Rain Bird BioTrek

Desert Community

Superstition mallow - Abutilon palmeri

Photo of abutilon palmeri

Sonoran Desert: mtn slopes, creosote-bush scrub. In Roman times, Pliny wrote that a spoonful of mallow would rid one of all diseases. Leaves are pubescent from stellate (star-like) hairs that reflect sunlight and reduce water loss. 

Catclaw acacia - Acacia greggii

Desert: flats, washes. Pods were eaten fresh or were ground for mush and cakes. Extensive groves provided substantial but not preferred food sources. Twigs were made into maskets, brushes, cradle frames, housing, and fencing. Wood was used for construction and firewood.

California buckeye - Aesculus californica

Sierra Nevada: Tehachapi Mountains. Vegetation and nuts toxic, especially to fish. Seeds were extensively leeched before use during the winter. Seeds were ground and placed in a damned stream. Fish would float to top where they were collected, cooked and safely eaten.

Desert agave - Agave deserti var. simplex

Desert: rocky slopes, washes, desert scrub. Leaf fiber used for basketry, bowstrings, nets, snares and net-cordage for eagle skirt. Flower stalked was harvested and baked in a stone-lined overn for many days. Pods were baked, flowers were boiled and eaten. Soap was made from roots.

Mugwort - Artemisia douglasiana

California: open to shady places, drainages. Seeds and peeled shoots were eaten raw. Leaf juice was applied to poison oak infections and to irritation from stinging nettles. Stems and leaves put under the pillow to promote pleasant dreams. Leaves chewed for toothaches.

Great basin sagebrush - Artemisia tridentata

Photo of artemesia tridentataPhoto of artemesia tridentata

South Coast: dry soils, valleys, slopes. Seeds were parched ground into flour, and eaten as mush in large quantities. Branches were burned to fumigate sick areas and in sweat lodges to purify air. Powdered leaves used for chaffing. Chewed leaves made into poultices for aches and pains.

Desert red barberry - Berberis haematocarpa

Desert: rocky slopes, pinyon/juniper woodland, chaparral. The fruit of most barberries were made into wine, jelly, and used whole or crushed for soup. The roots and stems of most barberries were used to dye beargrass and porcupine quills. Berberine found in the roots and bark of Berberis species has a wide range of anti-microbial activity.

Islannd barberry - Berberis pinnata ssp. insularis 'Shnilemoon'

Blue grama - Bouteloua gracilis

Red fairy duster - Calliandra californica

Baja Californica: desert washes, flats, hillsides. Powdered Calliandra root for rashes and to make a red dye for leather.

Fairy duster - Calliandra eriophylla

Photo of calliandra eriophyllaPhoto of calliandra eriophylla

Sonoran Desert: sandy washes, slopes, mesas. Leaf and stem decoction taken after childbirth. Puffs of red blossoms are displayed late winter to early summer, attracting hummingbirds. The attractive two-inch-long seed pods are flattened and have red margins and a silky coat of short hairs that catch the sun’s rays.

Saguaro - Carnegia gigantea

Photo of carnegia gigantea

Greenbark ceanothus - Ceanothus spinosus

Birchleaf mountain mahogany, Palo fierro - Cercocarpus betuloides

Spreading soap plant - Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. divarticatum

Silver cholla - Cylindropuntia echinocarpa

Coastal cholla - Cylindropuntia prolifera

photo of cylindropuntia prolifera

Pencil cholla - Cylindropuntia ramosissima

Photo of cylindropuntia ramosissima

Staghorn cholla - Cylindropuntia versicolor

Photo of cylindropuntia versicolor

California buckwheat - Eriogonum fasciculatum

Green ephedra - Ephedra viridis

Nevada tea - Euphorbia nevadensis

Apache plume - Fallugia paradoxa

Coast silktassel - Garrya elliptica 'James Roof'

Bladderpod - Isomeris arborea


California juniper - Juniperus californica

Chuparosa, Belaperone - Justicia californica

Creosote - Larreae tridentata


Southern chaparall honeysuckle - Lonicera subspicata

Anderson wolfberry - Lycium andersonii

Laurel sumac - Malosma laurina

Laurel sumacLaurel sumac

Bear grass - Nolina parryi


Blue palo verde - Parkinsonia florida

Foothill penstemon - Penstemon heterophyllus var. heterophyllus

Two needle pinyon - Pinus edulis

Singleleaf pinyon - Pinus monophylla

Singleleaf PinyonPinyon mono

Arrowweed - Pluchea sericea

Honey mesquite - Prosopis glandulosa

Mesquite - Prosopsis glandulosa var. torreyana

Screw bean - Prospois pubescens

Desert peach - Prunus andersonii

Islay, Holly leaved cherry - Prunus ilicifolica ssp. ilicifolia

Bitter cherry - Prunus emarginata

Munz oak - Quercus x munzii

Sugar bush - Rhus ovata

Gooding's black willow - Salix gooddingii

White sage - Salvia apiana

Salvia apiana

Salvia apiana

Blue elderberry - Sambucus mexicana

Mountain pride blue witch - Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pine'

Desert wild grape - Vitis girdiana

Banana yucca - Yucca baccata

yucca baccata

Mojave yucca - Yucca schidigera

Mission manzanita - Xylococcus bicolor