Desert Plants List With Pictures And Facts

A list of desert plants with photos and information. Discover the characteristics of species that grow in the harsh desert biome and learn about well-known plants found in a desert.

Desert Plants Introduction

Deserts are difficult, unpleasant environments in the world. Deserts are home to a small number of species that can tolerate these severe conditions, which are extremely hot during the day and bitterly cold at night.

Desert Plant Characteristics

The adaptations of most animals and plants that dwell in deserts allow them to deal with the difficulties of desert existence.

Succulents abound in the desert. Succulent plants have water-retaining leaves or stems, allowing them to endure during dry periods.

Several arid plant leaves have evolved spines as a result of their environment. Spines protect the plant (and its valuable water supply) from animals and don’t lose water as readily as ordinary leaves.

Rather than their leaves, desert plants with spines photosynthesize with their stems. As a result, their stems are frequently green (photosynthesis requires chlorophyll).

Cacti are desert plants with spiky stems and thick green stems, however they are not the only plants that have these characteristics.

Milkweed and spurge, two desert-dwelling milkweed species, look like cacti. Convergent evolution (when unrelated species have the same adaptations for surviving in a certain environment) is an example of this.

Some arid plants have thick, waxy leaves that help to retain moisture, while others have small leaves that are only seen during the rainy season and are shed at other times.

Thick, waxy leaves or small leaves that grow only during the brief rainy season and are discarded throughout the rest of the year are found in other desert plants.

List Of Desert Plants

Below is a list of well-known desert plants from all around the world.

Barrel Cactus

  • Genus: EchinocactusFerocactus
  • Where found: North America

The rows of pointed spines on barrel cactus plants offer defense against grazing animals and make them robust. Barrel cacti may grow to be over a meter (3.3 feet) tall and live for up to 100 years.

The rows of pointed spines on barrel cactus  give protection from grazing animals and make them thick and rounded. Some barrel cactus may reach heights of over 1 meter (3.3 feet) and may survive for several decades.


  • Species: Encelia farinose
  • Where found: North America

The daisy family includes the brittlebush. It’s well-suited to living in arid environments, retaining water in its deep roots, and shedding its leaves during the dry season.

The brittlebush is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, and is named for its brittle stems. It’s between 1 and 5 feet (30 and 150 cm) tall, with a rounded shape.

The fragrant resin of the brittlebush is well-known.

Bushman’s Hat

  • Species: Hoodia gordonii
  • Where found: Africa

The bushman’s hat is not a cactus, as some people may think. This African desert plant belongs to the Apocynaceae dogsbane family rather than the Cactus family, despite being a succulent and having spines instead of leaves.

One of numerous plants that resemble cacti is the bushman’s hat, which belongs to the genus Hoodia.

Some believe that the plant serves as a natural appetite suppressant, and it is harvested for weight loss purposes.

Cat’s Claw Acacia / Catclaw Acacia / Wait-A-Minute Bush

  • Species: Senegalia greggii
  • Where found: North America

Acacia acacia grows as a shrub or tiny tree in dry regions of the United States and Mexico, and the cat’s claw acacia is one of its varieties.

The cat’s claw acacia is also known as the “wait-a-minute-bush” because of its sharp, bent spines. Because a person has to come to a halt (for a minute) to free themselves whose clothing gets stuck in its spines, this is the case!

Century Plant

  • Species: Agave americana
  • Where found: North America

Because of its popularity as an ornamental plant, the century plant is native to desert regions of North America and can now be found in a variety of other locations.

This plant produces a dense cluster of large, broad leaves with a sharp core spike. The leaves are prickly on the edges.

A cluster of huge, broad leaves with spiky margins and a sharp core spike is produced by this species.

Creosote Bush

  • Species: Larrea tridentata
  • Where found: North America

In the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts, the creosote bush is one of the most distinctive plant species. Its name comes from the fact that it has a scent reminiscent of creosote (a preservative or antiseptic chemical).

The yellow flowers of the creosote bush grow between 3 and 9 feet (1 and 2.7 meters) tall.

Creosote bush clonal colonies can grow to be very old. One of the world’s oldest living organisms, with an estimated age of 11,700 years, is the King Clone, a clonal colony discovered in the Mojave Desert.

Date Palm

  • Species: Phoenix dactylifera
  • Where found: Africa / Middle East

A palm tree native to North Africa and the Middle East, the date palm is a palm tree. Thousands of years ago, dates were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, who also made wine from the fruit of the tree. The fruit has been an important source of food for humans in desert areas for thousands of years.

In many tropical areas, date palms are still a significant food crop.

Rock Morning Glory

  • Species: Ipomoea costata
  • Where found: Australia

In arid parts of northern Australia, the rock morning glory is a uncommon creeping plant. After periods of rain in the summer, it produces large, pink funnel-shaped flowers.

A huge tuber (an expanded, subterranean stem) holds water for the morning glory rock. A desert yam, or bush potato, is the name for this. Food that can be found foraging in the Australian Outback is an example of “bush-tucker.”

Doum Palm / Gingerbread Palm

  • Species: Hyphaene thebaica
  • Where found: Africa / Middle East

In North Africa and the Middle East, the doum palm tree thrives. With the typical unbranched trunk and fanlike leaves of a palm tree, it grows to around 50 ft (15 m) in height.

The fruit of the doum palm is consumed raw, and it is believed to have a variety of medicinal properties. Local youngsters prefer it because it resembles gingerbread.

Elephant’s Foot

  • Species: Dioscorea elephantipes
  • Where found: Africa

A desert plant native to South Africa, the elephant’s foot is a The stem of this climbing plant develops into a massive tuber that may grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.

The plant’s English name comes from the tuber, which is covered in tough, scale-like plates that look like elephant feet.

