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.

Chocolate flower

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 stories on other desert plants, see:

A Desert Christmas cactus

Agave, a plant of many uses

Arizona Passion Flower

Arizona Wild Cotton

Brittlebush and chewing gum

Can You Get Potable Water From a Cactus?

Chiltepin peppers, spice and medicine

Creeping Devil Cactus

Creosote Bush, a Desert Survivor

Data presentation in Santa Catalina Mountains plant study misleading

Desert Tobacco, a pretty but poisonous desert plant Desert Ironwood with video

Desert Mistletoe

Edible Desert Plants – Barrel Cactus Fruit

Guayacán a pretty flowering tree

Jojoba oil, good on the outside, bad on the inside

Joshua Trees of the Mohave Desert

Limberbush or blood of the dragon

A London Rocket in my yard

Mesquite Trees Provide Food and a Pharmacy

More on Mesquite

Night-blooming Cereus cactus

Oak trees of the Sonoran Desert Region

Ocotillos and the Boojum

Palo Verde Trees Will Turn the Desert Golden

Sacred Datura – pretty, poisonous, and hallucinogenic

Saguaro Cactus Icon of the Sonoran Desert

Should the Acuna cactus receive Federal protection?

Spectacular flowers of the Red Torch Cactus

The Old Man and the Totem Pole

Tucson invaded by popcorn flowers

Yuccas provide food, fiber, and soap