Spring in the Sonoran: A Desert Flower Photoessay

Redstem Stork's Bill Springtime in the Sonoran Desert
By Contributor

Bev is the co-founder of Staying Native. She left her corporate gig to be able to travel more with her young family. She loves traveling and likes to share her local experiences with others. As an amateur photographer, her stories come with lots of pictures. Bev is Staying Native's lead tweep, moderator of the "Do it like a local" blog and the curator of all things social media.

Monday, Apr 22, 2013

Springtime flowers in the Sonoran DesertMy favorite time to be in Phoenix is the spring. When the cacti begin to flower, the Palo Verde trees blossom, and the  Sonoran desert comes alive with colour. The past winter was particularly wet in Arizona, making for a better than average springtime flower viewing opportunity.

Southwestern Inspiration

This region of the southwestern United States is a beautiful place to photograph and has long inspired the likes of great photographers like Ansel Adams and amateurs such as myself.

"I hope that my work will encourage self expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us.”—Ansel Adams

The photographs in this essay were collected while hiking in areas just north of the city of Phoenix, in Maricopa County. Some of my favourite, kid friendly hikes include Sears Kay Ruins, Spur Cross and Jewel of the Creek. Also if you are looking for spectacular scenery and springtime flowers, I recommend that you make the time to drive the Apache Trail.

Saguaro Flower and Palo Verde Tree - Symbols of the State of Arizona

Native to the Sonoran desert, the distinctive Saguaro cactus and the green Palo Verde tree are synonymous with the state of Arizona.

Saguaro Cactus desert flower

The saguaro cactus bloom is the Arizona state flower.

Desert flowers Palo Verde Arizona state tree

The Palo Verde, State tree of Arizona, blooms yellow in spring. 

Yellow Springtime Flowers in the Sonoran Desert

Based on my observations, yellow is the predominant colour of springtime flowers in the Sonoran Desert.

Desert flowers - Palo Verde flower closeup

Close up of fragrant yellow flowers of the Palo Verde tree

Sonoran desert flower Aloe vera plant - Aloe barbadensis flower

Flowers of the Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbendesis)

Sonoran desert flower Staghorn Cholla yellow flower

Yellow blooms of the Staghorn Cholla

Sonoran Desrt flower Brittle Bush flowers (Encelia farinosa)

Yellow and brown eyed varieties of the Brittle Bush

Sonoran Desert flowersPrickly Pear cactus yellow blooms

Pale yellow flowers of the Prickly Pear cactus

Sonoran Desert flower Yellow bird of Paradise

The showy flowers of the Yellow Bird of Paradise

Argentine Giant Cactus

Sonoran Desert flower Yellow Argentine Giant Cactus flower

Above is the dramatically oversized flower of the Argentine Giant Cactus.

The Giant Argentine Cactus puts on a spectacular show. The flowers of this cactus are large and vibrant, but not long lasting. If you see one in bloom, you had better take a picture, because there is no guarantee that it will still be there tomorrow.

This cactus flowers in many different colours including white and pink.


Sonoran Desert flower Argentine Giant Cactus White and Pink flowers

 Big thanks to Kelly Kangles for sharing her photo of the pink Argentine Giant Cactus!

Desert Wildflowers, Plants and Succulents

Even amongst the most rocky outcropping,  desert wildflowers find a way to take hold and thrive.

Sonoran Desert Flower Redstem Stork's Bill flower (Erodium Cicutarium)Redstem Stork's Bill, from the germanium family

Sonoran Desert Wildflower - Mojave Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus)

Close up of the Mojave Lupine

Sonoran Desert Flower Desert Chicory Desert wildflower (Rafinesquia neomexicana)

Desert Chicory, a member of the Aster family

Though the wildflowers put on quite a show, the desert plants and cacti certainly don't take second stage.  I hope you enjoy their contribution to the colours of spring in the desert as much as I do.

Sonoran Desert Flower Sierra Bouquet flowers (Leucophyllum prunosum)

Sierra Bouquet

Sonoran Desert Flower Pink and White varietals Hesperaloe parviflora common name Red Yucca

 Pink and white varietals of the Red Yucca

Sonoran Desert Flower Pink Fairyduster flowers (Calliandra eriophylla)

Delicate pink Fairy Duster

Sonoran Desert flowers Pink Prickly Pear cactus flowers

Pink Prickly Pear flowers

       Sonoran Desert Flower Ocotillo in full bloom  Sonoran Desert Flower Mojave Yucca flowers

 Ocotillo in bloom (left)      White flowers of the Mojave Yucca (right)

Sonoran Desert Flower Desert Globe Mallow flowers (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Desert Globe Mallow produces vibrant orange flowers

Sonoran Desert Flower Giant Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia Robusta)

Orange-pink blossom of the Giant Prickly Pear cactus

Sonoran Desert Flower Purple hedgehog cactus flowers

Deep purple flowers on the diminutive hedgehog cactus

Sonoran desert flower Butterfly enjoying Parry's Beardtongue (Penstemon parryi) flower

A butterfly on Parry's Beardtongue with a prickly pear cactus in the background.

Challenge your Expectations

Spring in the Sonoran desert will challenge all of your preconceptions of what a desert should be. On my first springtime visit I was truly overwhelmed by the diversity and beauty of the native plants. There is so much more to see than the iconic saguaro. Come to Phoenix in the spring and experience the stunning colours for yourself. And maybe even take a photo or two.

More Sonoran Desert Plant Information

If you'd like some more information on the plants and flowers in this post, please have a look at the Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and the Plants of the Sonoran Desert website.

Sonoran Desert flower hedgehog cactus many pink flowers

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