Emu Bush

  • Species: Eremophila glabra
  • Where found: Australia

The name Eremophila comes from the common habitat of the emu plant and other plants in this genus, which is desert-loving. A wide range of arid and semi-arid environments in Australia are home to this Australian plant.

Ghost Gum

  • Species: Corymbia aparrerinja
  • Where found: Australia

A tree known as the ghost gum thrives in harsh, arid conditions in Central Australia. It produces white blooms in the summer and has smooth, cream or pink bark.

At the base of its trunk, this desert tree contains a lignotuber. A swelling at the root’s summit is known as a lignotuber. It keeps food reserves and protects the roots against fire and drought.


  • Species: Pachypodium namaquanum
  • Where found: Africa

The halfmens is a member of the dogbane family that has evolved to live in arid climates and can be found in the desert parts of southern Africa. It might be mistaken for a cactus because of its succulent, spine-covered stem.

The halfmens has a humanoid look when seen from afar. The plant gets its name from a local legend that claims it is half-human.

Joshua Tree

  • Species: Yucca brevifolia
  • Where found: North America

The Joshua tree is most typically found in the Mojave Desert and is indigenous to the southwestern United States. Mormon pioneers who were guided through the desert by the plant are reported to have given it that name.

To prevent stored water from evaporating away, the leaves of the Joshua tree are thick and waxy. The plant’s roots penetrate 36 feet (11 meters) into the desert soil, providing support and maximum water collecting ability.

Over 1,000-year-old Joshua trees can be found.

Kangaroo Paw

  • Species: several species of genus Anigozanthos; and Macropidia fuliginosa (the black kangaroo paw)
  • Where found: Australia

A number of plants in the Haemodoraceae family have flowers that resemble the paws of a kangaroo, and they are known as Kangaroo paw.

The red-and-green kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos manglesii, is the floral emblem of Western Australia and is one of the most well-known species of kangaroo paw.


  • Species: Acacia aneura
  • Where found: Australia

A shrub or small tree, the mulga may be found. It is Australia’s most widespread tree, and its desert interior’s characteristic tree.

The mulga habitat, which is dry, open woodland where the species is the dominant tree, is named after the species. The phrase “out in the mulga” refers to being far from civilisation in Australia.

To avoid water loss from evaporation, the mulga has needle-like phyllodes (adapted leaf stems) that are broad and densely covered in tiny hairs.

The tap root of the tree is several meters long and extends deep into the desert soil, gathering as much water as possible.

Palo Verde

  • Genus: Parkinsonia
  • Where found: North America

Palo verde, which is Spanish for “green stick,” is the name given to several species of genus Parkinsonia. Only little leaves, which only stay for a brief time after rains, are found on Palo verde trees. The green stems of most plants perform the majority of the photosynthesis.

The Sonoran desert is home to palo verdes, while Arizona’s state tree is an unnamed sort of palo verde.

Pebble Plants

  • Genus: Lithops
  • Where found: Africa

The term “pebble plant” is derived from their resemblance to pebbles. Desert animals, who would undoubtedly devour the succulent, water-filled leaves of a pebble plant, are kept at bay by its appearance.

The pebble plant’s rounded, thick leaves conserve water by preventing it from evaporating since they have a low surface area compared to their bulk.

Prickly Pear

  • Genus: Opuntia
  • Where found: The Americas

The genus Opuntia contains a wide range of cactus species known as prickly pears.

Some species have been brought to Australia, Africa, and the Mediterranean from the Americas by humans. The plants have been so effective in some areas that they are considered pests.

The deserts of the southwestern United States are home to prickly pear species such as Opuntia engelmannii (cow tongue prickly pear) and Opuntia basilaris (beavertail prickly pear).

Quiver Tree / Kokerboom

  • Species: Aloidendron dichotomum
  • Where found: Africa

The Namib Desert and other arid parts of southern Africa are home to the quiver tree. It has a lot of soft tissue in its branches, which can hold a huge amount of water.

The indigenous people of the region once fashioned quivers for their arrows from the branches. This is the source of the tree’s English name.

The quiver tree will self-amputate a branch in times of severe drought. This prevents water from being lost from the branch’s leaves.

The conservation status of the quiver tree is ‘Vulnerable,’ making it a vulnerable species.

Saguaro Cactus

  • Species: Carnegiea gigantea
  • Where found: North America

The saguaro is one of the most distinctive desert plants in North America, growing to heights in excess of 40 feet (12 meters) and having one or more “arms” projecting from its sides. Only in the Sonoran Desert can you find this species.

The saguaro cactus is the biggest in the United States. A specimen over 78 feet (24 meters) tall was the highest ever recorded. Humans can live for up to 150 years.

The succulent stem of the species is packed with sponge-like tissue and may hold a great deal of water. Its roots extended far into the desert soil, drawing as much moisture as possible from it.

Bats are one of the saguaro’s primary pollinators. The scent is also released to attract these nocturnal visitors, and the plant’s white, waxy flowers open at night.

Sturt’s Desert Pea

  • Species: Swainsona formosa
  • Where found: Australia

The desert pea, which grows throughout the arid Australian interior, belongs to the pea family. The red blooms of the species are notable, with a bulbous black center portion termed a boss. South Australia’s floral emblem is the plant.

Seeds of the plant can stay dormant for many years, waiting for the appropriate environment to germinate.


  • Species: Welwitschia mirabilis
  • Where found: Africa

Only in the Namib Desert in Southern Africa can you find Welwitschia mirabilis. Plants like conifers belong to the same plant group (gymnosperms) as this cone-producing plant.

A huge tap root and a network of subsidiary roots characterize the plant. It has two long strap-like leaves that rise above the ground. The roots of the plant are attracted to these channel dews.

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