Spring is finally here!

In honor of the fresh arrival of springtime, today’s post is going to focus on the native flora of Arizona.

There are over 4,000 native species of flora found in Arizona. This is due to the diverse landscapes and altitudes which range from sub-tropical to alpine. Each supports different kinds of wildflowers, shrubs, trees, etc. The flora here is rich and vast, covering the expanse of the state.

pink flowers

Forbs and Subshrubs

In Northern Arizona, specifically the Central Highlands, there are 1,582 unique forbs and subshrubs (otherwise known as wildflowers) in a wide array of colors: white, purple, blue, red, orange, green, yellow, and pink.

The Rock Jasmin, Nodding Onion, Southwestern Prickly Poppy, and Bull Thistle are among these wildflowers.

Agaves and Yuccas

There are 6 agave and yucca plants native to Arizona: Agave parryi, Agave chrysantha, Yucca angustissima, Yucca baccata, Yucca elata, and Nolina microcarpa. 

Both of these agave plants are sources of food and fiber for Native American tribes and have been for centuries. While also a food source, yuccas have many medicinal properties that treat skin sores and diseases, inflammation, breaks and sprains, joint pain, and more.

Agave field


Thirteen kinds of cacti call Arizona home. Among these are the Opuntia phaeacantha brown-spine prickly pear, Escobaria vivipara Common beehive cactus, Cylindropuntia whipplei whipple cholla, Echinocereus fasciculatus strawberry hedgehog, and perhaps the most famous of all the Carnegiea gigantea saguaro. 

The word cactus comes from the Greek term “kaktos” which translates to spiky plant. The thorns on cacti are super leaves that act to conserve water and ward against predators.


Grasslands are part of the Central Highlands of Arizona, and 184 grasses live here. Agrostis gigantea redtop, Aegilops cylindrical jointed goatgrass, Alopecurus geniculatus water foxtail, and Arrhenatherum elatius tall oatgrass are some of these.

Agrostis gigantea redtop is primarily in use to control erosion when planted in wetlands and riparian zones as cattle do not like to eat it. However, Arrhenatherum elatius tall oatgrass is a forage grass and is a source of food for cattle and other animals because it yields hay rich in phosphorus and calcium. 


51 kinds of trees make the Central Highlands their home. We have the Juniperus deppeana alligator juniper, Pinus edulis pinyon pine, Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-fir, Quercus arizonica Arizona white oak, and the Prosopis glandulosa honey mesquite to name a few. 

The cones found on the alligator juniper are either all yellow (male) or all grayish-blue (female). Female and male cones live on separate trees and never together. Their leaves also produce a drop resin and they occur on rocky slopes and riparian woodlands.


64 kinds of shrubs root down here, they range from Ericameria nauseosa rubber rabbitbrush, Fouquieria splendens ocotillo, Rosa woodsii var. woodsii Woods’ rose, Ribes aureum golden currant, and Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea blue elderberry. 

Shrubs are either deciduous or evergreen. Deciduous means that the shrubs shed their leaves in the fall/winter. Evergreen shrubs retain their green leaves year-round.

Golden Currant shrub


3 types of vines also live in the Central Highlands: Clematis ligusticifolia white virgin’s bower, Parthenocissus vitacea Virginia creeper, Vitis arizonica canyon grape. 

All of these vines are deciduous and they trail over rocks, trees, shrubs, fences, etc.

For more information and to learn about the rest of the wide range of flora go to this website https://cales.arizona.edu/yavapaiplants/

Check out our nature classes at highlandscenter.org/adult-programs


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