, while this one had five, two of which have died and fallen off the cliff. Each areole has 4-12 mostly straight spines, some of the  central ones tending to be darker with lighter radial ones. (Image taken on 05-19-18 at Jasper Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

Western Peppergrass (Lepidium montanum) is a shrub-like perennial mustard of green upper lanceolate and lower lobed leaves, long stems with terminal clusters of tiny white four-petaled (cruciform) flowers. The snowy flowers can cover the mound. Tiny paddle-shaped seed pods develop and hang on through the winter. (Image taken on 05-19-18 at Painted Desert Community Complex, Petrified Forest National Park)

Rattlesnake Mat (Chamaesyce albomarginata) is a prostrate perennial with hairless, spreading stems and oval, opposite leaves, some with a maroon spot in the middle. The cyathia (flower structures) are in leaf axils, with white petaloid appendages. These plants can form large, ground covering colonies (Image taken on 05-16-18 near Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park) 

 

May 17, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: The biscuitroot, skunkbush, fishhook cactus, and stretchberry are gone. Many of the vetch have gone to pods, although a few are still blooming. There are still so few flowers compared to past years. Here are a few from the last couple of weeks.

Yellow cat’s eye (Oreocarya flava) changed genuses from Cryptantha. This tends to be a hairy plant with narrow leaves. The star-shaped flowers have blown-back petals and a ring of fornices around its throat. The flowers form fuzzy terminal clusters. (Image taken 04-27-18 at Agate Bridge, Petrified Forest National Park)

Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) have large creamy flowers that hang down like bells. The exterior may be maroon. The leaves are broad with curling fibers, demonstrating why humans have used this plant for weaving for millennia (as well as soap and food). The flowers will become large cucumber shaped fruit that are eaten by many creatures. (Image taken 05-03-18 at Rainbow Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

Pale blue trumpets (Ipomopsis longiflora) have a descriptive name as the flowers are trumpet shaped, but they can be blue to purple. The leaves and stems are very slender making the many flowers appear to hover over the ground. (Image taken 05-03-18 at Rainbow Forest, Petrified Forest National Park)

Rose Heath (Chaetopappa ericoides) is a member of the vast Asteraceae Family. During the evening the white ray flowers curl up, uncurling as the day advances. When the flowers go to seed they form the classic puff of fluffy pappi. In a good year, these little dainty daisies can form spreading clusters in large colonies. (Image taken 05-03-18 at Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park)

This Golden Mariposa Lily (Calochortus aureus) is quite wind-beaten, but it was the only one found so far. These bright three-petaled lilies usually dot the grassland, sometimes covering hillsides in very good years. The leaves and stems are very flexible and slender so that the blossoms seem to float. Inside, the petals have a crescent of maroon near a fuzzy gland. The plant grows from a bulb-like edible corm. (Image taken 05-12-18 at Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park) 

 

May 2, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park reports: Whipple's Fishhook Cactus (Sclerocactus whipplei) is a rounded cactus that grows in clumps. The rounded stem of the cactus is ribbed with tubercules. Each areole has at least one long central spine that is hooked and flattened, white to tan. The radial spines are smaller and not hooked. The petals of the yellow funnel-shaped flowers are pointed with a very fine serration, a reddish orange stripe underneath. (04-15-18 at Agate Bridge, Petrified Forest National Park) 

Fringed Puccoon (Lithosperma incisum) is a green perennial with bright yellow trumpet flowers. The petals have a frilly edge, thus one of the common names. The early blooming flowers are showy but usually sterile. The later blooming self-pollinating, fertile flowers are less conspicuous. (04-15-18 near Route 66 pullout, Petrified Forest National Park) 

Pale Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata ssp. pallida) is a small, but charming little herb that is hemiparasitic—stealing moisture and nutrients from nearby plants. The linear leaves are glaucous, growing up the stems. The pale flowers are star-shaped eventually developing into fruit that look a little like micro pomegranates. They often gather in colonies as they grow from rhizomes. (04-18-18 at Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park)

Stinking milkvetch (Astragalus praelongus var. praelongus) is named due to its ability to take selenium from the soil, making it a stinky plant. The flowers are ivory to cream, the leaves green and compound, some stems partially red. You often find last year’s remnants, including the plump pods. (04-22-18 at The Battleship, Petrified Forest National Park) 

Even in this drought year, the Cliffroses (Purshia stansburiana) are beginning to show off their cascades of flowering branches. As a member of the Rose Family, the creamy five-petaled flowers are very fragrant. The surrounding resinous lobed leaves have sticky glands and an acrid scent. Most of the shrubs keep their leaves year-round. Eventually the flowers become feathery seeds. (04-27-18 at Tawa Point, Petrified Forest National Park) 


April 20, 2018 Anton Reports: This weekend Hedgehogs and Prickly Pears are blooming from Phoenix to Texas Canyon.

April 20, 2018 Brittany Reports: This was taken on April 14th on the Hieroglyphics Trail.

April 16, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: Blunt Tansy Mustard (Descurainia obtusa) is a native mustard with tiny cruciform yellow flowers in terminal clusters. The leaves are downy and have many incisions. In exposed areas, the plant can be small, but when protected can get quite tall. The fruit are long bean-like siliques. (Photo taken 04-12-14, near the Painted Desert Visitor Center, Petrified Forest National Park)

Stretchberry (Forestiera pubescens var. pubescens) develop into large shrubs to small trees, sometimes forming thickets in moist areas. The male and female flowers are found on separate plants. Blue tart berries form in the summer into the fall, used as food by many creatures. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow, leaving silver, smooth bark bare in the winter. (Photo taken 04-14-14, near the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark, Petrified Forest National Park)

Western Paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa) tends to grow in short clusters, with hairy gray-green to purple wavy, branching foliage and bright red bracts. The inconspicuous flowers project as green tubes from the hairy bracts. The seeds are look like tiny honeycombs. Taxonomy is a bit mixed up right now with some references having C. chromosa as a separate species while others have it as a synonym for C. angustifolia var. dubia. (Photo taken 04-11-14, near Jasper Forest, Petrified Forest National Park) 



April. 11, 2018 Petrified Forest National Park Reports: Week of 4/7/18 There are three species in bloom right now with a few others hinting at flowers soon.

Biscuitroot, purple spring parsley (Vesper bulbosus syn. Cymopterus bulbosus)
As usual, biscuitroot is one of the first flowers to bloom. This low-grower likes gravely area so you are likely to see them around the petrified logs. Biscuitroot is a member of Apiaceae (Parsley Family). It has a staunch pithy taproot to help it survive this semi-arid region and pale green lacy leaves, providing food above and below the ground for many species. (Photo taken on 03-25-18 at Crystal Forest, Petrified Forest National Park) 

Skunkbush (Rhus aromatica syn. Rhus trilobata) is another early bloomer. This upright to sprawling shrub is attractive most of the year from the yellow clusters of tiny flowers to the fuzzy, red, sticky berries against the lobed leaves, and on to the amber, orange, red, and burgundy foliage in the fall. Animals eat the berries, nectar, bark, and leaves. The long, straight branches are a traditional basketry material. The berries are made into a tart, refreshing drink. It is a member of the Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family).  (Photo taken on 04-05-18 at Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark, Petrified Forest National Park)  

Freckled Milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus) is one of the most variable plants in the western United States; this is one of the nearly forty varieties.  This low, rounded vetch has compound leaves with oval leaflets, plump glabrous pods with a “beak” at one end, some small red freckling, and purple tubular flowers in pea-like racemes. Not much in the way of hairs or fuzz on the plant. (Photo taken on 04-05-18 at Chinde Point, Petrified Forest National Park)   

April. 11, 2018 Barbara Reports: Perry Penstamon and a redder variety . There had been construction here and I suspect this is a ADOT seeding. In any event the flowers are on Route 60 between Superior and Miami heading east past mile marker 231 and a second outcropping at mile marker 232. All before Devil Canyon. There are a few blanket flowers, prickly poppy and lupines mixed in. Near Boyce Thompson going in either direction are big groups of desert marigold and of course, brittle bush

 

 

April. 2, 2018 Eileen Reports:  This was taken March 24th 2018 in the Phoenix Sonoran preserve off the Desert Vista trail head, GO trail near Union peak. 

