Common Spring Plants To See On Your Next Hike

By: Kathleen Terry Johnson

Springtime is one of the best times of the year to get outdoors on a hike in the Sonoran desert. The plants are coming to life after a brief winter, but the temperatures haven’t yet marched into the triple digits. Arizona is home to a variety of plant life outside of the signature Saguaro cactus, and in the spring, many of these plants are in bloom. Here are common spring plants to see on your next hike.

Palo Verde Trees


Let’s begin with the state tree — the palo verde. There are actually two species of palo verde trees in the Arizona desert, and as one of the few sources of shade, you can’t miss them. Depending on whether it’s the foothills palo verde or the blue palo verde, the trees can range in height from 30 to 40 feet tall. They play a crucial role in the ecology of the desert, offering shade and shelter to any number of other species of plants and animals. The trees put on a show of bright yellow blooms each spring beginning in March. When you see them, it’s easy to understand why the Arizona legislature named this the state tree.

Spider Milkweed

The green flowers with purple buds bloom from April until August. Spider milkweed grows in clusters of about 20 flowers. They grow well is the desert heat and bloom nicely along the Agua Fria River. These flowers are vital to the ecosystem. Without milkweed, the monarch butterfly will cease to exist since caterpillars feast on their leaves.

Desert Ironwood Trees

This is another plant you can’t miss — just because of its height in a landscape dominated by smaller shrubs and plants. The desert ironwood tree is also a “nurse” plant in the landscape because of its height. If you’re on a hike in late May, you’ll catch the plant’s spring show. You won’t soon forget their spectacular pink and purple blossoms that arrive in late May… just as the heat does. It’s worth a little sweat to see them in bloom.

Fairy Dusters

These delicate pink puffs bloom beginning in February, all the way through May. Fairy dusters are low shrubs that are native to the Sonoran desert, and the flowers are oddly delicate against the rugged terrain. These are most common on hillsides and below 5,000 feet elevation. Fairy dusters also play an important role in the ecology — feeding different insects and animals living in the desert. It’s also one of the most popular native plants used in local gardens if you are looking for inspiration for your own home.

Lesser Indian Paintbrush

One of the most stunning flowers of the desert, the lesser Indian paintbrush blooms from March through September. It prefers a moist environment so you’ll most likely see it in wet meadows and along stream banks. This flower is also plentiful along the Agua Fria River.

Desert Globemallow

The strawberry hedgehog cactus is also called the Engelmann hedgehog cactus. Never mind the funny name because this is one of the first cacti to bloom in the spring. It’s well worth the show when you come across one because the pink and magenta flowers are a standout. The cactus blooms beginning in March and the plant itself gets up to about a foot high. The flowers turn to a fleshy fruit a few months after the spring blossoming.

Hundreds of plants grow in the Arizona desert, and each has something to contribute to the sustainability of the environment. The desert is often considered a barren land, but it’s very much alive and growing. And the scenery varies from season to season. These common spring plants to see on your next hike will put you on the lookout for the color every season offers.

Kathleen Terry Johnson is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. She loves exploring new places and new ways to enjoy the outdoors.

As part of our year of transition for the Cosanti Foundation and Cosanti Originals we are expanding our Bell sales online, both through a new website and Facebook sales, using Shopify. Transitioning to Shopify has enabled us to link all of our sales to one platform and is giving us the ability to deliver better service to our customers and a more streamlined bell sales process.

We are also reactivating the sale of Special Assemblies as they have historically been some of our most interesting and treasured offerings. Inquires about ordering a custom assembly can be made by contacting

Website sales have also been getting an overhaul to make the process better for our customers. Adding Facebook sales gives us another method to engage with potential bell customers and reach new audiences, which in turn further helps us to bolster the educational mission of the Cosanti Foundation.

Global Stilt Congress & Carpetbag Brigade present Citizen Ship: The Legislation

The Global Stilt Congress gathers acrostilt practitioners from around the world for two weeks each year at Arcosanti to evolve the form and strengthen our network.

