Plants on El Rojo Grande Ranch


Compiled by: Patrick Conway

Editors: Judy Springer Mark Daniels

Plants of El Rojo Grande Ranch


Trees …………………………………………………………………………………….1

Shrubs ………………………………………………………………………………….5

Cacti …………………………………………………………………………………..13

Grasses ……………………………………………………………………………….15 Wildflowers ………………………………………………………………………..25

Part Two:

Color Plates…………………………………………………………………………56 Index………………………………………………………………………………..100


Special Thanks to:

Susan Nyoka, Rob Hastings, Teresa Dekoker, Steve Till, Daniel Laughlin, Mike Stoddard, Joe Trudeau, Joe Crouse, Mare Nazaire, and Erin Thurston for their assistance in our vegetation surveys.

and to:

Max Licher for the use of his many beautiful photographs, and to Max and Jean Searle for assistance with difficult species identifications. Also to Mark Daniels, T. Beth, W.L. Wagner, A.S. Hitchcock, W.D. Bransford, Michael L. Charters, Bob Skowron, Larry Blakely and Steven J. Baskauf for the use of their photograghs.




The ethnobotanical information included in this guide is intended for educational purposes only and is not to be used as a resource for self-medication or dietary supplementation. No plant, plant part or plant extract should be used in any way unless you are absolutely certain of its identity, toxicity, potential side effects or allergic reactions. Misuse of plants resulting from misidentification, incorrect preparation or an erroneous diagnosis may cause you and others to get sick or die. Extreme caution should always be employed when consuming wild foods. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and reliability of the ethnobotanical information included in this text. Nevertheless, the authors, their employers, the Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, and the state of Arizona are not responsible for the actions of the reader, nor are they liable for any effects caused by these actions.





Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a native deciduous tree reaching 10 m upon maturation, found in dry riparian areas and foothills throughout the Southwest. Flowers are large (2.5 cm long), purplish, showy and fragrant, appearing in clusters from April-August. The fruits are long slender capsules (10.2-20.3 cm long, 6mm diameter). Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to the showy flowers and feed on the nectar, which is a good energy source. Mule deer eat small quantities of the leaves and fruit, and various species of birds eat the seeds. The tree also provides nesting sites for desert songbirds and cover for other wildlife species. Desert willow is used to stabilize soil and is cultivated as an ornamental because of its attractive flowers. It has been used for roadside beautification, border rows, screenings, and mass plantings. Native Americans use desert willow in basketry, cradleboards, and bows, and also as an anti-fungal and general antimicrobial. (PLATE 1)


Crucifixion Thorn (Canotia holacantha) is a native, dioecious (male and female flowers borne on different plants), large shrub or small tree reaching 3 m at maturity. Found on dry slopes and mesas in central and western Arizona, crucifixion thorn has spiny, rigid branches that resemble a crown of thorns, hence the name. The green stems also photosynthesize, a task performed by the leaves in most plant species. Its flowers are reddish brown, five petaled, and less than 1.3 cm wide, blooming in clusters from May-August. Fruits are reddish- brown, egg-shaped capsules (19-25 mm long) called “bucknuts” by hunters. The fruits are eaten by deer and are also used as food by the Apache. (PLATE 2)


Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica) is a native gymnosperm reaching 12-15 m in height. It is the only true cypress native to Arizona and the most widespread cypress throughout the Southwest, distinguishable from similar juniper species by its large (3 cm) spherical cones that remain on the tree for several years. The flowers are small, yellow in color, and wind pollinated. Arizona cypress is found naturally on dry, sterile, rocky mountain slopes and canyon walls, but does very well when planted on better soils or when irrigated. Arizona cypress generally requires little maintenance once established, though deep watering at least every other week is necessary for desert planting during the growing season. Often used as a wind break, it requires full sunlight for best development, but is subject to sunscald when grown as an ornamental. Though rodents eat the seeds, it is not likely to attract herbivores except under drought conditions. Native Americans use Arizona cypress in breads and cakes, and also as a treatment for rheumatism or a cold remedy. (PLATE 3)



