Grand Canyon Park is home to hundreds of flowering plants. There are approximately 650 herbaceous (having little or no woody stem) wildflowers in the park. Some of the common species displaying a white flower are the sacred datura, evening primrose, tidy fleabane, yarrow, baby white aster, desert tobacco, watercress, and white violet. Some common yellow flowering wildflowers are broom snakeweed, yellow ragweed, hymenopapus, groundcherry, common mullein, Hooker's primrose, and blanket flower. Red or orange flowered plants include the globe mallow, red columbine, skyrocket, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, and crimson monkeyflower. Pink and purple wildflowers include the Rocky Mountain bee plant, fleabane, Palmer lupine, toadflax penstemon, Grand Canyon phacelia, and Rocky Mountain iris. For a complete list of Grand Canyon Plants see the Grand Canyon Plant List.
Prickly pear cacti (Opuntia) grow in abundance throughout the American southwest and encompass over 150 species. They are found in many of the life zones encompassed by Grand Canyon, both on the South Rim and in the Inner Canyon. Usually a yellow bloom, the flowers in spring can also sometimes be orange or red. (Photo courtesy Claire Baldwin)
Globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossulariaefolia) can be the brightest growing part of the Grand Canyon landscape in spring. Their stems grow out from the base of the plant in all directions, and petals form in bright orange "cups" that open with the sun. They are highly drought-resistant plants and flourish in mid-range deserts. Their bright color makes them a favorite for pollinators.
Look for this orange blooming flower in early to mid spring along Highway 64 when entering the park, or along the rim in a few places. Globemallow also bloom inside the canyon around 4000 feet (1219 m).
Known for showy purple blossoms, Palmer lupine (Lupinus palmeri) is a high desert favorite for flower enthusiasts. Its leaves are long, narrow, elongated, and grow in a ring at different points along the stem. The flowers grow upward, forming a tower of purple. Lupine can be seen blooming at Grand Canyon in spring and summer on both North and South Rim.
Lupine benefit the desert soil by serving as nitrogen fixers, keeping the ground rich and fertile.
Desert phlox (Phlox austromontana) can be found growing among shrubs in the sagebrush grassland habitats in Grand Canyon. With five-petaled flowers ranging in color from white to a deep pink, they grow in dense clusters and bloom on the North and South Rims from May to June and are commonly seen on the corridor trails within the canyon.
These plants are resilient desert-dwellers, commonly found on many spring hikes throughout the southwest.
Sand verbena (Abronia elliptica) are found mostly in the Inner Canyon and along the beaches of the Colorado River, although they can be found elsewhere in the canyon in spring and early summer. They have a fragrant scent, particularly in the evening, and attract the majority of their pollinators at night.
Their long root systems make them optimal residents of sandy or rocky areas as they search for water.
Golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha ) is native to canyon environments with strong water sources in the southwest and can be found in the Colorado River corridor. Also called the "Yellow Queen," this wildflower can tolerate the hot, arid climate of the Inner Canyon. Its presence in Grand Canyon is a testament to the varied life zones present in the park.
The bright yellow flowers bloom in early spring and have a slight fragrance. Their distinctive shape and color make them easy to spot!
If you venture into the canyon below the Tonto Platform, you will find brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) nestled into the cliffs and slopes. In April the plants have yellow flowers are are numerous, providing food for wildlife like bighorn sheep. Brittlebush gets its name from the stems of these flowers, which break easily.
Brittlebush may be fragile, but it can rebound with any quick and steady rain.
The delicate white flowers of Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) grow at multiple levels in Grand Canyon. In early spring they are first sighted along the Colorado River in the Inner Gorge and then as summer progresses on the rims you might see it growing in washes or along the edge. Shortly after blooming, purple fruits are seen and their parts form in clusters.
Apache plume stems are extensive and serve to help stabilize washes and other areas on cliffs where they occur in the canyon.
The flowers of the grassleaf pea (Lathyrus graminifolius) are pink with thin purple stripes and formed in a distinct, two-lobed, rounded shape. As the blossoms age, they fade into a light orange color.
Grassleaf peas can be found in mid to higher elevation deserts in south central Arizona and are seen inside of Grand Canyon in similar environments.
Standing guard over the rim of the Grand Canyon, the tiny, federally endangered "sentry" milk-vetch (Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax) is a perennial herb that forms a one inch tall by eight inch wide mat in shallow pockets of soil on the Kaibab limestone. The soil, hydrology, and chemical composition of the bedrock where sentry milk-vetch grows may be unique.
Sentry milk-vetch is classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and park recovery efforts are on-going. For more information, visit the sentry milk-vetch subject site.
When heavy summer rains blow through Grand Canyon, the stems of blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) darken in color and help absorb water. These shrubs grow in deserts on scrubby slopes like those in the canyon and in spring, also after heavy rains, bloom with pointed-petaled yellow flowers.
Blue Flax (Linum lewisii) is commonly found near sagebrush in open areas of Grand Canyon. You can find the light blue flowers along the rim and scenic drives as well as along the Tonto Plateau. This species was named for Meriweather Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In june and july, paintbrush (Castilleja) flowers are found on both rims of the Grand Canyon and in some parts of the inner canyon. They are partially parasitic, with roots that take nutrients from surrounding plants. The bright red flowers are sometimes mistaken to be those of the plants nearby!
Last updated: September 6, 2018