Arizona desert Prickly Pear cactus


Flowering Plants

Although wildflowers bloom continuously until late fall, springtime is an ideal time to visit Sedona.  Hundreds of flowering plants begin to bloom in late March through April, and by May, Sedona is a Botanist's dream.  The flowers put off the most marvelous aromas and I think that has it all set up to bloom at the most appropriate time.  The healing art of Aromatherapy suggests that specific scents have specific healing attributes.  My theory is that in the natural order, things bloom at just the right moment to impact our emotional wellbeing and healing.  It is well documented that aromas affect us emotionally. 

Ladies, you may remember a special time when you received flowers from someone special.  Remember the aroma?  Specific aromas also trigger our memories.  What memory comes up for you when you smell popcorn or snow in the air?  Memories are stored in our minds with pictures, sounds, aromas, tastes, and feelings.  Think of a time that you felt totally loved and cared for.  Pick any specific memory when you felt totally loved and cared for, now.   As you remember that special moment, you will probably remember exactly where you where, what you were doing, what colors were around you, the aromas and tastes, and most importantly, how you felt.  Don't you?  That's right. 

Brain science tells us that aromas trigger the oldest part of our brain.  We often react to situations before the conscious mind is ever engaged.  The olfactory sense is powerful and is connected at the instinctual level of our behavior.  People often report that Sedona is one of the most aromatic places they have ever been, and not just in the spring. There is usually something blooming all through the summer and well into the fall in the Sedona Oak Creek area.  The great thing about flowers is that they delight all our senses.  They look as nice as they smell. 

For the purposes of this book, I have tried not to use too many technical terms.  Scientific names for flowers are listed because it is the only accurate way to identify some plants.  Mexican Poppy, for instance, is the same common name used for two entirely different flowering plants.  One is Prickly Poppy or Argemone polyanthemos, and one is what I call Arizona Poppy or Eschscholtz california.  While both are in the Poppy family, Papaveraceae, Prickly Poppy is a different plant with specific medicinal uses that do not match the Arizona Poppy, which is a widely growing flower particularly characteristic of the Sedona desert area.  

Filaree [Erodium cicutarium], Storksbill

Germanium family [Geraniaceae]

Springtime is coming when the Filarees bloom.  One of the first flowers to bloom in the early spring, the tiny flowers of the low-lying Filaree look dark blue or pink to me.  Wildflower books describe them as reddish-lavendar flowers.  The ground crawling weed-like plant has small fern-like leaves.  The small Filaree flowers are rarely rise over an inch tall and average about a quarter inch wide.  The plant has a single taproot like a turnip.  The name Storksbill is derived from a pointed seed that looks like a birds beak. 

The whole plant including the taproot is dried for medicinal purposes.  The herb can stop bleeding after childbirth when used as an infusion.  Filaree has a mild diuretic effect when used for water retention.  It has also been used for rheumatism and gout.  A tea is made from the root and leaves and taken three to four times per day.  The leaves can be chopped and added to salads in early spring before flowering. 

Evening Primrose [Oenothera flava and deltoides]

Evening Primrose Family [Onagraceae]

In the mountains above the Mogollon Rim, it is possible to find the Spring or Shortfin Evening Primrose.  If you are fortunate enough to find this dandelion looking plant that grows close to the ground around sunset, you will be in for quite a treat.  As the sun is beginning to go down, this otherwise uninteresting plant makes a startling transition.  A yellow flower will begin to unfold before your very eyes.  Where no sign of anything resembling a flower existed before, the yellow petals of Evening Primrose unfold so quickly that you can see them opening before your eyes and sometimes even hear their crackling sound.  Within a few minutes, it is completely open and closes up again when the sun rises (Bowers 44). 

Desert Evening Primrose grows at the Sedona elevation.  Look for the white flowers of Tufted Evening Primrose along Dry Creek Trail and Boynton Pass throughout the spring and into summer.  Varieties of Evening Primrose are used commercially by extracting an oil that is extremely high in fatty acids.  Fatty acids are a group of lipids or oils that are precursors to hormonal production in the human body.  The oil has even been used as a weight loss supplement to the diet.  The connection between hormonal levels and emotion is well documented.  With our discussion of aroma therapy, it is fascinating that evening primrose oil is beneficial to hormonal production and that aromas affect emotion.     


