A member of the Acanthus Family (Acanthaceae), desert honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi) is a perennial shrub native to and found in Arizona and New Mexico. Its habitat is rocky, sandy washes and canyons and desert hillsides.
The growth form of desert honeysuckle is large and spreading. Plants can grow up to six feet in height. Branches are woody and covered by pale-colored bark.
Desert honeysuckle is known as cold deciduous because it retains its leaves until the first hard frost.The leaves are narrow lanceolate to ovate on short stalks, occuring at intervals in clusters or opposite pairs intermingled with small groups of flowers. The leaves, stems ad calyces have a covering of short hairs.
The red to orange desert honeysuckle flowers are tubular. There is a strap-shaped upper lip and a wider lower lip deeply divided into three lobes. Both the upper strap and lobes curl backward when mature. The flowers have two red stamens with yellow anthers and a longer white style.
Desert honeysuckle fruits are flattened, sand-colored capsules. Each capsule contains four seed that are ejected when the capsule opens.
Hummingbirds are attracted to desert honeysuckle.
Other common names for A thurberi are chuparosa and Thurber’s desert honeysuckle. The honorific (species) is named for Doctor George Thurber (1821 – 1890), a horticulturist and botanist on the Mexican Border Survey.
These specimens were growing near the entrance station at Madera Canyon near Green Valley AZ in March.