One-Seed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma) is a native gymnosperm reaching 7 m in height. It is found along dry hills, plains and plateaus, often mixed with ponderosa and piñon pines as well, as other juniper species. The flowers are small, inconspicuous and orange in color. Berries/cones are spherical, conspicuous (5-7 mm), bluish in color with a waxy coating, and usually contain just one seed. The seeds are used by some mammals and birds year round, while wild hoofed mammals eat them in winter. One-seed juniper is an important food source for wild turkeys, Townsend’s solitaire, western and mountain bluebirds, as well as American robins. Birds serve as the chief seed-dispersal mechanism. The berries have been eaten raw or ground and baked into bread by indigenous peoples. Dried berries have also been used to make jewelry. Leaves are used medicinally by many tribes including the White Mountain Apache, Navajo, Hopi, other Pueblo tribes and the Paiute. Branches are burned for purification, and leaf ash is added to food for minerals. Wood and bark are used for fuel. (PLATE 4)

Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) is a native gymnosperm reaching 6 m at maturity. Growing along dry hills, plains and plateaus, it can often be found mixed with ponderosa and piñon pines, as well as other juniper species. The flowers are inconspicuous and yellow in color. Berries/cones are spherical, conspicuous (6-14 mm), and reddish-brown or bluish, often with a whitish, waxy coating. Utah juniper can be distinguished from one-seed juniper by its harder, drier, mealier cone, and its more often single-stemmed growth habit. Jackrabbits, coyotes and birds eat the berries and use the foliage as cover. The wood of the Utah juniper has been used for hundreds of years as an aromatic cooking fuel throughout the Southwest. The Navajo use this plant as an emetic and a medicine to treat headaches, influenza, stomach aches, nausea, acne, spider bites, and postpartum pain. (PLATE 5)


The Arizona state tree, Paloverde (Parkinsonia microphylla) is a native tree or large shrub reaching 6 m at maturity. Paloverde produces large numbers of five- petaled flowers each year (the largest petal is white and the other four are yellow), is pollinated by bees, and blooms from April-May. The seeds are edible to humans as well as many other species. Often the seeds “lucky enough” to germinate are those that were gathered, buried, and forgotten by rodents before they could be infested by bruchid beetles. Paloverde provides cover for lizards and small mammals such as rabbits. While it is mostly used only as a starvation or famine food, Native Americans occasionally roast the seeds and grind them into flour. One of the most unique characteristics of the paloverde is its ability to photosynthesize through the chlorophyll in its bark, thereby conserving water.(PLATE 6)

Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) is a native tree or shrub reaching 15 m in height, found below 1700 m in desert washes and plains. The inflorescence is a white or pale yellow catkin, 6.5 cm long, that hangs downward and blooms in early summer. Mesquite is an important tree to wildlife. The seeds are eaten by



jackrabbits, Gambel quail, songbirds, various small mammals, and domestic livestock. Western chipmunks, ground squirrels, pocket mice, and various species of kangaroo and wood rats consume the foliage. Numerous birds also nest in the canopy. The pods of this mesquite provide an important food source to the Maricopa, Pima, Hualapai, and other tribes of the Southwest. The pods or the seeds alone are ground into a nutritious meal or flour in a mortar. The black gum from the mesquite is an important medicine to the Pima; it is boiled with a little water and applied to sore lips and gums or chapped fingers, and taken internally to cleanse the system. (PLATE 7)


A native, evergreen shrub to 2 m tall, Wright’s Silktassel (Garrya wrightii) is typically found in chaparral, oak woodland, and pine-oak forest. Flowers are inconspicuous and white in color, forming a catkin inflorescence blooming from March-August. Wright’s silktassel provides cover for small mammals and birds. Garryin, an alkaloid found in several Garrya species, has some medicinal uses.(PLATE 8)


A native tree reaching 8-9 m in height, Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina) grows in moist soils along streams and riparian areas, often interspersed with hardwoods, cypress, pines and firs. Velvet ash blooms from March-May, with inconspicuous yellow flowers covered with dense hairs. Fruits have a broad, flat, paddle shaped wing (2 cm in length and 0.75 cm wide); the paddle end may be notched. Velvet ash has a low palatability for livestock, although deer will browse it when other preferred species are not available. It provides habitat for wild ungulates and small rodents, and also provides nesting sites for songbirds and other bird species. Velvet ash is a host plant for the two-tailed swallowtail butterfly. The Hualapai use velvet ash wood to make bows and a sharp tool for gathering mescal agave. (PLATE 9)


