All park resources, including wildflowers, are protected. It is illegal to pick flowers and seeds, or remove plants from the park.


Red & Orange Flowers

Red, trumpet shaped flowers on skinny green stems.
Botanist Alice Eastwood identified and named the Utah penstemon near Monticello, Utah in 1893.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Utah Penstemon

Scientific Name: Penstemon utahensis
Size (height): 6–24 in (15.2–61 cm)
Habitat: Sandy soils in mixed desert scrub, blackbrush, and pinyon juniper communities.
Flowering Season: April–June
Range: Utah, Nevada, California
Location in park: Common in the central and southern portions of the park including the Hickman Bridge trail, the south end of the Scenic Drive, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: The Utah penstemon is a perennial herb with tall, erect stems and thick lance-shaped leaves. Basal leaves are larger and more numerous than the upper leaves. Its tubular flowers are bright red to red-pink in color and grow in an elongated spike.

Close-up of bright red flowers, with yellow-green on edges.
There are about 200 species of Indian paintbrush around the world. Capitol Reef is home to four species, including Castilleja chromosa.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Desert Indian Paintbrush

Scientific Name: Castilleja chromosa
Size (height): 4–22 in (10.2–55.9 cm)
Habitat: Sandy soils in sagebrush and pinyon juniper woodlands
Flowering Season: April–June
Range: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Wyoming, British Columbia
Location in park: Common in the central and southern areas of the park including along the Notom Road, in Cohab Canyon, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge.

Description: Indian paintbrush is a perennial herb with grayish-green stems covered with small hairs. It has brilliant red to orange floral bracts, each with five narrow lobes. Indian paintbrushes are partial root parasites, attaching their roots to roots of other plants and taking nutrients from their host. Sagebrush is a typical host plant.

Close up of reddish orange flowers on green leafy stems.
Common globemallow can sometimes be found growing near purple scorpionweed.


Common Globemallow

Scientific name: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Size (height): Up to 18 in (46 cm)
Habitat: mixed desert scrub, sagebrush communities, pinyon-juniper woodland, and ponderosa pine forests
Flowering season: mid-April–October
Range: Utah and the Southwest, up to Canada
Location in park: Widespread throughout the park, especially in Fruita and along State Route 24.

Description: This flower is one of the earliest blooming in Capitol Reef. It's bright orange flowers are about 1/2 inch (2.5 cm) wide and its leaves are deeply lobed, usually with 3 to 5 lobes per leaf. It has historically been used for medicinal purposes by native cultures.


Yellow Flowers

Spindly plant with small yellow flowers at top of stalks, with blue sky in background.
Look for yellow catspaw along trails in the Moenkopi Formation.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Yellow Catspaw

Scientific Name: Cryptantha flava
Size (height): 5–15 in (12.7–38.1 cm)
Habitat: Saltbush scrub, mixed desert scrub, pinyon juniper woodlands
Flowering Season: April–July
Range: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona
Location in park: Common throughout the park, typically on hillsides and uplands of clay soils. It can be seen along the Scenic Drive, the Hickman Bridge Trail, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: Yellow catspaw is a perennial herb with numerous stems and narrow leaves covered with stiff hairs on the underside. It has yellow flowers that grow in narrow clusters 2–8 in (5.1–20.3 cm) long. Cryptantha, the genus name, means "hidden flower."

Clump of green stems, with leaves at base, and bright yellow flowers at the top.
Naked stem sunrays prefer soil with a high gypsum content, like those found in the Moenkopi Formation, along the Scenic Drive.


Naked Stem Sunrays

Scientific Name: Enceliopsis nudicaulis
Size (height): up to 20 in (50.8 cm)
Habitat: Clay or gypsiferous soils in blackbrush, mixed desert scrub, and pinyon juniper communities
Flowering Season: mid-April–July
Range: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California
Location in park: Common in the central portion of the park especially along the Scenic Drive and along State Route 24, west of the visitor center.

