The uniquely fragrant chocolate flower

Chocolate lovers, how would you like to have a garden filled with flowers that give off the fragrance of chocolate or cocoa? Such a flower exists; it’s called the Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata) and it is edible. Other names for this flower are chocolate daisy, lyreleaf greeneyes and green-eyed lyre leaf.

The chocolate flower is native to the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. It often grows in grasslands and along roads. The flower itself is about one inch in diameter with yellow petals and a dark brown to reddish-brown center. The whole plant grows one- to two feet high. The flavorful and fragrant part of the plant are the brown stamens in the center.

The chocolate flower is a night bloomer. The flowers give off their chocolate scent in the morning but as the temperature rises, the petals close or drop and the fragrance recedes.

According to Santa Fe Botanical: “After frost the Chocolate flower seems to disappear, but its hardy roots ensure that it will emerge in the spring with a crown of scalloped segmented, wooly gray leaves. Fragrant flowers with yellow rays and maroon centers nestled upon a “calyx dish” are borne on long, hairy stems. The underside of the petals with its maroon stripes over the yellow background is even more colorful than the bright yellow petals that face outward.

The Chocolate flower’s progression from flower to seed is intriguing, with each stage possessing its own particular beauty. As the temperatures rise, the yellow flowers will begin to turn white. The petals will close or drop off, leaving the center of the flower surrounded by a green, cup-shaped calyx. It is at this stage that the reason for the other common name, Green eyes, becomes apparent. The calyx will fade to a soft tan and flatten, allowing the light chocolate colored seeds to easily drop to the ground or to be dispersed by the wind or birds.”

According to the U.S. Forest Service (which calls the plant “Lyreleaf greeneyes “): “It is drought tolerant, low maintenance, and adapts to a variety of soils so it has become a favorite in southwestern xeriscape gardening. It readily reseeds itself, making it a desirable addition to wildflower meadows or informal garden areas. The ray petals roll up lengthwise in the heat of the day so it displays itself best in the early morning.”

Some American Indians used the chocolate flower to alleviate stomach problems. There are claims that the smoke from dried, burned roots will calm a nervous condition and in some cultures, inspire courage. They also used the flowers to flavor food. According to the BLM, the leaves are also edible, raw or cooked, but don’t have the chocolate flavor of the flowers.

For ADI stories on other desert plants, see:

A Boojum, definitely a boojum
Agaves provide food, fiber and adult beverages
Arizona Christmas Cactus
Arizona’s Wild Cotton
Brittlebush and chewing gum
Cactus water will make you sick
Chiltepin peppers, spice and medicine
Creepy Creeping Devil Cactus
Creosote Bush
Desert Broom – another medicinal plant
Desert Mistletoe
Desert Ironwood
Desert Tobacco, a Pretty but Poisonous Desert Plant
Guayacán a pretty flowering tree
Invasion of the Popcorn Flowers
Joshua Trees of the Mohave Desert
Life on a Dead Saguaro
London Rocket
Medusa’s Head a strange and useful plant
Mesquite trees provide food, fuel, medicine, and more
Night-blooming Cereus cactus
Oak trees of the Sonoran Desert region
Ocotillo – an aide to hummingbirds and geologists
Palo brea trees and their uses
Palo Verde trees about to turn the desert golden
Passion Flower
Sacred Datura – pretty, poisonous, and hallucinogenic
Saguaro Cactus Icon of the Sonoran Desert
Senita and Totem Pole Cacti
Spectacular flowers of the red Torch Cactus
The Jojoba bush and its valuable oil
Yuccas provide food, fiber, and soap