Flowering Plants in the Southwest Desert

The desert has long dominated imagery of the American Southwest--and no wonder, as a great deal of the landscape is dominated by desert expanses. The American Southwest is home to four deserts: the Sonoran, the Mojave, the Chihuahuan and the Great Basin. These regions are home to some extraordinary plants, many of which exhibit beautiful blooms in the spring and summer.

Dune Evening Primrose

The Dune Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides), also known as "Devil's Lantern" and "Lion-in-a-Cafe," is a sprawling, shrub-like plant that has long oval gray or green leaves. In the spring, the plant grows flush with floppy, four-petaled flowers which start off white and gradually turn a pale shade of pink as they age. They also have a sweet scent. The plant grows in sandy dunes below 3,500 feet in the the deserts of Southern California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

Ghost Flower

Growing in Southern California, Western Arizona and Southern Nevada is the Ghost Flower (Mohavea confertiflora), an annual member of the Figwort family that bears translucent white flowers flecked with red. The leaves are hairy and slender, growing upwards to the sky. The plant is on the small side, growing between 4 inches and 16 inches high. Ghost Flowers grow in clumps in rocky slopes and dry washes.

Brittle Bush

Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) is a deciduous shrub that is commonly found in both the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. The Brittle Bush is from the sunflower family, and its vibrant clusters of yellow flowers look almost like miniature sunflowers. The small shrub, which rarely grows above 5 feet, flowers during early spring to mid summer. The Brittle Bush grows in abundance on top of dry slopes and washes throughout the desert.

Apache Plume

The Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa) is a distinct-looking evergreen shrub that's part of the rose family. Apache Plumes are a familiar sight through the all four deserts of the American Southwest. The plant is characterized by its fluffy plumes, which are a light rose pink. Apache Plumes flower with floppy white blooms in mid spring through summer. The name of the plant comes from its similarity in appearance to Native American Apache war bonnets.

Keywords: Southwest desert, flowering plants, desert flowers

About this Author

Natalie Phillips is a writer based out of Portland, OR. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press in Santa Cruz. She has a BA in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English Literature.