Wildflowers

All park resources, including wildflowers, are protected. It is illegal to pick flowers and seeds, or remove plants from the park.

 

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Red, trumpet shaped flowers on skinny green stems.
Botanist Alice Eastwood identified and named the Utah Penstemon near Monticello, UT, in 1893.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Red & Orange Flowers

Common Name: Utah Penstemon

Scientific Name: Penstemon utahensis

Size (height): 6-24 in (15.2-61 cm)

Habitat: Sandy soils in mixed desert scrub, blackbrush, and pinyon juniper communities.

Flowering Season: April-June

Range: Utah, Nevada, California

Location in park: Common in the central and southern portions of the park including the Hickman Bridge trail, the south end of the Scenic Drive, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: The Utah penstemon is a perennial herb with tall, erect stems and thick lance-shaped leaves. Basal leaves are larger and more numerous than the upper leaves. Its tubular flowers are bright red to red-pink colored and grow in an elongated spike.

 
Close-up of bright red flowers, with yellow-green on edges.
There are about 200 different Indian Paintbrush species found around the world, including four species, including C. chromosa, present in Capitol Reef National Park.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Common Names: Desert Indian Paintbrush

Scientific Name: Castilleja chromosa

Size (height): 4-22 in (10.2-55.9 cm)

Habitat: Sandy soils in sagebrush and pinyon juniper woodlands

Flowering Season: April to June

Range: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Wyoming, British Columbia

Location in park: Common in the central and southern areas of the park including along the Notom Road, in Cohab Canyon, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge.

Description: Indian paintbrush is a perennial herb with grayish-green stems covered with small hairs. It has brilliant red to orange floral bracts, each with five narrow lobes. Indian paintbrushes are partial root parasites, attaching their roots to roots of other plants and taking nutrients from their host. Sagebrush is a typical host plant.

 
Close up of reddish orange flowers on green leafy stems.
Common Globemallow can sometimes be found growing near purple Scorpionweed.

NPS

Common name: Common Globemallow
Scientific name: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Size (height): Up to 18 in (46 cm)
Habitat: From mixed desert to ponderosa pine forests (3,000 to 9,000 feet)
Flowering season: mid-April to October
Range: Utah and the Southwest, up to Canada
Location in park: Throughout the park, especially in Fruita and along State Route 24.
Description: One of the earliest flowers to start blooming. Historically used for medicinal and first aid purposes.

 
Spindly plant with small yellow flowers at top of stalks, with blue sky in background.
Look for Yellow Catspaw along trails in the Moenkopi Formation.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Yellow & White Flowers

Common Name: Yellow Catspaw

Scientific Name: Cryptantha flava

Size (height): 5-15 in (12.7-38.1 cm)

Habitat: Saltbush scrub, mixed desert scrub, pinyon juniper woodlands

Flowering Season: April to July

Range: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona

Location in park: Common throughout the park, typically on hillsides and uplands of clay soils. It can be seen along the Scenic Drive, the Hickman Bridge Trail, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: Yellow catspaw is a perennial herb with numerous stems and narrow leaves covered with stiff hairs on the underside. It has yellow flowers that grow in narrow clusters 2-8 in (5.1-20.3 cm) long. Cryptantha, the genus name, means "hidden flower."

 
Clump of green stems, with leaves at base, and bright yellow flowers at the top.
Naked Stem Sunrays prefer soil with a high gypsum content, like those found in the Moenkopi Formation, along the Scenic Drive.

NPS

Common Name: Naked Stem Sunrays

Scientific Name: Enceliopsis nudicaulis

Size (height): up to 20 in (50.8 cm)

Habitat: Clay or gypsiferous soils in blackbrush, mixed desert scrub, and pinyon juniper communities

Flowering Season: mid-April to July

Range: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California

Location in park: Common in the central portion of the park especially along the Scenic Drive and along State Route 24, west of the visitor center.

