According to the Landsward Institute of Northern Arizona University millions of dollars are spent every year to preserve, repair and grow native Arizona plant species in their natural settings. Arizona’s flora—many endemic to its protected areas—is highly desired as exotic additions to landscapes throughout the country, yet the Arizona Department of Agriculture has the arduous task of guarding its native plants. Learning about the many different native plants of Arizona and the role we all play in environmental conservation will help them survive for many generations to come.
The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is the state flower of Arizona, and distinctively so owing to its towering and stately appearance in the midst of the Sonoran Desert. A member of the Cactaceae family, the saguaro cactus produces white flowers with yellow centers that bloom at the tips of its thick branches. Its edible green fruit matures in the fall and is enjoyed by both animals and humans. The saguaro cactus grows to 50 feet in height and is tolerant to dry soil, hot temperatures and full sun.
Chaparral nightshade (Solanum xanti A. Gray), a perennial flowering herb of the Solanaceae family, is native to Arizona, Nevada, California and Oregon. It grows up to 3 feet in height and thrives in partial sun and moist soil. Chaparral nightshade produces bold purple flowers with yellow centers that bloom from spring to summer. Other common names for chaparral nightshade include purple nightshade and San Diego nightshade.
Endemic to Arizona, Arizona agave (Agave arizonica Gentry & Weber) is a perennial shrub member of the Agavaceae family. Drought tolerant, it thrives in full sun, partial shade and well-drained, dry soil. Arizona agave blooms yellow flower in the middle of spring and grows up to 2 feet in height.
A member of the Asteraceae family, Huachuca groundsel (Senecio huachucanus) only grows in two of Arizona’s mountain areas and in the mountain area of Chihuahua, Mexico, as stated related by the Center for Plant Conservation. It grows just over 2 ½ feet tall and produces yellow flowers in late summer through early fall.
Gentry Indigo Bush
Gentry indigo bush (Dalea tentaculoides), a member of the Fabaceae family, is a rare southwest plant that historically occurs in three parts of Arizona’s south—Coyote Mountains, Baboquivari Mountains and Sycamore Canyon, according to Arizona Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gentry indigo bush grows just over 3 feet tall and produces purple flowers from early spring to early summer.
Chiricahua Mountain Dock
Chiricahua mountain dock (Rumex orthoneurus Rech. f.) is a perennial plant belonging to the Polygonaceae family. It is native to Arizona and New Mexico and lives in moist soil near natural water sources in the Arizona’s conifer forests and the southwestern Riparian Deciduous Forest. Chiricahua mountain dock can grow just over 6 ½ feet tall, its flowers form in mid-summer and its seeds develop in late summer. Other common names include blumer’s dock and chiricahua dock.