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 the Southwest Biodiversity page here.

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

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.


Commonly Seen Plant Species of Wupatki

(Click on the species name for a profile of each plant)

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

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

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


Prickly Pear (Opuntia polyacantha)
Whipple Cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei)
Pink-flower Hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri)
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.


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

Yellow tufts of rice grass with snow on the ground.
Winter months show grasses in their dormant form, yellow and often still with seeds.


Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Side-Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Black Grama (Bouteloua eriopoda)
Needle-andThread grass (Hesperostipa comata)
Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)
Indian Rice Grass (Achnatherum hymenoides)
Purple Three-awn (Aristida pupurea var. fendleriana)
Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides subs. brevifolius)
Bush Muhly (Muhlenbergia porteri)
Fluff Grass (Dasyochloa pulchella)

Last updated: September 17, 2020

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