Scenic Drive Plant Guide

"Agave Glow" by Susan Q. Byrd

“Agave Glow” by Susan Q. Byrd

This section provides introductory information about the plant species that are exhibited along the Scenic Drive. You might enjoy taking our Sonoran plant and animal trivia test before you review this guide.  Take the Test

You can bring a copy of this page with you when you visit the Scenic Drive. Even better, bring a comprehensive field guide like the one mentioned below. And remember, most of the plants described here are protected by very tough and strictly enforced Arizona law.

An important source was A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona by Anne Orth Epple published by Falcon.  The plant pictures included in this section were provided by volunteers Bob Hart and Howard Myers.

Scenic Drive Plant List

Barrel Cactus.  Helpful to desert wanderers.  As a compass, it normally leans south.  Can be “topped” for liquid drink. More

Blue Palo Verde. Blue-green bark and tiny leaves make the Spanish name “green stick” appropriate for Arizona’s state tree. More

Buckhorn Cholla. The skeletal remains of this branched shrubby cholla are sold in novelty shops. More

Catclaw Acacia.The short, curved spines on this shrub’s branches are the bane of hikers and riders.  Also called “Wait-a-minute”. More

Crucifixion Thorn.  Named for its cross-shaped spines, this tall shrub has light green branches like a palo verde. More

Chain Fruit Cholla.  Its fruit never ripens.  Next year’s fruit will grow from this year’s and so on.  More

Chuparosa.  This twiggy shrub drops its leaves in cold or extreme drought.  Hummingbirds prefer its red flowers. More

Creosote Bush.After a rain it gives off a musty odor – the basis of its Mexican name. “hediondilla”, or “little stinker”. More

Desert Broom. Guess what pioneers used the branches for? Native Americans chew the stems to ease a toothache. More

Desert Hackeberry. An evergreen shrub that provides a convenient hiding place for animals. Its orange berries are a wildlife favorite. More

Foothills Palo Verde. Arizona’s state tree has yellow-green bark and appears as a mass of pale yellow during springtime bloom. More

Greythorn.The green stems of this shrub are covered with a grayish, wax-like coating. Gambel’s quail enjoy its fruit. More

Hedgehog.  Like the animal, this small cactus is covered by 2″ to 3″ spines. Its fruit tastes like strawberries. More

Ironwood. Named for the strength of its wood, one of the world’s heaviest at 66 pounds per cubic foot. More

Jojoba.  Miners and pioneers used this shrub’s seeds to brew a bittter substitute for coffee.  This shrub is browsed by mule deerMore

Mormon Tea.  Mormon pioneers in Arizona used this shrub’s dried stems to make tea. Its roots help bind the soil. More

Ocotillo. A thorny, queer shrub that is planted in rows by ranchers to create living fences, also called coachwhip. More

Prickly Pear. An edible cactus used to make jelly. Its fruit and pads are favored by javelina. More

Saguaro.  Giant kings of the desert, they produce the state flower.  Take 50 years to grow arms. More

Teddy Bear Cholla. They look friendly but if you brush against them beware, they become painful human magnets. More

Triangle Leaf Bursage. The Foothill’s most prevalent shrub serves as nursemaid protecting young cacti from foraging animals and the desert’s harshness. More

Velvet Mesquite. This small tree was an important fuel source for early settlers. The seed pods are eaten by coyotes. More