North Gila Mountains Flora Project



Hibiscus denudatus

Hyptis emoryii

Bursera microphylla    

Langloisia setosissima




Coordinating Botanists:  Karen Reichhardt, Valerie Morrill, Ashley Shepherd

Status:  In Progress

Started:  December 2014

Taxa List



Located in extreme southwestern Arizona near Yuma, the Gila Mountains are a narrow range composed of rugged metamorphic and granitic rock, extending from the Gila River on the north to the Tinajas Altas Mountains to the south. The project focuses on the portion of the Gila Mountains and its associated foothills and alluvial fans that are north of the Barry Goldwater Gunnery Range boundary.


The Gila Mountains occur in one of the hottest and driest regions of the U.S. Although there are no weather stations providing site specific data in the Gila Mountains, nearby stations report that the Yuma area tops the list of all stations in percent sunshine at 90%.  It is also among the top ten stations for highest average temperature at 75.7°F and lowest average annual precipitation at 3.40 inches (Climatological Extremes for Contiguous United States, Western Regional Climate Center, 2015. Web. April 1, 2015.


Its vegetation typifies that of the hot, dry Lower Colorado River Valley Subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, which is influenced by California coastal winter storms and Sonoran Desert summer monsoons.  Although botanists have explored this area in the past, as evidenced by many type specimens from the region, according to SEINET searches (see, few herbarium vouchers have been recently collected.  


There are multiple goals of the project: 1) train citizen scientists to collect and catalog plants according to botanical standards; 2) contribute to knowledge of Sonoran Desert plant distribution within Arizona; 3) understand the influences geology and topography play on distribution of Bursera microphylla and other unusual taxa; 4) contribute voucher specimens to the Arizona Western College Herbarium and the project’s regional sponsoring institution, the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix; and 5) update the SEINET database to more accurately represent the flora of the project area.


The project began in December 2014 with a two-day Budding Botanist training workshop by Wendy Hodgson, DBG Herbarium Curator.  During the 2014-2015 season, Yuma Chapter monthly meetings have focused on the flora project with topics such as Botany 101, geology of the Gila Mountains, hiking access to remote areas, and techniques in botanical illustration, photography and publication. Plant collection forays have been ongoing throughout the winter and spring. A workshop on the proper mounting process for herbarium quality specimens is also in the works.


Please contact the listed coordinating botanists for additional information.