Indian Paintbrush, also Desert Paintbrush [Castilleja chromosa], Giant Red Paintbrush [Castilleja miniata]

Figwort family [Scrophulariaceae]

Several varieties of Indian Paintbrush are found in and around the Sedona area.  You will primarily find Desert Paintbrush, Arizona Paintbrush, and Southwest Paintbrush.  I distinguish them more by how tall they are.  At the lower elevations, the shorter Desert Paintbrush variety is found and as you climb toward the Mogollon Rim and the higher elevations, the varieties tend to become much taller.  This bright red plant stands out distinctly from the other vegetation in almost any environment.  Provided you are not color blind, Paintbrush is easy to find.  The flowers of Indian Paintbrush look as if they are part of the leaf structure.  Most Paintbrushes are parasites and make connections with roots of other plants, so they are difficult to transplant or grow from seed. 

Indian Paintbrush are in the Figwort family.  Figwort has historically been used for skin eruptions including fungal infections, eczema, rashes, burns and hemorrhoids when made into a strong tea.  The tea can be used as an external wash or you can drink it two to three times per day.  It is also mixed in a beeswax salve or vegetable oil for application to the skin.  


Owl's Clover [Orthocarpus pupuracens]

Family Figwort [Scrophulariaceae]

A cousin of Indian Paintbrush in the same Figwort family is the Owl's Clover.  This plant is often found like a ground cover, not usually standing more than an inch above the ground.  The Owl's Clover is hemiparasitic, taking nutrients from a host plant.  The roots of the Owl's Clover have been found embedded in the roots of other plants including Desert Larkspur, Bladderpod, Mexican Poppy, and Desert Lupine (Bowers 84).  Owl's Clover is often found under the leaves of larger plants.  Move the leaves back and find a beauty.  The bright red or purple color of Owl's Clover stands out in a meadow even though the plant is no more that an couple of inches tall. I do not know of a medicinal use for Owl's Clover. 


Desert Verbena/Blue Vervain [Glanularia gooddingii]

Verbena Family [Verbenaceae]

Verbena is a low, spreading plant with blue, pink, or lavender flowers that bloom from early spring until fall.  Vervain is another name for the flower may appear as a single flower on a small plant or a whole group of flowers in a large clump never more that a foot high.  Verbena grows at the Sedona elevation and is typically pollinated by butterflies.

The flowers and stems can be made into a tincture that is a good sedative, diaphoretic, diuretic, bitter tonic, antispasmodic, and mild coagulent. Verbena or Vervain tincture is good at the onset of a virus cold especially if the respiratory is affected.  It promotes sweating, settles the stomach, and is safe for children.  Vervain tincture may help digestion by soothing irritated nerve endings that can cause chemical secretions that inhibit good digestion. 


Lupine [Lupinus Polybyllus]

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

One of the most beautiful and prolific flowers growing in the higher elevations of the Mogollon Rim and down into many of the canyon trails around the Sedona Red Rock area is the Lupine.  When you find the bright blue-violet flowered variety in lower elevations it is likely to be the Arizona or Desert Lupine.  Lupine tend to bloom in late spring and through the summer months, staying longer in the higher elevations.  You can recognize Lupine even when it is not in bloom by its distinctive leaf.  Several (9-13), palmately compound (long thin palm-shaped) leaves tend to be arranged like wheel spokes coming to points to make up a round overall shape (Spellenberg 638,504).  Lupine flowers are on one or several unbranched, stout, hollow stems that can be one to three feet tall. 

When-hiking in the off season, it is a good idea to look for these plants with their distinctive leaf structure growing in abundance in an area.  This will be a place to remember when spring comes around.  When you return, you can find magenta fields of color waving in the gentle spring breezes.  Higher elevation varieties can be found in great abundance in the mountainous areas above the Rim.  These higher elevation Lupine will vary toward darker blue hues and will tend to stand taller.  Look at the leaves to identify that they are in fact Lupines (Bowers 72,98).

Lupine are cousins to the Bluebonnet that covers spring fields all over Central Texas.  Lady Bird Johnson started a campaign to seed Bluebonnets and other native flowers along Texas highways.  The program was quite successful. 