Description: Naked stem sunray is a perennial herb with long, gray-green stems that each support a solitary yellow flower head about 2 in (5 cm) wide. The leaves, which are all basal, are round to oval shaped and up to 3 in (7.6 cm) long and equally wide. The species name, nudicaulis, refers to the long bare stems on this plant.

 
Tall, whispy yellow stalks of flowers on green stems, with big red cliffs in the background.
Prince's Plume is another plant that has adapted to the marginal soils of the desert, because it thrives in selenium-rich environments, like the Moenkopi Formation.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Common name: Prince’s Plume
Scientific name: Stanleya pinnata
Size (height): 24-36 in (61-91 cm), but up to 60 in (5 ft, 152 cm)
Habitat: Mix desert scrub, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: May to November
Range: Utah and the southwest, up to North Dakota
Location in park: Common in the park. Often in Moenkopi Formation along Utah State Route 24 and the Scenic Drive.
Description: Tall plant, with bright yellow flowers that start blooming from the bottom up, until the whole stalk is covered in flowers.

 
Spindly plant with green stems that have the middle section inflated, with tiny yellow flowers.
The desert trumpet is a memorable plant because of the inflated look of its stem.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Common name: Desert Trumpet
Scientific name: Eriogonum inflatum
Size (height): 1-2 feet (30.5-61 cm) tall
Habitat: Many different elevations and soil types
Flowering season: Spring-Fall
Range: Throughout Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
Location in park: Throughout Capitol Reef
Description: This unique member of the buckwheat family has an inflated stem, giving it part of its scientific name, “inflatum.” Tiny yellow flowers top the stems in the spring, and in the fall, the stems will turn from green to a dark red, and then a pale yellow as the plant dries up. Over the years, scientists have had different ideas about what causes the stem to inflate. Early theories included insects laying eggs inside and creating galls. Recent theories are that the stem does most of the photosynthesis for the plant, since it has a larger surface area than the small round leaves at the base of the plant. The stem seems to be a reservoir for carbon dioxide, and the waxy surface of the stem helps prevent water loss through transpiration.

 
Lots of narrow, white flowers on green stalks, with lots of oval green leaves.
Plants like Stinking Milkvetch, which grown in soils with high selenium content often have an unpleasant scent, and can be poisonous if eaten.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Common name: Stinking Milkvetch
Scientific name: Astragalus praelongus
Size (height): 4-36 in (10-91 cm)
Habitat: Clay soils, such as Moenkopi and Chinle formations, and Mancos Shale, in mixed desert scrub and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: April to July
Range: Throughout Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.
Location in park: Central and southern areas of Capitol Reef, including the Scenic Drive and Utah State Route 24.
Description: Tall flower stalks, with 10-33 white-ish cream flowers on each one. Known for a strong, unpleasant smell, which gives the plant its common name, Stinking Milkvetch.

 
small green plant with white daisy-like flowers
The Silvery Townsendia is common throughout Capitol Reef.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Common Name: Silvery Townsendia

Scientific Name: Townsendia incana

Size (height): 1-2 in (2.5-12.7 cm) tall

Habitat: Sandy or clay soils in desert scrub, saltbush, sagebrush, and pinyon juniper communities

Flowering Season: April to July

Range: Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada

Location in park: Common throughout the park including the Cathedral District, the Hickman Bridge Trail, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge.

Description: Silvery townsendia is a perennial herb with a well-developed root system that typically grows in a low, rounded clump up to 8-10 in (20.3-25.4 cm) wide. The stems are covered with white hairs. The leaves are grayish green and lance shaped. This plant is in the sunflower family. The disk flowers (i.e., center) are yellow while the ray flowers (i.e., petals) are white on the upper surface and pinkish on the underside.

 
Three large white flowers with four petals each, and yellow centers, with other flowers faded pink, and green background.
The Pale Evening Primrose can spread out and cover 24-30 (60-76 cm) of the ground.

