Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most inspiring stretches of landscape in Northern America. Its unique terrain is a veritable paradise of intriguing plant and animal life, and its fascinating rock formations make it a thrilling place for hikers and nature lovers.
One of the things that visitors of the park love is its wide variety of wildflowers. With over 750 species of plants, there will always be something new to see, with a huge array of wildflowers that bloom in the spring and summer months.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the 15 best Joshua Tree wildflowers you can spot when you’re out on your next adventure!
15 Best Joshua Tree Wildflowers
1. Mojave Aster
Mojave Aster, or Xylorhiza tortifolia, is most commonly found resting on hillsides around Joshua Tree National Park.
They are usually found quite high up, from 3000 to 5,500 feet, which makes them a popular spot for climbers enjoying the various rock formations of the park. You can recognize them by their pale purple flowers, and their distinctive yellow centers.
The Mojave Aster is a member of the sunflower family and will grow annually provided they have adequate sunlight and free-draining soil.
2. Hedgehog Cactus
This is a unique-looking plant that sports very beautiful pink flowers. You can notice them by their bright coloring and a yellow center. You’ll usually find them around the Park from May all the way to June and can be found in a variety of different locations.
It’s worth noting that the Echinocereus genus features around 60 species of cacti, that spread all the way from central Mexico up to Western parts of the United States of America. These cacti often feature an edible fruit, though this is not true for all species.
Datura, or Jimsonweed, is a fascinating flower that you will be able to find in Joshua Tree National park. It is a member of the nightshade family and as a result, is highly poisonous.
However, provided you keep your distance, you should know that it is a beautiful flower, easily recognizable by its white, trumpet-shaped flowers.
You’ll find these throughout the park’s desert terrain. Just make sure you keep your distance as they can be dangerous to handle.
4. Sand Verbena
This is a type of flower that you’ll most commonly find in sand dunes or washes. They are small flowers, with bright purple pallets that are white in the center of their petals.
If you’re lucky enough to find these flowers during a large bloom, you will find great swathes of them across the land. This flower is also called Abronia villosa and can be found across the park in sandy areas.
5. Sand Blazing Star
A Sand Blazing Star is a gorgeous flower with extremely unique cream-colored flowers that grow up to 2.5 inches in length.
It can be most commonly found in desert landscapes across Joshua tree, thriving in rocky or sandy soils, and usually grows to a height of around two feet.
The Latin name for this plant is Mentzelia involucrata and is part of the Mentzelia family. Other common names include ku’u, or the white bract blazing star.
These spindly plants have distinctively thorny branches that eventually bloom into dazzling red flowers. It is one of the most iconic flowers in Joshua Tree and can grow up to 20 feet tall.
You’ll find it in dry areas of the park, most commonly in rocky soils and areas with low water availability. The plant is highly adaptable to the harsh conditions of the desert and can survive long periods of drought.
7. Mariposa Lily
This unique flower can be recognized very quickly because of its bright orange flowers with large petals. You’ll find them blooming anywhere from March to May, and grow most frequently in lower areas of the park.
The word “mariposa” is Spanish for butterfly, referring to the large petals of the flower that look a little like butterfly wings.
8. Canterbury Bells
Otherwise known as Campanula medium, Canterbury bells feature dazzling blue bell-shaped flowers that help to give this plant its name. These can be found in the late spring to the early summer period and can be found in rocky areas of the southern Mojave Desert.
9. Birdcage Evening Primrose
Primrose flowers belong to the Primulaceae family, characterized by their bright colorful flowers. A birdcage Evening Primrose is notable for its clear white petals. They’re typically a few inches wide and can be found in sandy areas across the park.
They get the “birdcage” part of their name because of what happens when they die – their stems contract to form something that looks a little like a birdcage.
10. Desert Indian Paintbrush
The Latin name for this one is Castilleja chromosa, and can be recognized by its distinct red petals and yellow stems. You’ll find these in many different parts of the park, measuring up to 2-3 feet in height.
These plants are an important part of the desert ecosystem, giving refuge for a variety of insects and animals, the brightly colored flowers attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
If you want to see their flowers, you’ll need to visit the park between May and September.
For the 11th flower on our list, we have the Chia (otherwise known as Salvia columbariae). This is a remarkably unusual flower that features tiny blue flowers attached to a cactus-like globe.
These plants are known for their edible seeds, which have been used as a food source by indigenous people for thousands of years.
It is believed that Chia seeds were farmed by the Aztec Empire, and that this was one of the most common food sources for different mesoamerican cultures.
12. Beavertail Cactus
The Beavertail Cactus is a common flower you’ll find in Joshua Tree National park, notable for its paddle-shaped stems and bright pink flowers.
If you want to know if the plant in question is a beavertail cactus, you can know by its height (normally around 12 inches) and whether or not it has grown in rocky or sandy soil.
You’ll find them blooming around spring, with flowers appearing at the very tip of the plant. It’s worth noting that these flowers can also be white or yellow, though these are rarer color variations.
A desert Globemallow is a tough and beautiful plant native to parts of the southwestern United States, including the Joshua Tree National Park.
As a member of the mallow family, it can be recognized by its bright orange flowers, and its ability to thrive in the harshest of desert conditions.
The flowers are arranged in clusters that have a distinctive globe-like shape, which is most likely where the flower gets its name.
14. Desert Rock Pea
The Desert Rock Pea, also known as the Gravelstone Lupine, or the Desert Lupine, is a flowering plant native to parts of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.
You’ll usually find these in Joshua Tree from spring to early summer, and you can recognize one by their spiky clusters of flowers that are shaped like a pea. The plant’s leaves are soft and fuzzy, which allow it to retain moisture in the harshest of desert conditions.
15. Cushion Foxtail Cactus
The Cushion Foxtail Cactus is a small species of cactus notable for its low-rounded shape and groups of cylindrical stems. When springtime rolls around, these plants produce bright pink or red flowers that bloom from the very top of these stem clusters.
The plant is a vital food source for many animals within the environment but has also been used as part of traditional medicine.
So that was our list of the 15 best Joshua Tree wildflowers to spot on your next adventure. We hope that this guide has pointed out some of the best of what the National Park has to offer.
Although most of these plants flower from spring to summer (or early fall), there is a great depth of different plants that you can see all year round. Joshua Tree National Park is a treasure that allows people to connect with nature and the diverse desert environment.
Make sure to keep an eye out when you’re hiking and/or exploring the wonders of Joshua Tree, to make sure you don’t miss some of these gorgeous plant species.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wildflowers in Joshua Tree National Park play an important role in the park’s ecosystem. They exist as habitats for a wide range of different wildlife, including pollinators.
While there are some poisonous flowers in Joshua Tree, the majority are not. However, you should make sure to exercise caution when in the park, and avoid ingesting plants unless you are absolutely sure they are non-toxic to humans.