Sacred Datura and Coming of Age [Datura Wrightii], also called Suthwestern Thornapple, Devil's Apple, Devil's Trumpet, Stramonium, Stinkweed, Mad-apple, Stinkwort, Jimsonweed [D. stramonium]

Nightshade Family [Solanaceae]

In a Native American Indian tribe of the Plains, and to some degree among the Southwestern tribes, a child would be given a childhood name at birth.  A Medicine Man or Woman would typically be involved in the name giving.  As the child reached adolescence, however, ceremonial initiations were conducted and an adult name would be determined.  Among some tribal groups, a person could have several names throughout a lifetime.  Names often depended on experiences of that person and lessons learned.  This sometimes made it difficult for government officials to make treaties with Native peoples during the Westward Expansion days of "manifest destiny" in the old west.

In many tribes, the young person coming of age would fast and pray for days in order to purify himself.  In some cases, the initiate might be isolated or left in the wild alone.  At the appropriate time, a Shaman or Medicine person might accompany the initiate to a holy place, possibly a mountain top or cave, and a tea would be made from the roots, leaves and even the seeds from the prickly seed pod of the Sacred Datura plant.  The individual would drink this tea and wait for visions, and the initiate would definitely have visions. 

The tea from Datura is extremely hallucinogenic.  The hallucinogenic effects are reported to be stronger than Peyote, Psyillicibin, or LSD.  However, Datura is also very toxic.  It can cause permanent psychosis.  The primary alkaloid contained in the plant is a Scopolamine. 

When Datura was used in a Native American tribe, it was always with the guidance of a Shaman or Medicine person.  Apparently, these experts on the use of the plant knew what other plants to add to the brew to neutralize the harmful effects.  They also knew how much to take.  Chemical constituents and levels vary greatly from plant to plant and from one area to another.  DO NOT CHANCE IT!  Datura unreliable for any internal use and it's use is just not a smart thing to do (Moore 90-92).  Every year a few people die from experimentation with Datura.

Datura is recognized by it's large, trumpet-shaped white corolla flowers. The flowers wither in the middle of the day or twist into a pod that looks like okra.  Near dusk, the flowers reemerge to stand tall.  The leaves make a coarse violet tinged green foliage that is branched.  The plant is rank-smelling and has short little hairs all over it that can be irritating to the skin.  Datura starts to grow about May and blooms through summer and into fall. 


Mullein, Common or Wooly Mullein [Verbascum thapsus]

Figwort Family [Scrophulariaceae]

Mullein is a tall green hairy plant with long broad leaves pointing upward.  Mullein is biennial.  In the second year a long central stalk grows up and produces small yellow flowers.  It is the basal leaves of the second year's growth and the little yellow flowers that are best for lung and throat.  Mullein is mildly sedative and good for beginning stages of infections and mild fever.  The tea is non-toxic and but the hairy leaves can cause skin irritation to sensitive people.  Mullein can be smoked for chest congestion, spasmodic coughing, and asthma.  It can be combined with lobelia or Datura for greater effect. The yellow flowers can be added to olive oil for earache.  A tea from the dried root is a good diuretic and urinary tract astringent. 

When the long stalk is full of yellow flowers, pioneers used to dip it in lamp oil and light the top.  The burning stalk makes a great candle called "Jacob's Candle."  If you were to find yourself in a survival situation, Mullein can be added to stews.  It is nutritious and adds some substance to your meal. 


Naked Delphinium [Delphinum scaposum]

Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

Delphiniums are incredibly beautiful flowers often raised in highly controlled environments to be entered in contests.  Naked Delphinium are not seen every year in the Sedona area.  They bloom when enough moisture is present to coax them out in the spring to midsummer.  The Delphinium flower seems to appear full-grown at the top a long thin stem with no leaves at all along its 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 foot stalk except for 2 or 3 small round tipped palmate leaves at the very bottom next to the ground.  The flower is deep dark royal blue. 

Delphinium is bee pollintated.  Delphinium holds its nectar at the back of the long, horizontally held spur that requires the bee or bumblebee to crawl inside and become covered with pollen to get at the nectar.  Bees then spread the lavish pollen to other plants.  A tincture or alcohol extract made from Delphinium or Larkspur flowers will kill body and head lice when mixed with green soap, lathered, and left to set for 10 minutes before rinsing. 