NPS

Common name: Pale Evening Primrose
Scientific name: Oenothera pallida
Size (height): 12-28 in (30-71 cm)
Habitat: Gravelly or sandy soil, from sagebrush to ponderosa pine forests
Flowering season: May to September
Range: Widespread in Southwest up to eastern Washington and Wyoming
Location in park: Common and widespread throughout the park
Description: The Pale Evening Primrose has large (4 in, 10 cm) white flowers that fade to pink as they age. Compared to other primroses, this one has very narrow leaves, with toothed (lobed) edges, and is usually taller.

 
Three flowers close together, each with three large white, upward facing petals, and dark red and yellow centers. Grass and stems in background.
The Sego Lily has edible root bulbs, but like all plants inside Capitol Reef, it is protected, and should not be removed or eaten.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Common name: Sego Lily
Scientific name: Calochortus muttallii
Size (height): up to 20 in (51 cm), but usually shorter
Habitat: Sandy soils, from grasslands to ponderosa pine forests (3,300 to 10,000 ft)
Flowering season: May to July
Range: Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and some Midwest states
Location in park: Southern park of the park
Description: The Sego Lily, the Utah State Wildflower, was used as a food source by both Native Americans and Latter-Day Saint pioneers. Attempts to cultivate the Sego lily domestically have been unsuccessful, and this plant should never be harvested or taken from the wild.

 
Cluster of small pink-ish white flowers, with a pink-purple base, and large, broad green leaves.
The showy milkweed is most often found in the Fruita Orchards. Look for a tall plant, with a ball-shaped white flower cluster at the top.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Common name: Showy Milkweed
Scientific name: Ascelepias speciosa
Size (height): 23-40 in (58-102 cm)
Habitat: Disturbed lands, riparian areas, and sandy bottomlands
Flowering season: May to August
Range: Utah, and the Southwest, from California to Canada to Minnesota
Location in park: Common in the central part of the park, especially in the Fruita Orchards
Description: Flowers form large white/pink round balls at the top of the plant. The “fluff” from milkweed seedpods is more buoyant than cork, and warmer than wool. It was used in life jackets and flight suits during World War II.

 
Plant with large green leaves, and bright purple flowers, low to the ground, under a juniper tree.
Look for the colorful Showy Four O'Clock under juniper trees.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Purple Flowers

Common Name: Showy Four O'Clock

Scientific Name: Mirabilis multiflora

Size (height): Up to 36 in (91 cm) tall

Habitat: Mixed desert scrub, pinyon juniper woodlands; often grows in the shade of a tree.

Flowering Season: May to July

Range: Utah, western US

Location in park: Widespread in the park; can be seen along the Hickman Bridge Trail, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: Showy four o'clock is a sprawling perennial that can spread to 36 in (91 cm) wide. It has bright green, egg-shaped leaves with magenta flowers that open in the afternoon. Native Americans used these flowers for medicinal purposes.

 
Plant with green leaves and purple flowers growing on red soil, with red rocks in background
The Latin "mollissimus" means "very soft." This moniker fits the appearance of the milkvetch's leaves, stems, and seedpods, all of which are covered in fine hairs.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Common name: Woolly Milkvetch
Scientific name: Astragulus mollissimus
Size (height): 2-17 inches (5-43 cm)
Habitat: Many soil types, from mixed desert scrub to pinyon-juniper forests
Flowering season: February to June
Range: Utah and the Southwest, south to Mexico
Location in park: Common in the central and southern parts of the park
Description: One of the earliest plants to bloom in the spring, this milkvetch species is highly poisonous to livestock. Another common name for it is "locoweed."

 
Tall plant with small purple flowers at the top, and curling green leaves at the base, with red rocks and blue sky in the background.
Some species of Phacelia are known to attract native bees as pollinators.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Common name: Scorpionweed
Scientific name: Phacelia crenulata
Size (height): 3-32 inches (8-81 cm)
Habitat: Salt desert scrub and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: mid-April to June
Range: southern Utah and the Southwest
Location in park: Common throughout the park
Description: The name “scorpionweed” comes from the way the flower stalk curls at the end, like a scorpion’s tail. Glandular hairs on the leaves and stem of the plant can cause a rash like poison ivy.

 
 

Last updated: May 20, 2020

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Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
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