The wide open lands of Wupatki National Monument may seem barren to those more familiar with lush forests and prairie grasslands but this area does support a large number of plants which are well-adapted to the semi-arid environment. The gray-green foliage which characterizes much of the landscape absorbs less heat than the dark green leaves found in wetter and cooler areas. Many of the leaves are small to reduce water loss; others have a thick waxy coating. Succulent plants store water in their leaves or in their stems. Desert plants have either extensive shallow root systems that quickly absorb the occasional rainfall or very deep roots that tap water sources far below the soil surface.

Small shrubs, grasses, as well as annual and perennial flowering plants dominate this dry ecosystem. Evergreen species such as One-seed Juniper and Mormon Tea stand out in the winter months and different wildflowers can be seen throughout the year depending on the timing and amount of rainfall.

For a more complete list of plants in the monument, visit the Southwest Biodiversity page here.

Thank you for helping us protect these fragile resources by leaving all natural materials where you find them.


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Small Prickly Pear Cactus with pink flowers.
Cactus often start blooming in April and May and can have pink or yellow flowers.


Commonly Seen Plant Species of Wupatki


Whipple Cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei)
Pink-flower Hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri)
Prickly Pear (Opuntia polyacantha)
Yellow tufts of rice grass with snow on the ground.
Winter months show grasses in their dormant form, yellow and often still with seeds.



Indian Rice Grass (Achnatherum hymenoides)
Purple Three-awn (Aristida pupurea var. fendleriana)
Side-Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Black Grama (Bouteloua eriopoda)
Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Fluff Grass (Dasyochloa pulchella)
Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides subs. brevifolius)
Needle-andThread grass (Hesperostipa comata)
Bush Muhly (Muhlenbergia porteri)
Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)
Large shrub with small white flowers in front of the Wupatki visitor center.
Apache Plume blooming in front of the Wupatki visitor center in April.


Shrubs and Sub-shrubs:

Sand Sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia)
Fourwing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens)
Shadescale Saltbush (Atriplex confertrifolia)
Green Rabbitbrush (chrysothamnus viscidiflorus)
Torrey's Joint-fir (Ephedra torreyana)
Momnon Tea (Ephedra viridis)
Crispleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum corymbosum var. glutinosum)
Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)
Stretchberry or New Mexican Olive (Forestiera pubescens var. pubescens)
Small-head or sticky snakeweed (Gutierrezia microcephala)
Broom Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae)
Goldenbush (Isocoma drummondii and I. pluriflora)
Winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata)
Dunebroom (Parryella filifolia)
Three-leaf Sumac (Rhus aromatica var. trilobata)
Prince's Plume (Stanleya pinnata)

A large Juniper tree in the middle of a yellow grassy field with mountains in the background.
Large Juniper trees dot the landscape of Wupatki with the snow covered San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff in the background.



One-seed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma)
Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii)

Blooming Globemallow plant next to a stone wall.
Bright orange Globemallow blooms can often be seen on trails and next to roads in May and June.



Broad-Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias latifolia)
Freckled Milk-Vetch (Astragalus lentiginosus var. palans)
Whole-Leaf Indian Paintbrush (Castelleja integra)
Rose-Heath (Chaetopappa ericoides)
Yellow-Spine Thistle (Cirsium ochrocentrum)
Coulter's Wrinklefruit (Clerodendrum coulteri)
Western Tansy-Mustard (Descurainia pinnata)
Hoary Tansyaster (Dieteria canescens var. ambigua)
Red-Dome Blanketflower (Gaillardia pinnatifida)
Mock Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida)
Arizona Skeleton Plant (Lygodesmia grandiflora var. arizonica)
Desert Dandilion (Malacothrix torreyi)
White-Stem Blazingstar (Mentzelia albicaulis)
Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia)
Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
Notch-Leaf Scorpion-Weed (Phacelia welshii)
Red-Whisker Clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra)
Green-stem Paperflower (Psilostrophe sparsiflora)
Silver-Leaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium)
Small-Leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia)
Rocky Mountain Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora)

Last updated: March 15, 2024

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