Sego Lily [Calochortus nuttallii]

Lily Family [Liliaceae]

Sego Lily is my second favorite flower after Naked Delphinium.  Sego Lily grows at the upper elevations above the Mogollon Rim and is sometimes seen at the Sedona level.  Sego Lily is the Utah state flower.  The whitish bell-shaped lily flower stands atop a delicate stem in an umbel-like ( ) cluster that is usually yellow around base.  The unbranched stems usually have a couple of long pointy upward rolled leaves coming from a single joint about halfway up the stem.  Look for a red or purple horseshoe shape mark at the outside base of the white petals.  Now look inside the Sego Lily to see the beautiful center yellow, brown, and red markings at the bottom of the lily cup.  The name "Sago" comes from the Ute Indians who taught Mormon settlers to eat the bulbs when other food was not abundant. 


Blue Dick [Dichelostemma pulchellum]

Blue Dick is a sky blue to pink lily-type flower atop a 1 to 1 1/2 foot tall stalk with six hidden anthers within white projections.  There are about six little flower petals. Blue Dick blooms in early spring and is a delight to see along the trails.  I have found Blue Dick along the hiking paths at the base of Thunder Mountain and out west along trails originating from the Dry Creek Basin.  The flower is noteworthy, but I think something about the irreverent sound of the name causes me to be on the lookout for them as well. 

Arizona Poppy [Eschscholtsia californica],

Poppy family [Papaveraceae]

Arizona Poppy are abundant in and around Sedona starting in the early spring and blooming sometimes into late summer.  Also called Mexican Poppy, the Arizona Poppy shows off 4 large orange petals.  The plant is a smooth, bluish-green color with several stems.  There is a distinct rim below the petals.  The stems are leafy and fern-like.  The plant often grows in clumps. 


Desert Marigold [Baileya pleniradiata or multiradiata], also Calendula

Sunflower family [Asteraceae]

Desert Marigold is a beautiful flower with several pale yellow ray flowers in each flowerhead that blooms in April to October.  It has pinnated basal leaves that are broadly lobed and grows primarily on sandy or rocky slopes.  The Desert Marigold is easily confused with Arizona Poppy because they bloom grow in similar places, but the Marigold is more of a Sunflower type.  The leaves are similar, leafy on lower half of the plant. 

Marigolds are also known as Calendula.  Medicinal uses include antispasmodic, aperient, cholagogue, diaphoretic, and vulnerary.  An infusion tea from the flowers can be used for ulcers, stomach cramps, colitis, or diarrhea.  A salve can be made that is good for external application to the skin that is good for bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, and boils. 


Penstemmons [Penstemon pseudospectobilis, centranthifolius, palmeri]

Figwort Family [Scrophulariaceae]

The Arizona [pseudospectobilis] Penstemmon flowers grow like little tubular red bugles opening slightly at the end.  These showy flowers display at the top of long stalks with distinctive opposing leaves that appear to grow together around and in each direction from the stalk at regular intervals (about 3 or 4 inches) up the length of the stalk. The plant stands 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet tall.  The bright red flowers stand out along dirt roads and next to rock overhangs around the Sedona area.  There are over 100 varieties of Penstemmon in the Southwest and they are among the showiest flowers at both the Sedona and Flagstaff elevations.  Scarlet Penstemmon and Fire Cracker Penstemmon grow in the area and tend to bloom at different times.  The Fire Cracker close the 4th of July and probably deriving the Firecracker name from Independence Day festivities. 

The herb is chopped and added to sweet almond or apricot and olive oil and then expressed through cloth for use as a  treatment and preventive for irritation of lips, anus, and other delicate parts of the epidermis (skin).  


Golden Columbine [Aquilegia flavescens]

Buttercup Family [Rananculaceae]

Golden Columbine are not usually found right at Sedona, but they are found just up Oak Creek Canyon, especially at West Fork, and just south at Montezuma's Well where moisture allows them to flourish.  They are one of the most beautiful flowers in the area.  The bright yellow flowers have long spurs facing up and sweeping back from the flower petals on long stalks.  The leaves are large and have many divisions to make it a bushy plant.  Golden Columbine blooms in mid-summer through August.  The Latin name, columbinus,  means "dove."  The flower looks like a cluster of five doves. 


Goldenrod, Meadow Goldenrod [Solidago canadensis]

Sunflower Family [Asteraceae]

Goldenrod is found in open areas all around the Sedona area.  It is most likely to be found up through Oak Creek Canyon and above the Mogollon Rim.  Goldenrod is recognized by broad flat-topped clumps of golden color atop tall, leafy, arching branches with little hairs on the stem.  The flowers are tiny yellowish, but darker and richer in color than other yellow flowers. 


Daisy [Melampodium leucanthum],

Sunflower Family [Asteraceae or Compositae] *depends on reference book

There are several daisy and sunflower-type flowers that bloom in the Sedona area.  The primary Daisy blooming all around Sedona is what locals call a Blackfoot Daisy.  It is a low bushy plant with a white flowerheads and 8-10 broad white rays with a yellow center.  These small flowers grow in sandy and rocky soils from starting in early spring and proliferating through early summer.  When conditions are right with enough rain, the flowers will bloom again late summer.  The hottest time of year in Sedona is late June before the Monsoon's start to come in. In the afternoons, clouds build up and cool things off.  Sometimes there will be scattered showers with the clouds and the flowers may get enough moisture to generate a third blooming.  Usually not as many flowers as the early and late spring blooms. 

A similar or same daisy is the White Woolly Daisy [Antheropeas lanosum].  This is probably the same plant with a different name.  The description is the same. 


Aster [Aster foliaceus]

Aster Family [Astereae]

The Leafy or Leafyhead Aster grows at higher elevations around the Sedona Red Rock area.  Asters, Fleabane, and to some degree, Daisy's are difficult to tell apart.  The Leafy Aster flower has little thin narrow petals that are lavender or rose purple, or violet.  They look pink to me.  The plant has lots of pointy leaves with bracts or brace-like leaves seeming to hold up the petals of the flowerhead.  The word "aster" in Greek means "star."  Many varieties of Aster are tall and leafy.  Fleabane are shorter with even tinier thin petals.  Leafy Aster blooms in late summer and continues through September.  Asters are mainly perennial and need the moisture of the high woodlands. 

Another almost identical looking Aster flower, the Desert Aster [Machaeranthera tephrodes] grows at the lower elevations and is not actually an aster at all, but in the Sunflower family.  The Machaeranthera are mainly annuals found along roadsides.  Due to living in more arid climates, Desert Aster tends to grow fewer petals and have a shorter lifespan.  Desert Aster blooms mainly in the fall. 


Phlox, Desert Mountain Phlox [Phlox austromontana]

Phlox Family [Polemoniaceae]

Desert Mountain Phlox is similar to Spreading Phlox [Phlox diffusa].  When you climb up Schnebly Hill Road and back into the Ponderosa Pine forest is a good place to look for Phlox.  The bright pink low flowers have broad petals are sometimes individual and sometimes group in dense clumps to make a showy mat.  The leaves are gray-green and have a pungent odor.  The leaf and plant are often completely hidden under the carpet of pink or pale lilac color.  


Fleabane, Spreading Fleabane [Erigeron divergens]

Sunflower Family; [Asteraceae]

Common names: Spreading Fleabane

Fleabane is in Sunflower family and blooms at all elevation levels from the desert lands to the Ponderosa Pine forest above the Mogollon Rim and blooms from April to October.  The flower has several tiny thin petals, lined up side by side.  The number of patals is many times that of the typical Daisy or Sunflower.  The flower head is about an inch across and white, pink, or lavender around a yellowish disk in the middle.  The plant has many hairy thin branches and usually stands no more than a foot tall.  The plant is differentiated from phlox, which is much lower and brighter pink and from Aster and Blackfoot Daisy because of its numerous tiny flower petals. 

There are several variations of Fleabane.  Edward L. Greene, who had left the Episcopal church in the 1800's to devote himself full-time to botany, classified at least three totally different names for the plant due to slight variations of the flower.  Greene believed that species were largely unchanged through time and was adamantly opposed to Darwin's theory of evolution.  Modern botanists take a broader view of the slight variations in Spreading Fleabane.  

