Flowering Plants of the Great Basin

The United States' Great Basin covers much of Utah and parts of Arizona and Nevada. It has higher elevations and much colder winters than the hot deserts of the southwest. Many hot desert plants would succumb in its winter temperatures. Wildflowers in the Great Basin's higher locations bloom later than those in lower ones, according to the National Park Service. Their different blooming seasons provide Great Basin visitors with a continuing stream of color.

Scarlet Globemallow

Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea) is a multistemmed perennial usually standing 12 inches tall. It often grows in large clumps or colonies. Native to the Great Basin's mesas, dry bluffs and plains, it has white-haired stems and green, lobed leaves. From April to September, scarlet globemallow bears clusters of brick red or orange, red-bracted blossoms along its axils (between the leaves and stems). While it tolerates shade, plants in shady locations have thinner, duller leaves. The Blackfoot Indian tribe, states the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC), chewed the leaves of this plant into poultices to treat burns and skin irritations. Scarlet globemallow provides browse for deer and pronghorn antelope. Plant it in full sun and dry, gravelly, limestone-rich or sandy clay soil.

Utah Serviceberry

Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis) is a perennial shrub belonging to the rose family. Standing anywhere from 3 to 15 feet high, it grows wild on the Great Basin's mesas and higher slopes, at elevations between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. Its many branches have oval, gray-green leaves and ash-colored bark. This shrub is a favorite food of bighorn sheep and mule deer. From April to June, Utah serviceberry has showy spikes of small, white flowers. Dark purple berries, food for several bird and small mammal species, follow the flowers. Serviceberry, states the LBJWC, makes an attractive garden ornamental. Plant it in a partially shady spot with dry, well-drained soil. It tolerates sand, medium loam, and clay.


Delphinium (Delphinium nuttallianum) is native to the Great Basin's arid foothills and valleys. A buttercup-family perennial, it grows anywhere from 6 to 30 inches high. Its straight, unbranched stems rise above sparse, basal clumps of lobed, green leaves. Blooming between March and July, delphinium has loose, ascending spikes of spurred blooms. The white, blue or purple flowers attract hummingbirds. Plant it, advises the LBJWC, in full sun and dry, well-drained soil. Note that all parts of this plant are toxic to humans and animals.

Keywords: Great Basin flowers, high desert wildflowers, Utah native plants

About this Author

A freelance writer, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961 and draws on her travel experiences to provide articles for such websites as Chincoteague Island Vacations and Berlin Dude. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona.