Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Research, Reference and Plant Profile Descriptions


The same research process is used for each plant profiled in Southwest Desert Flora. Each plant profile contains the same information which is explained below. This site uses the Southwest Environmental Information Network (SEINet) for scientific names, common names, synonyms and the species distribution map. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Plants Database (USGS) is also used. The USGS site is used for information about plant family, plant duration, growth habit, status and synonyms. The Plant List, a working list of all plant species is a recognized resource and very helpful for family and genus information.

Arizona Flora by Kearney and Peebles, is used for specific information such as flowering season, elevation, habitat preferences and sometimes taxonomic, livestock and Native American uses are added.

Descriptions of leaves, growth form and flowers include personal observations which are supplemented with semi-technical information from on-line sources or publications referenced below and cited on each profile page.

Each plant profile also includes data obtained from the USGS Plants database pertaining to U.S. Weed Information, Invasive/Noxious Weed Information, U.S. Wetland Indicator and Threatened/Endangered Information. U.S. Weed information identifies weeds listed by nationally recognized publications while Invasive/Noxious weeds are those legally listed by a state or the federal government as invasive or noxious. Plants are on the U.S. Wetland Indicator status if they are listed on the USDA 2012 National Wetland Plant List.


Southwest Environmental Information Network (SEINet)

Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and Canotia: (all contributions are available at vpa_project.html).

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)

Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico.  18+ vols. New York and Oxford.

2013, Native Plant Information Network, Published on the Internet. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.

1993, The Jepson Manual, Treatment from the Jepson Manual.

2002, The Jepson Desert Manual; vascular plants of southeastern California, Baldwin, Bruce G.,, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.

The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;

Plant Profile Descriptions:

Common Name: The most common name of the subject wildflower along with other common names either locally or regionally.

Scientific Name: The most current botanical name of each plant.

Family Name: The most current botanical family.

Synonyms: Synonyms are part of the botanical taxonomic history of each plant.

Status: (Native or Introduced) A plant is native if it naturally existed in Arizona (endemic or indigenous) in geologic time. Some of Arizona’s native plants may be rare because they have evolved here under extreme environmental conditions such as weather and soil. Native plants are often assisted in their own life cycles with the assistance of native insects or other animals (pollination or seed dispersal).

An introduced plant is a plant that did not naturally occur here. Many of Arizona’s introduced plants are invasive weeds that negatively impact and out-compete our specialized native plants.

Duration: Duration is the period of time a plant lives. An annual plant is usually herbaceous (most annual flowers) and often lives for no more than one year, biennial plants are also herbaceous or slightly woody and may live two or more years and perennial plants are typically woody (trees) and may live for many years.

Size: How large or small this plant may be.

Growth Form: Growth form is the plants structure such as; forb/herb, subshrub, shrub, tree or vine with a brief description of the plants growth profile.

Leaves: Brief description of the leaves on the plant. Often difficult as a plant may have several types of leaves depending on the location or maturity.

Flower Color: The most common color of the species flower. Often color varies by shade and certain plants may have more than one color.

Flowering Season: In general, the time of the year the plant blooms.

Elevation: A range of elevations that the species is usually encountered.

Habitat Preferences: Habitat descriptions are often variable and may include more than one habitat such as a plant that may occur in creosote and pinyon-pine communities. Also included may be urban settings such as canal banks, roadsides and grassy yards.

Recorded Range: Where the plant found geographically in the; United States, Mexico, Canada and Mexico, followed in text with the Arizona locations.

Information from the following four categories is available U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service website. Information in these four categories originates from federal, state or technical publications.

U.S. Weed Information: Plants included on this USDA list are plants that have not yet risen to weedy or invasive status. Plants included here may become weed or invasive.

Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Plants included on this USDA list are plants that are listed as a Noxious Weed by the federal government and/or a State. Plants included here are invasive or noxious.

Wetland Indicator: Plants included here are on the USDA 2012 National Wetland Plant List.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Plants included under this heading having been listed as threatened, endangered or is a species of special concern by the United States or by a state or both.

Genus information: Additional information about the relative abundance and locations of occurrence for the genus. Also Included here is information about subspecies or varieties of the species.

Comments: The authors generalized comments of interest about the subject plant that usually do not fit with the categories above.