More Desert Wildflowers! – Beauty in the Sonoran Apothecary

Although the yellows are dominant in our Sonoran Springtime flower pageant, there is a diverse cast of delightful characters that we can continue to explore this month!  And of course, every plant seems to be here to bring unique gifts, many of which are healing properties for us humans.

Brodia, Blue Dicks, Papago Lily, Desert Hyacinth – Dichelostemma capitatum, Brodiaea capitata

This delicate flower is an important wild food staple, thus the many names.  The entire plant, flowers, stem, leaves, and tuber, is edible and tastes pretty good.  The bulbs are edible raw, as well as cooked.  They are creamy and delicious.

Hedgehog Cactus – Mammillaria spp.

“The inner flesh is an excellent remedy for sunburn.  Use it the same day as the burn for miraculous results.  Several applications will bring amazing relief and most likely you will tan and not peel.  Apply a piece of the inner flesh externally for open wounds such as cuts, abrasions, compound fractures, open blisters, and some insect bites and stings, etc.  Put gauze over it and tape it on.  This will relieve the pain and promote rapid healing.  Keep this on for as long as needed for healing.  Use this inner flesh to remove dirt from a wound.  Leave it on for an hour, and upon removing, much of the dirt will be stuck to the cactus.

The inner flesh can also be eaten as a food.  You can eat it raw, boil it a few times (throwing out the water each time), or you can cook it in water for 30 minutes and throw out the pulp, saving the juice.  This juice is very slimy in texture, but a great emergency food.

This is a precious and endangered cactus, so take care with them.” PB

Desert Flower Scene

Prickly Pear Cactus – Opuntia polyacantha, O. basilaris

“The prickly pear is one of the most valuable plants we have in the Sonoran Desert.  The sweet fruits are edible raw or cooked (must be totally ripe – dark purple or deep red and shiny).  This plant is an important part of our desert fruit orchard.

You can also eat the pads, especially the tender new growth, but take caution, because not all prickly pear have edible pads.  After scraping the thorns off, the pads must be cooked or roasted.  Do not eat them raw.  If you are unsure about the variety, better skip it!” PB

Desert Flowers Prickley Pear

Ocotillo – Fouquieria splendens

“The flowers can be dried and made into a pleasant beverage, merely by steeping in cold water overnight.  The main medicianl part is found in the new growth branch tips.  Break the branch off about a foot from the end.  Crush it, and let it dry.  Used as a tea, the dried branch tips is a lymphatic stimulant and cleanser for swollen glands, mumps, lumps, and tonsillitis.  Some say it will even help dissolve tumors and cysts.  It helps mucous congestion, especially clearing phlegm left over from a lung infection or cold.  It is good to move blockages of the lower abdominal area, so it relieves an enlarged prostate gland.  Both stem and blossom may be used as a tea for sore throats and delayed menstruation.  The seeds are edible, and taste like puffed rice.”

Desert Flowers Ocotillo


There are too many varieties of desert penstemon to list!  The innkeeper at the Inns at El Rancho Merlita has a favorite, Parry’s Penstemon, pictured below.  The flower colors can vary from pink to red, and purple.  The leaves and flowers of Penstemons can be used together topically as a mild therapy for bites, stings, rashes, and poorly healing tissues.  Thus the plant is also applicable to cut and wound healing.  For a quick fix, use a poltice (simply crush up the plant parts), or with more time infuse an oil or salve.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog entry as much as I enjoy celebrating our beautiful flower friends.  I hope to add a handful more of our spring flowers in the next blog entry.  At the Inns at El Rancho Merlita, you can come relax, recharge, explore the flowers and take care of your good health.


The ERM Family

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