When driving through the desert or walking the paths at the Garden this time of year, feast your eyes on the red blossoms of the Chuparosa (Justicia californica). This native plant grows along the washes of Southern Arizona, but is also a terrific addition to a home garden as it attracts hummingbirds. The tubular flowers of this plant advertise nectar that hummingbirds will enjoy. Some hummingbirds, like the rufous that migrate from Mexico to Alaska, follow the Chuparosa’s bloom path as they travel through the desert Southwest. Hummingbirds are important pollinators for chuparosa ensuring that seeds will be produced for a new generation of plants. During the summer, drier soil causes the plant to stop blooming and drop it’s leaves. This is an important adaptation that allows the Chuparosa to survive the hot, dry desert summers. The green stems continue to make food and energy for the plant until fall and winter rains come, and with that moisture a regrowth of leaves occurs. The twiggy, thin stems grow in an open and airy manner making this an attractive bush regardless of the season. Chuparosa blossoms are a fun addition to salads, too, as they taste like cucumbers! This is a terrific plant to add to your garden for hummingbirds to enjoy. You will as well!
Sources: A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert, The Arizona Low Desert Flower Garden, Arizona Gardener’s Guide