Plants Found in the Desert

At first glance that desert may appear bare and uninviting, like an empty wasteland. Further investigation, however, proves that many deserts are actually rich with plant life. The adaptations plants of the desert flora have made make them some of the most beautiful and fascinating plants of the world, worthy of appreciation and study.

Fairy Duster

The fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), also called mesquitilla or hairy-leaved calliandra, is a perennial shrub that belongs to the pea family (Fabaceae). These low growing shrubs tend to only be between 8 and 48 inches high, though they may grow much further outwards. Fairy dusters exhibit small fluffy pink blooms in the spring, sometimes blooming year round. Fairy duster plants are found on desert slopes and sandy soils in southern California's Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and in southwestern New Mexico and northern Mexico.

Soaptree Yucca

The soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) is a striking plant that can grow up to 15 feet high. The soaptree yucca has slender, palm tree-like leaves that grow upwards from the base of stalk. The stalk is topped with a bundle of delicate creamy white blooms. The namesake of the plant comes from the soap-like substance found inside the plant. The soaptree yucca can be found in dry soils throughout the southwest in New Mexico, Arizona, the Sonora and Chihuahua deserts, as well as in Texas and parts of northern Mexico.

Chain Fruit Cholla

The chain fruit cholla (Opuntia fulgida) is a shrubby cactus that has a tree-like appearance. The chain fruit cholla has spine covered "branches" that start off as a pale yellow and gradually darken as the plant grows older. The name of the chain fruit comes from its fruits, which frequently remain attached to the tree for years despite the formation of new fruits. The chain fruit cholla is the largest type of cholla, and the plant can grow up to 15 feet high. The plant grows in sandy soils up to 4,000 feet above sea level in southern Arizona, northwest Mexico and in both the Sonora and the Chihuahua deserts.

Keywords: desert plants, desert flowers, desert flora

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.