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Names of Desert Plants

By Ann Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Desert plants provide tangible proof that spectacular landscapes don’t require regular or frequent rainfall. While the sandy soil and rocky mountain ranges of a desert terrain may be varying shades of browns and reds and suffer harsh weather and extreme heat, desert flowers, shrubs and cacti provide stunning colors, shapes and textures to the terrain.

Beavertail Cactus

When listing desert plants, the prickly cactus is a type of plant most commonly associated with the desert. There are more than 2,000 different types of cactus. Some might be considered unappealing, and even ugly in appearance, while others produce vividly colored flowers. One such cactus is the beavertail cactus, whose form resembles a cluster of green beavertails. It produces fuchsia-colored papery textured flowers.

Ocotillo

The ocotillo has a short trunk from which spiny limbs grow upward, creating a V-like shape that can reach 20-feet in height. The drought-resistant desert shrub drops its leaves to conserve water when necessary. During springtime, tubular flowers bloom in clusters at the end of its branches, attracting hummingbirds to the nectar. Despite its prickly exterior the ocotillo is not a cactus, but belongs to the Fouquieriaceae family.

Yucca

The Yucca filamentosa, also called "Adam’s Needle," is a member of the agave family. Like the ocotillo, the yucca grows wild in the desert and is also used as an ornamental shrub in desert landscaping. Its foliage forms an evergreen clump that grows to about 2.5 feet tall and wide. From its sword-like shaped foliage a tapering conical inflorescence blooms during July and August, growing from 3 to 8 feet in height.

Creosote Bush

The creosote bush is an evergreen that is virtually useless for grazing but provides home and shelter to small wild creatures, such as rodents and jackrabbits. The vivid green plant, which bushes outward, reaching up to 13 feet in height, flowers from February to August with tiny yellow blossoms. Those who find a creosote bush growing wild in their garden can green up the plant and increase the flower production by regular watering.

Mesquite

Desert plants, including citrus trees grown in the region, come armed with thorns. The mesquite tree is no exception, and its ominous- ooking thorns can get to about 2 inches in length. Birds that fly into the trees are sometimes impaled on the thorns, butt that doesn’t stop other birds from taking refuge within its branches. The mesquite tree provides shade and lumber, while its pods supply food for wildlife. The tree can get up to 30 feet in height.

Brittlebush

When looking for daisies in the desert, the encelia farinose, also called a brittlebush, comes close. Its yellow flower resembles the daisy in appearance, and when in bloom the flowers cover the bush. The leaves of the bush are a grayish green in color, and the flowers grow outward from the bush on longer stems.

 

About the Author

 

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.