A Few New Mexico Wildflowers: Rose Family



Flowers are organized alphabetically by genus and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

As you might guess from the common name, this species extends into Canada. It's common in the Rockies, all the way down to the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains, but otherwise sparse in New Mexico. Too bad—those are showy little flowers. Albuquerque residents can check out this "native at the state level, but non-local" species at the Rio Grande Nature Center.


Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus)

The seed plumes on mountain mahogany and Apache plume may tempt you to confuse the two plants, but a close look will show many differences.

  • The leaves of the Apache plume are highly dissected (think "branching"). The leaves of the mountain mahogany are more conventional in shape (they tend to be broadest near the ends, and to have slight sawtooth edges at the ends).
  • Apache plume flowers are showy. Mountain mahogany flowers are tiny and easy to overlook.
  • The spines of Apache plume seed plumes are delicate, have a pink tinge, and occur in multiples. Mountain mahogany seed plumes have sturdier brown spines, often have a corkscrew shape, grow singly (but can be bunched on a branch), and can still be found attached to the plant the following winter.


Hawthorne (Crataegus)


Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa)

You may have learned this one under a different genus, Potentilla. A small shrub, but made very handsome by a generous number of fairly evenly distributed yellow flowers.


Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)

The Apache Plume's white flowers tend to be upstaged by the clusters of pink-tinged seed plumes, which must have reminded someone of Plains-style feather bonnets. While it lasts, the white flower is five-petaled and showy. The leaves are highly dissected. A few seed plumes often linger, making it easier to identify this shrub.


Wild Strawberry (Fragraria vesca)


Mountain Spray (Holodiscus dumosus)

The white flowers on this bush are so small, it's difficult to get a picture where the individual flowers show up. The flowers occur in clusters at the ends of branches.  As the flowers die, the clusters turn tan.


Crab Apple (Malus pumila)

Because apples and crab apples have escaped into the wild in New Mexico, they qualify for this page. The photos you see here were taken in the Rio Grande Bosque, not in someone's yard, and represent one such escapee. A few dried fruits from the previous season confirmed that the tree was a crab apple.


Mountain Ninebark (Physocarpus monogynus)



A good place to see this plant in bloom is along the Crest Highway in the Sandias, directly across from the Capulin Springs snowplay area. Look for bushes that extend up from the ground to about chest height.


Among the features to look for are stems that are red when young. As those stems get older they can develop a striped look, as shown in the thumbnail to the left.


Silverweed Cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina)

Compare the more ladder-like arrangement of the leaf segments with the palm-like arrangement of Beautiful Cinquefoil, below. If you flip over a leaf you'll understand the "silverleaf" part of the name.


Beautiful Cinquefoil (Potentilla pulcherrima)

Even if you don't see this in flower, the five-part leaves are distinctive.


American Plum (Prunus americana)

Walking in the Bosque in April 2021, we came across a burst of white flowers on an otherwise small and miserable-looking set of twigs. Based on the plantings at the Rio Grande Nature Center, I believe that our 2021 sighting was of an American plum. This species is common in the eastern and northeastern U.S.; in New Mexico it's mostly confined to the mountains north of Albuquerque.


Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

The first time I walked towards this bush, I thought it might be a red elderberry. However, the many stamens on the flowers ruled out that possibility. I found chokecherrry berries to be edible but astringent.


Cliffrose (Purshia stansburyana)

These shrubs can get lost among the piñons and junipers—until the late spring, when they cover themselves with sprays of white flowers. They then develop fruits with long fuzzy "tails," not unlike those on certain other local species of the rose family.


When I look at the leaves, the word that comes to mind is "nubbly." On the lowest parts of long-established plants, the bark is shaggy.


I learned this one as Cowania mexicana, but the population north of the border has been broken out as a separate species,  Purshia stansburyana. While cliffrose occurs in the Albuquerque area, it's much more common on the Colorado Plateau and in the Great Basin. Look for this species in rocky soil.


Bitterbush (Purshia tridentata)

In New Mexico, this species is at the edge of its range and mostly confined to the northwest corner of the state. At the Rio Grande Nature Center, it's labeled as a New Mexico native species—which it is—but on the local scale it's an import. The species was first collected for science by Meriwether Lewis in 1806, during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, in Montana.  The flower petals are a very pale yellow.


Wood's Rose (Rosa woodsii)


Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)