plantspecies

A few notes regarding desert plants:

  • It is illegal to collect plants on most public lands, state parks, and national parks.
  • If you are in a life or death situation and must consume wild edibles, if you are at all in doubt whether or not the plant is edible, do NOT consume it.
  • Remember, the desert biome is extremely fragile and takes a long time to replenish.  The wild plant you pick could take decades, even a century to grow back.
  • In a survival situation, taking the time and calories to collect the amount of plants you would need for nutrition is sometimes not worth it.  Plants in some places are in low supply.  Do not bank on desert plants as any kind of emergency food strategy.

 A few notes regarding this guide:

  • It is illegal to collect plants on most public lands, state parks, and national parks,  so this is not a habit or hobby I can support or condone, and in most situations, I actively discourage it.
  • This is a general, basic guide for some found edible plants in the Mojave and should not be used as any kind of science or even as your main guide.  A more extensive field guide is recommended.
  • This is general information and if you decide to consume any wild edibles, you do so at your own risk. If you begin feeling at all sick, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Since one can survive for many days without food, it is best to avoid plant life unless one has made a hobby of edible plants and can always identify the safe species.

WHAT NOT TO EAT

To be on the safe side, any plants with the following characteristics should be avoided and definitely not consumed:

  • Any plant excreting a white sap or milk.
  • Any plant bearing white berries. Red berries are only okay to eat about half of the time, so please be sure it is not poisonous.
  • Any mushrooms or fungi unless well-educated about them.

The following plants are NOT safe plants:

Nightshade, Locoweed, milkvetch, rattleweed, jimsonweed, coral bean, Turpentine bush, mistletoe.

Edible Mojave Desert Plants

Catclaw acacia (Senegalia greggii)

Senegalia greggii is a species of Senegalia native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, from the extreme south of Utah (where, at 37°10′ N it is the northernmost naturally occurring Senegalia species anywhere in the world) south through southern Nevada, southeast...

Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) Echinocereus triglochidiatus is a species of hedgehog cactus known by several common names, including Kingcup cactus, Claretcup, and Mojave mound cactus. This cactus is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where it is a...

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja)

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja) Castilleja, commonly known as Indian paintbrush or prairie-fire, is a genus of about 200 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants native to the west of the Americas from Alaska south to the Andes, northern Asia, and one species as far west as...

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)

Opuntia is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. The most common culinary species is the Indian fig opuntia (O. ficus-indica). Most culinary uses of the term “prickly pear” refer to this species. Prickly pears are also known as tuna (fruit), sabra (the Hebrew name), nopal (paddle...

Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

Prosopis glandulosa, commonly known as honey mesquite, is a species of small to medium-sized, thorny shrub or tree in the legume family (Fabaceae). It is native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico, growing as far north as southern Kansas and as far east as the eastern fifth of Texas, where...

Pinyon pine

The pinyon or piñon pine group grows in the southwestern United States and in Mexico. The trees yield edible pinyon nuts, which were a staple of the Native Americans (American Indians), and are still widely eaten. Harvesting techniques of the prehistoric Indians are still being used to today to...

California Juniper (Juniperus californica)

Juniperus californica (California Juniper) is a species of juniper native to southwestern North America. Distribution As the name implies, it is mainly found in numerous California habitats, although its range also extends through most of Baja California, a short distance into the Great Basin in...

Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum)

Photo Courtesy of Don Davis Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) Dichelostemma capitatum (syn. D. pulchellum), called Blue dicks, Purplehead and Brodiaea (alternate spellings, Brodiea, Brodeia) occur in Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. Dichelostemma capitatum is...

Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata)

Yucca baccata (datil yucca or banana yucca) is a common species of yucca native to the deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, from southeastern California north to Utah, east to western Texas and south to Sonora and Chihuahua. The species gets its common name...

Rattlesnake Weed (Daucus pusillus)

Daucus pusillus is a species of wild carrot known by the common names American wild carrot and rattlesnake weed. Its Latin name means “little carrot”, or “tiny carrot”. It is similar in appearance to other species and subspecies of wild carrot, with umbels of white or...

Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Parkinsonia florida, the blue palo verde (syn. Cercidium floridum), is a species of palo verde native to the Sonoran Deserts in the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico.  Its name means “green pole or stick” in Spanish, referring to the green trunk and branches, that...

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

Claytonia perfoliata (Indian lettuce, spring beauty, winter purslane, or miner’s lettuce ; syn. Montia perfoliata) is a fleshy annual plant native to the western mountain and coastal regions of North America from southernmost Alaska and central British Columbia south to Central America, but...

Chia (Salvia columbariae)

Salvia columbariae is an annual plant that is commonly called chia, chia sage, golden chia, or desert chia, because its seeds are used in the same manner as Salvia hispanica (chia). It grows in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California, and was an important food for...

Manzanita

Manzanita is a common name for many species of the genus Arctostaphylos. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees present in the chaparral biome of western North America, where they occur from southern British Columbia and Washington to California, Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and...

Mormon Tea (Ephedra)

Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in its family, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales. The various species of Ephedra are widespread in many lands, native to southwestern North America, southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest and central Asia, northern China, and western...