After a short winter with plentiful rain, the valley of the sun's mountains and desserts are filled with wildflowers and plump cactus. With a beauty unlike anything seen elsewhere, and some that are just bazaar, it is natural to desire a means of identifying these unique flowering plants. Given the limited amount of flowering plants in the Arizona, this is not a difficult task.
Identify whether the plant is a cactus or another variety of plant. Cactus and succulents will have thick, strange-shaped leaves, and many have needles. If the flower is on top of a very tall cactus, this is a saguaro. If it is on a short ovular-shaped cactus, it belongs to the barrel family. The barrel family has hybrids available that produce bright pink and orange flowers. If it has long, thick looking leaves, it is either an agave or an aloe vera.
Determine whether the other variety of plant is a ground cover or a shrub. A ground cover is a plant that spreads out along the ground and usually produces small clusters of flowers. The most common ground cover plants found in Arizona include lantana, sandpaper verbena and trailing dalea. Lantana produces tiny flower clusters that are usually yellow, orange or purple. Sandpaper verbena produces circular clusters of bright purple flowers. Trailing dalea's flowers are deep purple and about the same size as the plant's leaves.
Identify the color and size of the shrub's blooms. Common Arizona shrubs include the Mexican bird of Paradise, which has bright red and yellow flowers, and the Green Feathery Cassia, which has showy yellow flowers. It may also be Mexican Honeysuckle, which has orange tubular flowers, or the Chaparral Sage, which contains purple spikes of flowers.