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Covering around 100,000 square miles, including most of the southern half of Arizona, the Sonoran Desert offers a vast landscape of incredible surprises. With over 2,000 species of plants and plentiful winter rains, the Sonoran desert is full of wildlife to spot. Here’s just a handful of the varied Sonoran Desert wildflowers to look out for.
Usually found along sun-facing hillsides, Brittlebush (encelia farinosa) blooms from February to April. As a member of the sunflower family, it can be identified by its bright yellow flowers, as well as its blue-gray leaves, and 3-foot tall, thin stalks.
Although it’s one of the most famous Sonoran Desert wildflowers, the Mexican Gold Poppy (eschscholzia mexicana) doesn’t bloom every year. When it does, it’s usually on rocky hillsides during March. Look out for small yellow cups of four petals that open in the direct sunlight.
While there are several types of Prickly Pear in the Sonoran Desert. The Engelmann Prickly Pear (opuntia engelmannii) is the most common and the easiest to identify. Venture up the mountainsides between March and May to see the large yellow flowers, and then again in early summer to try the sweet pink fruit.
So called because if its rounded shape, the Teddy Bear Cholla (opuntia bigelovii) has an eye-catching dark body and white tops. Found in the slopes, this cactus comes into full bloom in April. Enjoy the green-tinged white flowers, but be careful of the barbed spines.
The symbol of the Sonoran Desert, the Giant Saguaro (carnegiea gigantea) grows to more than 25 feet tall at lower elevations. From April to May, large white flowers will bloom from the end of green stems on the cacti’s arms. Just don’t forget your camera – they only last 24 hours!
Standing at up to 6 feet tall, the Creosote Bush (larrea tridentata) is one of the largest desert shrubs. As a highly drought-tolerant plant, it blooms between February and August in even the most parched areas. The small yellow flowers are most easily identified by their strong scent, known as the “smell of the desert”.
Covering sandy or rocky terrains, Scorpionweed, or Blue Phacelia, (phacelia distans) blooms from March to May. The small plant produces little blue flowers, which release a pungent smell when crushed. But beware: the tiny hairs on its stalks can cause skin irritation, so don’t be tempted to pick them.
With so many beautiful sights to see, make sure you go out to see the wildflowers of the Sonoran Desert.