Wild About Flowers
In spring, Scottsdale’s landscape comes to life with vibrant wildflowers. Thought the Sonoran Desert was a big, empty space? Think again. We’ve got flowers that will have you seeing red – and pink, orange, yellow and blue…
Lupine: There are some 280 species of this flower, but the ones you’ll find here in the Sonoran Desert are the purple majestic type. The Tohono O’odham tribe’s name for this plant means “sun-hand,” referring to the way its hand-shaped leaves move to face the sun throughout the day.
Brittlebush: A desert shrub sporting tiny yellow flowers, the brittlebush yields a sap that the Tohono O’odham people use for things like glue, incense and chewing gum. Back in the days of the Wild West, cowboys would use the flower’s stem as a fine toothbrush and some cultures have even found brittlebush to cure toothaches.
Blue Yucca: The Blue Yucca is a trunk-forming succulent that produces a showy stalk of flowers that are as vibrant as the yucca’s powdery blue leaves. A favorite of the Tohono O’odham, the Blue Yucca’s red roots are oftentimes used in basket weaving. (Photo by Ken Bosma)
Penstemon: Besides being beautiful wildflowers, penstemons are a staple for many residents’ gardens because they require little water, are easy to maintain and attract colorful hummingbirds. While they got their start in United States, penstemons became popular in Europe in the 1800s when local horticulturists began creating hybrids of the flower.
Poppy: Poppies can come in all kinds of colors and some even have significant markings. They have a long history of being used as pain medication but today are more well-known for their symbolism. In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, poppies are worn to commemorate fallen soldiers.
Century Plant: The century plant spends 5 to 35 years growing a large basal rosette of stiff, leathery leaves. Then, a single stalk resembling an asparagus spear topped with golden-yellow blossoms shoots out and grows as much as a foot each day to reach a height of about 15 feet.
Saguaro Blossom: Did you know? Saguaro cacti only grow in the Sonoran Desert! The saguaro blossom is a cream-white flower with a bright yellow center and measures about three inches in diameter. It’s also the state flower of Arizona.
Palo Verde: In Spanish, palo verde means “green stick.” In the spring, the tree sprouts tiny, bright gold flowers. Palo verde trees save water by dropping their leaves in the dry season and can live to be 400 years old!
Queen of the Night: These thin, spiny stems grow to about three feet tall. In the spring the plant sprouts buds, and on one summer night, the buds burst open into silky white flowers. Each flower opens for only one night and closes with the morning sun.
Prickly Pear: The prickly pear is armed with small barbed spines that grow on flattened pads. Prickly pears bloom with brilliant flowers in the spring and the juice from the cacti’s fruit is used in drinks, syrup and jelly.
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