A Pungent and Invasive Weed in the Desert

There is a pungent smell in the air this spring in our Sonoran garden and surrounding neighborhoods. It isn’t really a bad smell, but it cannot be described as a totally pleasant one either. When we first discovered this fragrance several weeks ago, we couldn’t figure out the source, but over the ensuing time period we discovered its origin.

You can see the culprit in the picture below…

and here it is again.

This yellow plant is called Globe chamomile (Oncosiphon piluliferum). While seeds can be bought for Globe chamomile, I am sure most gardeners consider it a weed.

Because of the frequent and substantial winter rains, these yellow weeds are pervasive throughout open areas in the Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona corridor.

You can see how thick it grows. It can be pulled out by the handful.

Globe chamomile is a South African native and it has found its way to various regions of the United States and other countries.

It has been in bloom for weeks, but the drier and warmer spring weather is now causing some die off. Notice the brownish stems (below). The flowers are still quite vibrant and fragrant, but they are definitely on the wane.

It has been blamed by many in the area for their severe outbreak of allergy symptoms. Melanie Dunlap, a Naturopathic practicioner, writes about here experience in this article titled Goddess of Allergies

You can read more about Globe chamomile HERE


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Wild West Weeds

Desert weeds along the roadside

Prior to moving to the North Phoenix area of the Sonoran Desert, I never thought about having a problem with weeds in such an arid region. After all, it is the desert with little water so there shouldn’t be a lot of weeds.

Desert weeds along the roadside


It turns out that desert plants, which naturally includes weeds, are pretty resilient. Winter rains from the end of December through February provide enough showers to enable the weeds to germinate; the more water, the more weeds.

Desert weeds along the roadside

This field at the end of our street has many, many weeds and among them are some very pretty willdflowers such as the orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) in the foreground of the photo below.

Desert weeds along the roadside

Globe Mallows grow well along the roadsides and in open fields and have a color range from light to dark orange. Once in a while one can discover a rare pink Globe Mallow or an even more rare red variety.

Desert weeds along the roadside

The Globe Mallow in the photograph above adds variety in the desert weed landscape of silver, greens and yellows.

Triangle Leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) is an abundant weed found in many open spaces.

Desert weeds along the roadside

In fields that are left untended for a number of years, a tree may take hold. This appears to be a Mesquite of some variety.

Desert weeds along the roadside

Yes wildflowers are pretty, but weeds can be more than a nuisance. As weeds dry out, they create a fire hazard. When the temperatures rise to above the ninety degree threshold and the rains become more scarce, spent wildflowers and weeds become tinder.

Desert weeds along the roadside

It is recommended that there is a defensible space around homes to help avoid fire spreading to dwellings. There was more to know about the desert ecosystem and weeds than I ever imagined prior to my residency in Arizona.

JBRish.com originally published this post

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