Wildflowers of the American Southwest

Southwest America varies in elevation from high mountain to low desert landscapes; surprisingly, there are many wildflowers to be found in these tough environments.

The American Southwest includes the states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico; in plant ecology terms, it also stretches into Northern Mexico, California and Texas. The environment in this vast area of land includes several ecological plant zones including those of pine forest, spruce-fir forest, mixed conifer forest, desert scrub, high desert, low desert and grassland.

Many wildflowers bloom throughout the year in these varied landscapes but it is in spring and summer that desert floors and mountain tops are ablaze in the numerous colors of the wildflowers; every year, visitors and locals alike witness the transformation of a seemingly barren landscape into a multitude of color and new life.

Mountain Wildflowers of the American Southwest

The mountains of the American Southwest, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental (which stretch down into Northern Mexico), can rise to over 9,000 feet in elevation; many wildflowers found in these mountain ranges can not be found anywhere else in the USA, due to the unique ecological environment.

Annual and perennial wildflowers at these elevations blossom in summer when the temperature is warmer and the rains fall. Depending on the species, wildflowers can be found in sunny meadows, along streams or on more rocky terrain. Wildflowers may bloom until the early fall season, depending on the elevation at which they are growing.

Species of Mountain Wildflowers in Southwest America

The following is an example of the species of wildflowers which can be found in the mountain ranges of the American Southwest:

White Wildflowers – Arizona Pea (Lathyrus arizonicus), Marsh Marigold (Caltha leptosepala) and Wood Strawberry (Fragaria vesca ssp. Bracteata)
Red/Orange Wildflowers – Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja patriotica), Mexican Campion (Silene laciniata) and Beardtongue (Penstemon barbatus)
Pink Wildflowers – Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) and Wild Geranium (Geranium caespitosum)
Yellow Wildflowers – St John’s Wort (Hypericum formosum), Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia laciniata) and Goldenrod (Solidago wrightii)
Blue/Purple Wildflowers – Monk’s Hood (Aconitum columbianum), Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium foliosissimum), Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) and Larkspur (Delphinium andesicola).

Desert Wildflowers of Southwest America

The deserts of the American Southwest include the Great Basin Desert, the Sonoran Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert and the Mojave Desert; deserts have high daytime temperatures, wind and low precipitation. Rainfall is unpredictable, yet certain species of wildflowers manage to survive in these harsh environments. In the Mojave desert, winters are cold and there is little rainfall (mainly in winter and spring); however, good winter rains will provide the right environment for annual spring wildflowers.

Winter rains and summer thunderstorms provide enough water for wildflowers to bloom in the Sonoran desert. In the Great Basin Desert, which ranges in elevation from 2,000 to 5,000 feet, plants find it more difficult to survive; winters are extremely cold, with snowfall, and summers are extremely hot, resulting in fewer species of wildflowers. The Chihuahuan Desert produces many spring annual wildflowers; there is ample rainfall in summer and rains in winter provide enough water to support several species of flowers.
Species of American Southwest Desert Wildflowers

The following is an example of the species of wildflowers which can be found in the deserts of the American Southwest:

White Wildflowers – Morning Bride (Chaenactis fremontii), Desert Milkweed (Asclepias subulata) and Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi)
Gold/Orange Wildflowers – Mexican Goldpoppy (Eschscholtzia mexicana), Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) and Desert Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi)
Pink Wildflowers – Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa), Trailing Four O’Clock (Allionia incarnata) and Mojave Beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis)
Yellow Wildflowers – Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Blazing Star (Mentzelia jonesii) and Janusia (Janusia gracilis)
Lavender/Purple Wildflowers – Stork’s Bill (Erodium texanum), Blue Flax (Linum lewisii), Arizona Blue Eyes (Evolvulus alsinoides) and Scorpionweed (Phacelia distans).

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