The Legislation is the culminating performance act of Global Stilt Congress 2019, held within and around the experimental architecture of Arcosanti. It is a site responsive acrobatic stilt and spoken word performance action throughout the grounds of Arcosanti exploring the concepts of belonging and bordering. Tickets can be purchased by following this link.

Tickets for this event are $20 online for general admission, $10 for students. Tickets at the door will be $25 for general admission.

Pop-up Dinner with Phoenix Diners Collective

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve partnered with Phoenix Diners Collective for a special pop-up dinner experience! Tickets to this special dinner event will be $40 for the general public. Menu TBA.

The Cosanti Foundation, Carpetbag Brigade and the Global Stilt Congress Community would like to invite you to Global Stilt Congress 2019!

GLOBAL STILT CONGRESS V: May 19th – June 2nd 2019

PERFORMANCES: May 31st and June 1st 2019

From May 19 through June 2 the stilting community will gather at the world renowned ARCOSANTI, ARIZONA for two weeks of learning, sharing, evolving and performing. Global Stilt Congress is a great event to evolve your skills and connect with our global community as we WORK, TRAIN and RELAX together. It is for performers, stilters, dancers, yogis, and those with a deep curiosity to explore the capacity of their body and enjoy the unique urban desert city of Arcosanti.

During Global Stilt Congress invited teachers and directors share their techniques, compositional strategies and life experiences through CLASSES, LECTURES, and a culminating site specific PERFORMANCE project entitled “CITIZEN SHIP – THE LEGISLATION”

Global Stilt Congress commences TECHNIQUE WEEK with a GUEST FACULTY INTENSIVE (MAY 20 – 22).


TECHNIQUE WEEK concludes with a

Global Stilt Congress integrates the work in COMPOSITION WEEK (MAY 26 – JUNE 2) offering participants the opportunity to REHEARSE and PERFORM with Carpetbag Brigade and experiencing the creative process that informs the company’s work. The final act is to perform twice in “CITIZEN SHIP – THE LEGISLATION” a SITE RESPONSIVE PERFORMANCE presented to the general public at Arcosanti.


Share stilt stories by the pool and immerse yourself in the urban laboratory and desert landscape of Arcosanti in Northern Arizona.


We look forward to sharing our stilting community with you.

We’re counting down to Arizona Gives Day 2019! Check out the photo of the proposed bioswale planting project, and consider donating to the Cosanti Foundation on April 2 to help us continue our mission of educating the world on the benefits of combining Architecture with Ecology! Your donation to our 2019 campaign can be made by visiting

Last year with your help we raised over $1500! Funds for this year’s AZ Gives Day will go towards purchasing fruit trees for a special Earth Day planting event at Arcosanti on April 22nd. Donors will be invited to join us at Arcosanti, where we will spend the afternoon planting trees on a terrace that is irrigated off of one of our rainwater catchment systems, closing another important loop on the path to a greener, more sustainable Urban Laboratory!

Some words from landscaping manager Julie Quinn:

I read a travel article in 2012 about Arcosanti and saw that they had workshops. I was drawn to the idea of a condensed city to reduce my impact environmentally. During my workshop, I fell in love with the people as well, and I knew we could be the change we wanted to see in the world.

I spent my first winter here welding hand railings and guard rails, and the majority of my time since taking care of the plants along the tour paths and in the gardens. My mornings are spent watering all around the site, and I can see what spaces need attention. We have mostly Mediterranean and desert vegetation, which are very tolerant of our dry climate, and are low maintenance. We only use a few power tools when it’s necessary and most of our yard trimming and weeds can be used in our compost system, so our department creates very little waste. 

I am happy when I see the cafe staff or residents running around to use our herbs in their meals, the group olive harvest we do once a year, or when people get excited that the few trees we have do produce fruit.  Like a majority of the residents, I would love to see more edible plants on site, and I know at least a few others came here specifically to help get agriculture back up and running.

Arcosanti has been all about the architecture, but the structures revolve around seeing or being outside in the landscape. Having more fruit trees and finishing the bioswale will help us understand the time and energy it actually takes to produce our own food, connect with the natural environment around us and nourishing ourselves from the fruits of our labor.