Description: Naked stem sunray is a perennial herb with long, gray-green stems that each support a solitary yellow flower head about 2 in (5 cm) wide. The leaves, which are all basal, are round to oval shaped and up to 3 in (7.6 cm) long and equally wide. The species name, nudicaulis, refers to the long bare stems on this plant.

Tall, whispy yellow stalks of flowers on green stems, with big red cliffs in the background.
Prince's Plume is another plant that has adapted to the marginal soils of the desert, because it thrives in selenium-rich environments, like the Moenkopi Formation.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Prince’s Plume

Scientific name: Stanleya pinnata
Size (height): 24-36 in (61-91 cm), but up to 60 in (5 ft, 152 cm)
Habitat: Mix desert scrub, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: May to November
Range: Utah and the southwest, up to North Dakota
Location in park: Common in the park. Often in Moenkopi Formation along Utah State Route 24 and the Scenic Drive.
Description: Tall plant, with bright yellow flowers that start blooming from the bottom up, until the whole stalk is covered in flowers.

Spindly plant with green stems that have the middle section inflated, with tiny yellow flowers.
The desert trumpet is a memorable plant because of the inflated look of its stem.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Desert Trumpet

Scientific name: Eriogonum inflatum
Size (height): 1–2 feet (30.5–61 cm) tall
Habitat: Sandy and clay soils in mixed desert scrub, saltbush, rabbitbrush, grassland, and pinyon-juniper woodland communities.
Flowering season: May–August
Range: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
Location in park: Common throughout the park.

Description: This unique member of the buckwheat family has an inflated stem, giving it part of its scientific name, “inflatum.” Tiny yellow flowers top the stems in the spring. In fall, the stems will turn from green to a dark red, and then a pale yellow as the plant dries. Over the years, scientists have had different ideas about what causes the stem to inflate. Early hypotheses included insects laying eggs inside and creating galls. Recently, scientists suggest that the stem does most of the photosynthesis for the plant, since it has a larger surface area than the small round leaves at the base of the plant. The stem seems to be a reservoir for carbon dioxide, and the waxy surface of the stem helps prevent water loss through transpiration.


White Flowers

Lots of narrow, white flowers on green stalks, with lots of oval green leaves.
Plants like stinking milkvetch, which grown in soils with high selenium content often have an unpleasant scent, and can be poisonous if eaten.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Stinking Milkvetch

Scientific name: Astragalus praelongus
Size (height): 4–36 in (10–91 cm)
Habitat: Clay soils, such as Moenkopi and Chinle formations, and Mancos Shale, in mixed desert scrub and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: April–July
Range: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.
Location in park: Central and southern areas of Capitol Reef, including the Scenic Drive and Utah State Route 24.

Description: This plant has tall flower stalks with 10 to 33 white or cream flowers per stalk. It is known for a strong, unpleasant smell, which gives the plant its common name, stinking milkvetch.

small green plant with white daisy-like flowers
Silvery townsendia is common throughout Capitol Reef.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Silvery Townsendia

Scientific Name: Townsendia incana
Size (height): 1–2 in (2.5–12.7 cm) tall
Habitat: Sandy or clay soils in desert scrub, saltbush, sagebrush, and pinyon juniper communities
Flowering Season: April–July
Range: Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada
Location in park: Common throughout the park including the Cathedral District, the Hickman Bridge Trail, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge.

Description: Silvery townsendia is a perennial herb with a well-developed root system that typically grows in a low, rounded clump up to 8–10 in (20.3–25.4 cm) wide. The stems are covered with white hairs. The leaves are grayish green and lance shaped. This plant is in the sunflower family, with yellow centers and white petals that are pinkish on the underside.

Three large white flowers with four petals each, and yellow centers, with other flowers faded pink, and green background.
Pale evening primrose flowers open in the evening, remain open all night, and then wilt the next day.


Pale Evening Primrose

Scientific name: Oenothera pallida
Size (height): 12–28 in (30–71 cm)
Habitat: Gravelly or sandy soil, from sagebrush to ponderosa pine forests
Flowering season: May–September
Range: Widespread in Southwest up to eastern Washington and Wyoming
Location in park: Common throughout the park

Description: Pale evening primrose has large 4-inch (10 cm) white flowers that fade to pink as they age. Compared to other primroses, this one has very narrow leaves, with toothed (lobed) edges, and is usually taller.

