Seven Plants to Forage for Iced Tea

The tea industry has declared June “National Iced Tea Month.” So today we will look at seven common regional plants that make tasty tea. Many of these can be grown as landscape plants – so foraging could be as close as your own yard. Let’s start with seven tasty teas today – in no particular order.

The Wood’s rose, Rosa woodsii, is found on sky islands across the Southwest. Photo courtesy the Arizona Native Plant Society AZNPS.

Rose Petals

There are a number of species of wild roses that live on our desert sky islands, including Rosa woodsii. You can wildcraft the petals, or use roses from your own garden. Rose petals add sweetness to teas, and blend well with ocotillo blooms. If you dried rose petals gently, out of the sunshine, they also contain some vitamin C. Other uses for foraged rose petals – here.

Just grab the whole mass of flowers and buds to make your desert lavender tea. Photo courtesy S. Matson.

Desert Lavender

Look no farther that the silvery shrub commonly called desert lavender (Condea emoryi, formerly Hyptis emoryi). The flowers that offer an intense lavender fragrance and taste, and the leaves do just as well. For tea, the earthy perfume aroma and flavor mixes well with other florals like rose petals or mint leaves. It will overwhelm the delicate flavor of ocotillo blooms. Lacking any native desert lavender, you can use cultivated lavender.

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Ocotillo and all its sister species (including the boojum tree) are members of the unique “coachwhip family.” This family of plants is found only on a tiny portion of the globe – here in the Sonoran Desert. Flowers have a delicate flavor, mildly tangy and mildly sweet. They make a wonderful tea when fresh – or when dried.
How to harvest is discussed in our post on edible flowers – here.

Basil flowers – and even leaves – make a nice tea.


For best basil leaf production you are supposed to nip off the young flower buds before they develop. Well don’t throw them away! They make a tasty tea, somewhat clove-like. Nice all alone or mixed with some cinnamon. That said, basils do have a range of flavors, depending on variety. Lemon basil is lemony (duh), Thai basil is strongly clove-y, and holy basil can be almost camphor-like, for a unique tea that is said to be healing.

Poliomintha longiflora has red flowers and comes to us from the mountains of Mexico. Image courtesy W. Anderson.


The genus Poliomintha, commonly called rosemary mint, has various species scattered across the Southwest.  This low growing shrub-like perennial has rich green leaves and looks lovely in a landscape (prettier than rosemary IMHO). Both leaves and flowers offer a tea that is a tangy blend of rosemary and mint – very refreshing, and palate cleansing on a hot dusty day.

Good for tea as well, this is the common poliomintha sold in nurseries, Poliomintha maderensis, from the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, (although often mis-identified. Image courtesy ZAkulova.

Lemon Grass

While lemon grass (Cymbopogon species) is not native to the desert, it makes a good addition to your mosquito repelling garden (discussed soon on

Lemongrass can also be used in barbecuing, and Uncle Smokey has some tips coming on this. Lemon grass is popular in many tea blends from the store, and you can add it to your home blends.

Lemongrass is said to repel mosquitoes – but it only works externally for that. Still makes a nice zingy tea.


Poreleaf or slender poreleaf (Porophyllum gracile) is a low growing perennial which forms a cloud of bluish-silver foliage and stems. Foliage offers a sharp flavor, a sort of blend of spruce needles with hints of anise. Honestly it’s a taste that’s not for everyone. Also called yerba de venado, we discussed foraging the pretty poreleaf – here.Seven savory herbal iced tea treats to try. We hope you will, and let us know your favorite!

Father Kino’s Herbs – More Creative Cordials!

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $22!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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