Skip to content
Greater Zion logo

Visitor Information Center

The Greater Zion Visitor Center is a must for anyone interested in exploring the natural wonders of southwest Utah.

Privacy Policy Cookie Policy

Hidden Gem: The Dwarf Bear-poppy

dwarf bear poppy below cliff

Greater Zion is the only place in the world – yes, the entire world – where you can find the rare dwarf bear-poppy. In addition to being one of the most beautiful plants complementing our desert landscape, it is also one of the most precious ones. 

The dwarf bear-poppy, known scientifically as Arctomecon humilis, is endangered – and not because it lacks resilience. Rather, it is picky. The dwarf bear-poppy only survives in very specific, gypsum-rich soil. Long ago, volcanic eruptions deposited volcanic rock throughout the area, filling Greater Zion’s soil with not too much, not too little, but just the right amount of gypsum for the dwarf bear-poppy. 

We are so happy things worked out for our Goldilocks-esque perennial herb, and you should be too. When conditions are right, dwarf bear-poppies are some of the few plants that are tough enough to survive in harsh desert conditions and rival the natural beauty of the scenic desert while doing it.

dwarf bear poppy bloom

The dwarf bear-poppy can be recognized by its short, shrubby stature (hence the “dwarf”), its soft leaves with hair-like tendrils, and bright yellow stamens cradled by four elegant white petals. The “bear” portion of the name comes from the textured edges of the petals that resemble a bear claw.

dwarf bear poppy flower closeup

The highest concentrations of dwarf bear-poppies are found within the boundaries of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and the White Dome Nature Preserve, among other endangered species such as the desert tortoise. You can observe the poppy in bloom from late April to early May, with Leave No Trace and Land of Forever principles in mind. But no matter when or where you encounter them, keep an eye out for dwarf bear-poppies and treat them as the precious gems they are.