Three flowers close together, each with three large white, upward facing petals, and dark red and yellow centers. Grass and stems in background.
Sego lilies have edible root bulbs, but like all plants inside Capitol Reef, it is protected, and should not be removed or eaten.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Sego Lily

Scientific name: Calochortus nuttallii
Size (height): up to 20 in (51 cm), but usually shorter
Habitat: Sandy soils in saltbush, greasewood, grasslands, and ponderosa pine woodlands
Flowering season: May–July
Range: Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and some Midwest states
Location in park: South District of the park

Description: Sego lily, the Utah state wildflower, was used as a food source by both Native Americans and Latter-Day Saint pioneers. Attempts to cultivate the Sego lily domestically have been unsuccessful, and this plant should never be harvested or taken from the wild.

Cluster of small pink-ish white flowers, with a pink-purple base, and large, broad green leaves.
Showy milkweed is most often found in the Fruita Orchards. Look for a tall plant, with a ball-shaped white flower cluster at the top.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Showy Milkweed

Scientific name: Ascelepias speciosa
Size (height): 23–40 in (58–102 cm)
Habitat: Disturbed lands, riparian areas, and sandy bottomlands
Flowering season: May–August
Range: Utah, and the Southwest, from California to Canada to Minnesota
Location in park: Common in the central part of the park, especially in the Fruita orchards

Description: Its white and pink flowers are at the top of the plant, clustered into a round ball shape. The “fluff” from milkweed seedpods is more buoyant than cork, and warmer than wool. It was used in life jackets and flight suits during World War II.


Purple Flowers

Plant with large green leaves, and bright purple flowers, low to the ground, under a juniper tree.
Look for showy four o'clock under juniper trees.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Showy Four O'Clock

Scientific Name: Mirabilis multiflora
Size (height): Up to 36 in (91 cm) tall
Habitat: Mixed desert scrub, pinyon juniper woodlands; often grows in the shade of a tree.
Flowering Season: May–July
Range: Utah, western US
Location in park: Widespread in the park; can be seen along the Hickman Bridge Trail, Cohab Canyon Trail, in Grand Wash, and in Capitol Gorge.

Description: Showy four o'clock is a sprawling perennial that can spread up to 36 in (91 cm) wide. It has bright green, egg-shaped leaves with magenta flowers that open in the afternoon. Native Americans used these flowers for medicinal purposes.

Plant with green leaves and purple flowers growing on red soil, with red rocks in background
The Latin "mollissimus" means "very soft." This refers to the appearance of the milkvetch's leaves, stems, and seedpods, all of which are covered in fine hairs.

NPS/ Damian Popovic

Woolly Milkvetch

Scientific name: Astragulus mollissimus
Size (height): 2–17 inches (5–43 cm)
Habitat: Many soil types, from mixed desert scrub to pinyon-juniper forests
Flowering season: February–June
Range: Utah and the Southwest, south to Mexico
Location in park: Common in the central and southern parts of the park

Description: One of the earliest plants to bloom in the spring, this milkvetch species is highly poisonous to livestock. Another common name for it is "locoweed."

Tall plant with small purple flowers at the top, and curling green leaves at the base, with red rocks and blue sky in the background.
Some species of Phacelia are known to attract native bees as pollinators.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell


Scientific name: Phacelia crenulata
Size (height): 3–32 inches (8–81 cm)
Habitat: Salt desert scrub and pinyon-juniper forest
Flowering season: mid-April–June
Range: southern Utah and the Southwest
Location in park: Common throughout the park

Description: The name “scorpionweed” comes from the way the flower stalk curls at the end, like a scorpion’s tail. Glandular hairs on the leaves and stem of the plant can cause a rash like poison ivy.

Last updated: December 20, 2021

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Torrey, UT 84775


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