"For myself, I hold no preference among flowers as long as they are wild, free, spontaneous." Edward Abbey
There is a poster in an Aveda store that asks, "What miracle bloomed in the desert?" Below are the photos of three "flowers so rare you’ve probably never smelled them before." In the middle of the purple sand verbena and the Joshua tree, there is a photo of the dune primrose, a white wildflower with four heart-shaped petals and a deep yellow center. All new fragrances for purchase…
When hiking the Grand Canyon in late April or May, you’re likely to meet a rainbow of red Indian paintbrush, pink prickly pear blooms and orange globe mallows. You’ll step over the five-petal cinquefoil, little white flowers that grow close to the ground. You’ll try to capture the red penstemon -red bells on a tall stalk- on film when it’s not waving in the dry breeze. And if you’re lucky, you just might bend down and stick your face into a bunch of dune primrose and take a long, deep breath.
On our way to the Havasupai Reservation, we noticed a ten-foot, asparagus-looking stalk rising from a cactus. One of our guides, Stephanie, explained how the Agave cactus, which takes eight to twenty years to fully mature, holds a special meaning for the Aztec Indians who once lived in the bottom of the canyon. "They’d pry up the plant, cut away the leaves and roast its heart. At the end of the two-day roast, an alcoholic beverage was produced. If an Aztec was caught drinking it more than twice, he was put to death. The Havasupai tribe also enjoyed this fragrant drink. They’d set a rock on the plant before it set up its stalk so that the stalk coiled around it. This made it easier to cook in their stone-lined pits. The Aztecs and Havasupai would eat a lot of plants when crops were bad."
Sage sprouts freely on Hermit’s Trail, and you’ll need it. It’s calming scent, and ability to open respiratory passages, can help you on those narrow turns when there’s nothing to hold onto but your courage and ignorance. The Indians used it before long walks along the canyon’s cliffs.
Ephedra is a very popular desert shrub that can be found in many areas of the canyon. Its silver-green leaves look more like those of the pine and have medicinal properties that can help cure the common cold. The Mormon’s used pieces of its stem to make "Mormon’s Tea," ironically a tea with alcoholic effects.
From the rim of the Canyon, the Tonto Plateau practically looks green with the shrubs of the Black Brush. This hearty shrub sends out a poison to kill all other plants nearby and is consequently spaced evenly on the plateau.
Other Shrubs, Cacti and Flowers
Bring along a guidebook- or a guide- who knows about the local flora. Instead of passing by the shrubs and flowers, you’ll learn their names:
These wildflowers, creeping their way out from the rock and sand of the Grand Canyon, are a testament to the power, fragility and beauty of nature.
And for Aveda: The sweet scent of a wildflower in April is much better out of the bottle.