A passenger on one of my Jeep tours told me that the whole plant could be ground up and boiled to use as a dip for dogs and cats to keep fleas away.  The Canadian variety of Fleabane [Erigeron Canadense] has many medicinal uses including treatment for cholera and dysentery and is useful for colon problems in an enema.  Taken internally it has been used for bladder troubles, diarrhea, and hemorrages of the bowels and uterus.  It is said to be styptic, astringent, diuretic and tonic. 


Feather Dalia, [Dalea formosa]

Indigo Bush, Feathered Peabush, Yerba de Alonso Garcia

Feather Dalea is a scraggly shrub usually two to three feet tall.  The tiny leaves are grey green and range all over the Southwest from Arizona to New Mexico between 3000 and 6500 feet above sea level. 

Branches are brittle and woody and the plant blends with the surrounding shrubbery until spring flowers emerge to transform the unassuming plant into a beautiful purple color.  Look close and you will find a tiny yellow flower petals in the middle of the group of purple or dark magenta petals. The flowers have a sweet jasmine-like aroma.  When these flowers wither, a long, curling, wispy seed pod grows.  These translucent seeds catch the light much like the seeds of Mountain Mahogany to attract attention to the plant. 

A great tasting tea can be made from the flowering branches when placed in boiling water and left in the sun for a couple of hours.  Pueblo and Apache Indians have used Dalea for growing pains and aching bones.  The Hopi use it for influenza and viral infection.  They say it is a cold herb for hot ailments.  It is also used in hot baths for arthritis and the aroma has a soothing effect. 


Globemallow, Apricot Mallow, Desert Hollyhock, Desert Globemallow [Sphaerlacea ambigua]

Mallow Family [Malvaceae]

Globemallow is a grayish green plant with maple shaped leaves and orange flowers along an erect thin branch.  Five petals make a distinctive Mallow flower.  The plant is about two to three feet tall growing along sandy desert slopes and flats of the desert and Junipine forest area.  The drought resistant Desert Globemallow blooms in the spring and, in wet years, again in October. 

Mallows are used medicinally in a tea for coughs, hoarseness, bronchitis, and irritation of the respiratory passages.  An astringent wash can be made for wounds and sores.  A poultice of the leaves can relieve pain and inflammation.  Preparations of Mallow are still used in desert Southwest to induce labor in childbirth.  It is then used as a wash for newborn babies and to sooth skin irritation of the Mother's breast. 


New Mexico Thistle


Broom Snakeweed

Broom Snakeweed; Escoba de la Vibora, Broomweed, Matchweed, [Gutierrezia sarothrae, californica, lucida, spp.]

Family [Compositeae]

Broom Snakeweed is a low many-stalked shrub-like flower with little yellow flowers atop thin bright green stalks.  The plant stands about a foot-and-a-half to two feet tall and is found at every elevation around the Sedona area.  It is perennial and new branches are intermixed with stalks from the previous year.  The tiny yellow flowers bloom mainly in the late summer and through the fall.

The "snake" part of the name Broom Snakeweed is attributed to the use of the flowers of the plant.  I am told that in the pioneer days, if your horse or cow had a rattlesnake bite, a poultice could be prepared from the yellow flowers.  The poultice was pasted onto the area of the snakebite to pull the poison.  I have heard stories of Hopi people making a tea and taking it internally for snakebite. 

The flowering tips are typically clumped into little bundles and dried for medicinal uses.  A cup of finely chopped herb can be steeped for half and hour in a quart of water and then added to a bath to alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism.  Broom Snakeweed can help to reduce inflammation and pain and it can be used safely and repeatedly.  A tea from the flowers can be drunk while in the bath.  The tea is useful for treating stomach aches and for excessive menstruation.  The main constituent is a diepoxyde.    


Mormon Tea, [Ephedra spp.], Desert tea, Brigham tea, Cowboy tea, Squaw tea, 

Not really a flower.  Jointed grooved, many stemmed, broom-like

Has male and female cone pollen sacs

Diuretic, febrifuge, decongestant, bladder, kidney problems, fever,

MaHuang [ephedra sinica] used for colds, asthma, hayfever , headaches, skin eruptions.   Source of potent alkoloid, ephidrine.  

Sedona Experiences

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ęBill Thomason2005