Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Acanthaceae, Acanthus Family

Acanthaceae or Acanthus Family is a small family of tropical and subtropical forb/herbs, shrubs or vines primarily originating from Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa, Brazil, and Central America. Arizona and other southwestern states represent the northern most reaches of several species in North America.

Although a rare plant in the United States, Thurber’s Desert Honeysuckle, Anisacanthus thurberi, is common in Arizona. Habitat preferences are extremely variable. Typical of tropical plants Acanthus flowers are often showy, many with characteristic bracts surrounding each flower. Many species have two-lipped tubular corollas are a good source of nectar for hummingbirds. The fruits are capsules that split at maturity expelling and dispersing seeds.

In North America, according to the USDA Plants Database, there are 36 genera with 184 accepted taxa overall in the Acanthaceae family. World-wide, The Plant List identifies 3947 plant genera with 717 scientific plant names of infraspecific rank for the family Acanthaceae.

In the southwestern United States the Acanthaceae Family has approximately 75 species as follows: Texas 50 species, Arizona 13 species; New Mexico 10 species; California 2 species and Nevada and Utah have 0 species.

References: updated 05/31/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search [accessed 05/31/2017]
The Plant List. A working list of all known plant species. [accessed 05/31/2017]
Wikipedia contributors, 'Acanthaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 February 2015, 14:42 UTC, [accessed 15 February 2015]