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Ethnobotany of the Sonoran Desert

from Harvesting the Sonoran Desert

by Pat Goltz

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Seeking to bring oneself into harmony with nature is a prerequisite to Renaissance Personhood. However, this does not mean viewing human beings as intruders in nature, but as an integral part of nature. God made provisions for human beings to be part of the ecology, and our actions are required for nature to be in balance. He also gave each person stewardship over the lands to which he has a legitimate title, and never intended that people who do not own the land should tell the owners how to manage it. Only the management of natural resources by persons who have legitimate authority of them through ownership is consonant with human freedom and dignity. Imposing one's will concerning the environment on other persons through tyrannical laws is unacceptable. Each person, as an individual, has direct responsibility for stewardship of the environment in which he lives. Each person who has stewardship of the land or of a part of nature is answerable directly to God for how he manages what he has been given. This means that despoiling the environment and cruelty to animals are inappropriate.

The information on these pages is taken from my book in preparation entitled Harvesting the Sonoran Desert. It includes both the scientific names and common names and information on the uses of the plants. The native names of some of the plants are given after the name of each native language. These plants are either native to the Sonoran Desert, or are cultivated there. The Sonoran Desert covers parts of California, Arizona, Sonora, and Baja California. This material is © 2001-2010 by Pat Goltz.

The information on these pages is intended for enjoyment, and any information about the use of herbs medicinally is applied at the risk of of the reader. It is not our intention to represent that any of the information is useful to treat or cure any medical condition, and we urge any person with a medical condition to consult with a qualified practitioner.

This is a compendium of information from many sources, including personal experience. A bibliography will be supplied as material is put on this site.

Please note that in the list of names, any word that has a combination of characters such as this: "v*", it signifies that the preceding letter has an inverse circumflex, such as is used in Czech. As soon as I figure out how to use these letters together with some of the accents used in other languages, I'll do it.


Of interest is the fact that all cactus fruit of native Sonoran Desert species is edible, though some is insipid. Please do NOT use the flesh of a rare cactus except in dire emergency, or otherwise destroy a rare cactus. If you eat the fruit, please plant at least some of the seeds. In some cases, it is illegal to destroy a particular species of cactus.

Barrel Cactus
Hedgehog Cactus
Prickly Pear

Other Plants

Castor Bean
Desert Marigold
Fairy Duster
Jimson Weed
Scorpion Weed


Tucson Clinic of Botanical Medicine
Desert Plants & Wildflowers Index

Ottowa Valley Naturalist,

My appreciation to Wizzle for some of the background material.

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