 

April. 2, 2018 Adriana Reports: Skyline regional park 3/26/18


March. 23, 2018 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Reports: Spring has sprung: Due to low winter precipitation our wildflower blooms are sparse this year, but our cacti are starting to flower out. Pictured is a stunning strawberry hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) blooming in front of the visitor center.

March 23, Paul in Globe, AZ reports: Astragalus varietals are blooming in the Pinal Mountain foothills since last week; wood sorrel along the six-shooter canyon trail and also freckled milkvetch (pictured). Goodings verbena was blooming along the forest service road above the ice house canyon picnic area. Spring birds are singing on their territories in the pinals, too: painted redstarts were back last week - vocal along the trail, along with huttons vireo, bridled titmouse and acorn woodpecker. 

 

 

March 23, 2018 Karen Reports: This picture was taken at Lake Pleasant Regional Park on the Roadrunner Trail near the Discovery Center on March 22, 2018.

March 9, 2018 Paul Reports: Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, AZ reports: Terry Stone photographed this robust Parry's Penstemon between the Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden and the picnic area parking lot Monday, but this showy pink stalk is an exception - flowers are still scarce around the Arboretum this week. Guided wildflower walks both days of the March 17-18 weekend at 1:00 pm should be more colorful; with western dayflower, firecracker penstemon, wild cucumber, apricot globemallow and fetid marigold a'bloom around the 1.5 mile long main trail by that weekend. Confirm dates and times at  [cals.arizona.edu/bta] for April wildflower walks and narrated nature tours.  


March 2, 2018 Paul Reports: March 2, Paul in Globe, AZ reports: the first highway 60 goldpoppies are just starting to bloom along the drive from through Claypool, between Globe and Miami.  Earlier this week I spotted this one just west of the Taco Bell.  These roadside poppies benefit from highway runoff water and radiant warmth - they always bloom early, and are reliable even in years when flowers are scarce in the desert. 


Feb. 23, 2018 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Reports: Yellow flowers are in bloom. Both the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) are blooming within the monument.

NPS photo

Feb. 19, 2018 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Reports: Rain came, with the recent rainy weather keep on the look out for possible heavy equipment grading our public roads.

Feb. 9, 2018 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Reports: The desert can be unforgiving when it comes to rainfall. Only the strong survive and non-native species often do not make it here in the Sonoran Desert. This past January has been a dry one with only 0.03 inches of rain compared to January 2017's 1.27 inches of rain and January 2016's 1.6 inches. 

Jan 9, 2018 DUSA reports: Some rain is falling it the Phoenix area.

 

 

More Information

Wildflower Field Guide

Photos tips: Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography and wildflowers photos.

When will the desert wildflowers bloom? We start our report in January, plan your visit to coincide with the peak of the bloom - keep up to date with DesertUSA's Wildflower Reports. Be sure to bookmark this page for weekly updates.

We'd like to see your pictures too. E-mail your digital photos and reports to Jim@desertusa.com. Use Wildflower Report as the subject of your e-mail. Let us know where you took the photo and the date. We will post them on our wildflower reports. Thanks for your support and photos.

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Mojave Desert Wildflowers - This book is the standard by which all other wildflower books are measured. The author, Jon Mark Stewart, has combined super photography with concise information. This book has an entire color page for each wildflower covered, with a discussion of the wildflower. 210 pages with 200 color photos. More...


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