Piñon Pine (Pinus edulis) is a native tree reaching 12 m at maturity. It grows on dry mountain slopes, mesas, and plateaus, and can be found mixed with juniper species or in pure stands. Cones are yellowish-brown and egg-shaped (3-5 cm long), with thick, resinous scales and wingless brown seeds (9-14 mm long). Piñon pine provides food and shelter for a variety of bird and mammal species as well as winter shelter for large hoofed mammals. It is also a host plant for the pine white butterfly. The nuts are highly desirable for both humans and wildlife. They are high in fat and protein, and form an important food source for the native peoples of the Great Basin, as well as Clark’s nutcrackers, scrub jays and piñon jays, all of which also act as dispersal agents. Nuts are gathered and sold commercially by many Navajo people. The pitch is used internally and externally



for medicine, and is also used in pottery and dyes or burned for purification. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. (PLATE 10)


Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii) is a native tree reaching 25 m at maturity and found growing along streams and in canyons. Arizona sycamore blooms in the spring and has green, ball-like flower heads in clusters of 2 to 4. The fruits are round, somewhat fuzzy tan balls (2.5-4 cm in diameter), each composed of numerous tiny, tufted seeds; the balls disintegrate over winter, dispersing the seeds with the wind. Arizona sycamore is an important tree for many bird species. The wood is difficult to work with and resists splitting, but was once used to make buttons. (PLATE 11)


Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) is a native deciduous tree with an open crown, reaching 30 m in height. It is found along rivers and streams in all counties of Arizona. Flowers are both male and female and form hanging, yellow-green catkins (4-5 cm long), appearing in early spring before the leaves. The fruits are light brown, egg-shaped capsules that split to disperse numerous, small cottony seeds. Fremont cottonwood is good nesting habitat for birds, especially cavity nesters. Beavers, elk, deer, horses and squirrels feed on various parts of the tree. It is a host plant for the red-spotted admiral and viceroy butterflies. The Hopi frequently use the wood of this species for Katsina dolls, while the Navajo make many household game pieces from cottonwood. (PLATE 12)


Wingleaf Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria) is a native perennial tree reaching 12 m high with a rounded crown, typically growing along rivers or in desert washes, arroyos, and dry watercourses. It sometimes also grows singly or in thickets in foothills and uplands. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, with 7 to 19 lanceolate leaflets. The small, 5-petaled, intensely fragrant flowers are borne in large, branched clusters at the branch tips, and usually bloom from May-June. The large, round, poisonous fruits are translucent golden orange in color, and ripen in November. Wingleaf soapberry provides hiding, resting or nesting cover for a variety of mammals and birds, including doves and many songbirds. As an ornamental the uniqueness of the fruit and bark sell themselves; the plant is virtually pest free, and provides a superb canopy as a patio or backyard shade tree. The fruits were crushed to make cleaners and soaps by Native American peoples and early settlers; however, wingleaf soapberry can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible people. Although the berries are somewhat poisonous, preparations made from them have been used to treat fevers, rheumatism, and kidney problems. The Kiowa make a poultice of the sap



and apply it to wounds, and the Comanche and Papago use the wood to make arrow shafts. (PLATE 13)


Five Stamen Tamarisk (Tamarix chinensis) is a non-native shrub or tree reaching 4-8 m in height with numerous large basal branches, common and widespread along riparian areas of the southwestern United States. Tamarisk has a deep, extensive root system that reaches to the water table, and is also capable of extracting water from unsaturated soil layers. Mature tamarisk plants reproduce vegetatively by adventitious roots, or by seed. The seeds have small hairs on the apex of the seed coat and are readily dispersed by wind and water. Native Americans have used tamarisk for building material and winter fuel.(PLATE 14)


Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis laevigata var. reticulata) is a native tree reaching 10 m at maturity, often found growing in riparian areas, rocky canyons and ponds. The broad, toothed leaves are rough and sandpapery to the touch. Flowers are inconspicuous, green, and bloom in the spring. Fruits are inconspicuous and white, and are eaten by a wide variety of mammals and birds. Deer and pronghorn browse the leaves in the spring, and beaver feed on the wood y