Needles Field Office

Wildflowers in the Mojave Desert

Each year many people wait with great anticipation to see what nature has in store for us in the form of wildflowers. Will winter rains be followed by searing heat and the brown of summer? Or will the gentle warm rains of spring bring forth all the colors of the rainbow waving on stalks of green in a gentle breeze?

Take a moment to view this displays and enjoy the beauty that the lower Mojave Desert has shown us in years past.  Dream and hope for the same this year and then come join us and witness it for yourself if it occurs.

Wildflower report pages

Mojave Desert Wildflower Brochure

Brittle Brush, a light green bush with multiple stocks toped by bright yellow flowers
Brittlebush (Encelia spp.) are small, rounded, knee-high to thigh-high shrubs with relatively large gray leaves and with many flower stalks extending above the tight ball of leaves. Each flower stalk is tipped with a large, yellow, daisy flower. The flower stalks often persist after the leaves are dropped.

Desert Primrose (Onagraceae) are a bushlike, sweet-scented annual is most often a grayish green, creeping dune plant growing 2 to 18 inches high and spreading as wide as 40 inches. Sparse, pale green, hairy leaves grow as long as 4 inches, mostly on the ends of stalks emerging from a dense basal rosette. The long,oval leaves are often lobed, toothed, grooved or cleft. Blooms are, white, 4-petaled flowers forming a saucer, turn yellow toward the center. They bloom 1-1/2 to 3 inches wide, January through May. Flowers open in the early evening and close in mid-morning. They turn pinkish with age.

Desert Primrose, a pail creamy flower atop red stalks
White tack-stem
White tack-stem (Calycoseris wrightii) makes an impressive floral display each spring. This is an erect branching annual up to about 1 foot high, with flowers at the ends of the stems. The blossoms’ heads are white with pale yellow at the base and a pink-lavender stripe on the outside. Little pale green tack-shaped glands are scattered along the stem.

Mojave Sun Cup (Camissonia campestris) is a common spring wildflower in the Mojave Desert. The plant is a slender ephemeral with stems usually less than 10 inches (25cm) long. The flowers are about 1 inch (25 mm) wide or smaller, with a red dots at the base of the petals.

Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) Pale blue, 1/2-inch long blue to lilac flowers bloom on slender, erect stems January through May . The upper petal (banner) has a yellow spot which changes to reddish after pollination. The two bottom petals (keel) are short, and wide; they are hairy on the bottom edge and curve upward to a slender tip. When ripe, seed pods explode, scattering their seed to the wind. Like all members of the Pea Family (Fabaceae), Lupines have distinctive flowers with one petal on top and two on the bottom. This annual herb has dark green, compound leaves with 5 to 9 leaflets arranged like the spokes of a wheel; they grow 1 1/2 inches long and 1/8 inch wide.

Lupin and Mojave Goldcup
Phacelia is an annual shrub of the Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae). It often grows up through other shrubs to a height of from one to 3 feet. Green, finely-haired, fern-like leaves and the coiled, scorpion tail arrangement of the flowers are characteristic of this species. This species is know by another of other common names, including Wild Heliotrope and Scorpionweed.

Contact with some species of Phacelia can cause a very unpleasant rash similar to that from poison oak and poison ivy in sensitive individuals

Fremonts Phacelia
An oddly shaped Desert Sunflower
Desert Sunflower (Geraea canescens )are slender, hairy plant with a few leaves and golden-yellow flower heads at the ends of the several branches. Flower heads are about 2" (5 cm) wide; 10-20 oblong rays, each 3/4" (2 cm) long, surround the disk; bracts have long, stiff white hairs on the edges. Leaves grow to 3" (7.5 cm) long, oval and often with a few teeth. Fruit appear seed-like, flat, each tightly enfolded by a parchment-like bract, the surface of the fruit is hairy.

Hedgehog cactus (triglochidiatus) are a small barrel shaped cactus that grows in clumps of a few to a hundred stems. The stems are cylindrical in shape and are up to 1 foot long and 1 to 2 1/2 inches thick. There are about 9 or 10 ribs on the stem. This cactus has no leaves and has chlorophyll in the stems. The flowers vary from a beautiful deep red to yellow, with many petals that form the shape of a cup. The flowers bloom from April through June, and are the among the first to bloom in the desert.

Hedghog Cactus
Beavertail cactus
Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris ) are succulents growing upto to 2 feet tall (60 cm), 4 feet spread (1.2 m); green or slighly purplish segments 3.2 to 5.6 inches long (8-14 cm), 1.6 to 4 inches wide (4-10 cm), slightly pleated during the dry season. The Beaver-tail Cactus is a smaller prickly pear cactus, and it will often start blooming when it has only two pads.

Mojave Indigo Bush (Psorothamnus) are shrubs . Some are referred to as daleas, as this genus was once included in genus Dalea. They are generally thorny, thickly branched, strongly-scented bushes. The species bear bright purple legume flowers and gland-rich pods.

Mojave Indigo Bush
Desert Pincushion in a sand wash
Desert Lily (Hesperocallis undulata), also known as the Ajo Lily, is one of the most striking of desert wildflowers.  It is a perennial with thin undulating leaves that form a rosette from which the stem and soft white trumpet-shaped flowers emerge.  Its bulb may be two feet or more below the surface thereby protecting it from predators or excessive moisture.   The Desert Lily was called "Ajo (garlic) Lily" by the Spanish because of the bulb's flavor. Native Americans used the bulb as a food source

Mojave pincushion (Chaenactis)are an annual plant growing to 50 cm tall. The leaves are somewhat succulent, 3-7 cm long and 3-4 mm broad, on the young plants which wither away during flowering, and spirally arranged leaves on the flowering stem; they are green, finely flecked with white scales giving an overall grayish color to the plant. The flowers are produced in a capitulum 3-6 cm diameter, and are white in color

Ajo Lilly
Close up of a Mojave Aster, A light lavender flower with bright yell center
Mojave aster (Charidryras neumoegeni) Many purple-to-lavender narrow rays surround yellow disks with the overall flowerhead growing up to 2 inches in diameter. While they usual bloom in spring between March and May, Mojave Aster sometimes flowers in the fall as well.
This member of the Sunflower Family is a shrubby perennial growing up to 30 inches high. It contains many long, gray-green stems with lanceolate, hairy, 3-inch leaves growing from the base. The stems tend to remain leafless near the top. Each plant may bear as many as 20 flowers.

Nipple Cactus (Mammillaria kraehenbuehlii) The plants are usually small and elongated, the stems from 1 cm to 20 cm in diameter and from 1 cm to 40 cm tall, solitary to clumping forming mounds of up to 100 heads. The flowers are funnel-shaped and range from 7 mm to 40 mm and more in length and in diameter, from white and greenish to yellow, pink and red in color, The fruit is berry-like, club-shaped or elongated, usually red but sometimes white, yellow or green. Some species have the fruit embedded into the plant body. The seeds are black or brown, from 1 to 3 mm in size.

Nipple Cactus, a small green cacti cover with gray fish Hook spines with two red frute pods