top of page


Richard S. Felger has published extensively on desert plants, their uses, and new food crops around the world. His field of expertise is the flora and economic botany of the Sonoran Desert region. He has studied the relationship between the Comcaac (Seri Indians), the Yoeme (Yaquis), and others regional Native Americans and the plants and animals in their region of northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States.

"Ethnobiology with Dr. Richard Felger (1934-2020). The desert was both his teacher and his poetry,"

a film by Peter Blystone.

Richard Felger passionately linked cultural and ecological diversity, and defined edible ethnobotany through a lifetime of research and writing.

During studies for his early classic work, People of the Desert and Sea, the Seri (Comcaac) Indians named him “The guy who cuts the tops off plants.”

In later years, Felger worked with others to translate his plant knowledge in addressing climate change and world hunger through agricultural independence for arid regions.

Selected ETHNOBIOLOGY publications by Richard Felger

PLANTS & ANIMALS IN THE YOEME WORLD: Ethnoecology of the Yaquis
of Sonora and Arizona

by Richard Stephen Felger &

Felipe Silvestre Molina

Special Publication of

the Desert Laboratory,
University of Arizona, Tucson

available Fall 2021,

est. 550 pp., open access

People of the Desert and Sea: Ethnobotany of the Seri Indians

 1985, reprinted 1990, 2016

REVIEW: "People of the Desert and Sea is one of those books that should not have to wait a generation or two to be considered a classic. A feast for the eye as well as the mind, this ethnobotany of the Seri Indians of Sonora represents the most detailed exploration of plant use by a hunting-and-gathering people to date. . . . Scholarship in the best sense of the term—precise without being pedantic, exhaustive without exhausting its readers."

—Journal of Arizona History


& BOOK CHAPTERS available at


Felger, Susan Davis Carnahan, José Jesús Sánchez-Escalante, Michael Bogan, Alberto Búrquez-Montijo, and Felipe S. Molina. 2016. The Desert Edge: Flora and Ethnobotany of the Guaymas Region of Sonora, Mexico. The Plant Press, The Arizona Native Plant Society, Vol. 39 (1): 1–6. Open access.

Felger. 2014. Foreword, pages XIII to XV in Cathy Moser Marlett. Shells on a Desert Shore: Mollusks in the Seri World. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Austin, D.F. & Felger. 2008. Sichuan Peppers and the Etymology of Fagara (Rutaceae). Economic Botany 62(4): 567–573. 

Felger. 2007. Living resources at the center of the Sonoran Desert: Native American plant and animal utilization. Pages 147–192, in Felger & Broyles, editors, Dry Borders: Great Natural Reserves of the Sonoran Desert. Univ. of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 

Felger. 2007. Indigenous harvests: Sonoran Desert plants and animals recorded by Kino and Manje. Sonorensis. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Open access.

Felger. 2006. Sonoran Desert cornucopia: plants and animals in Native American Culture. Pages 30–31 in E. Ezcurra, editor, Global Deserts Outlook. United Nations Environmental Program, Nairobi.

Felger, W.J. Nichols, & J.A. Seminoff. 2005. Sea Turtles in Northwestern Mexico: Conservation, Ethnobiology, and Desperation. Pages 405-424, in J.-L.E. Cartron, G. Ceballos, & Felger, editors, Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Conservation in Northern Mexico. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. 

Bowen, T., Felger, & R J. Hills. 2004. Chollas, circles, and Seris: did Seri Indians plant cactus at circle 6? Desert Plants 20(2): 26–35.

Yetman, D. & Felger. 2002. Ethnoflora of the Guarijíos. Pages 174–230, in Yetman, Guarijíos of the Sierra Madre: the Hidden People of Northwestern Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Felger. 2000. The Seris and the Guy Who Cuts the Tops Off Plants. “Seri Hands, a special issue,” Journal of the Southwest 42: 521–543. 

Reina-Guerrero, A. L.,, T. R. Van Devender, D. Yetman, and Felger. 2000. Usos etnobótanicos de las cactáceas en Sonora, México. Pages 191–202 in D Vásquez del Castillo, M. Ortegas N., R. A. Corella B., and R. A. Castillo G. (eds.) II Simposium Internacional sobre la Utilización y Aprovechamiento de la Flora Silvestre de Zonas Aridas, Departmento de Investigaciones Científicas y Technologicas de la Universidad de Sonora, Hermosillo.

Felger. 1992. Recursos bióticos del Desierto de Sonora. Pages 91–97, in J.L. Moreno, editor, Ecología, Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente en Sonora. Secretaría de Infraestructura Urbana y Ecología & El Colegio de Sonora, Hermosillo.

Felger. 1990. The Seri Indians and their herpetafauna. Sonoran Herpetologist 3(5): 41–44.

Felger. 1990. Los Indios Seri, Caguamas y

el Desierto. (Centro Intercultural de Estudios

de Desiertos y Océanos) Los Indios Seri, el Mar y el Desierto. Noticias del CEDO 3(1): 21–24; 3(2):20–23.

Felger, F.A. Molina, & M.B. Moser. 1989. Cactus songs (Seri & Yaqui). The Plants Press 13 (1): 8. 

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1987. Sea turtles in Seri Indian Culture. Environment Southwest (San Diego Museum of Natural History) no. 519: 18–21.

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1985, reprinted 1991, 2016. People of the Desert and Sea: Ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 480 pages.

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1984. Use and knowledge of legumes (Mimosoideae) by the Seri Indians of Sonora, Mexico. Bulletin of the International Group for the Study of Mimosoideae 12: 78–82.

Felger, M.B. Moser, & E.W. Moser. 1983. The desert tortoise in Seri Indian culture. Pages 113–120 in Desert Tortoise Council, proceedings of 1981 symposium. Desert Tortoise Council, Long Beach, CA.

Cliffton, K., D.O. Cornejo, & Felger. 1982. Sea turtles of the Pacific coast of Mexico. Pages 199–209, in K. Bjorndal, editor, Biological Conservation of Sea Turtles. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.  

Felger, M.B. Moser, & E.W. Moser. 1980. Seagrasses in Seri Indian culture. Pages 260–276, in R.C. Phillips, & C.P. McRoy, editors, Handbook of Seagrass Biology, an Ecosystem Perspective. Garland STPM Press, New York.

Felger. 1977. Mesquite in Indian Cultures of Southwestern North America. Pages 150–176 in B.B. Simpson, ed. Mesquite: its biology in two desert scrub ecosystems. Dowden, Hutchinson, and Ross. Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Sheridan, T.E. & Felger. 1977. Indian Utilization of Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Northwestern Mexico: the Spanish Colonial Record. The Kiva 43 (2): 89–92.

Felger, K. Cliffton & P.J. Regal. 1976. Winter Dormancy in Sea Turtles: Independent Discovery and Exploitation in the Gulf of California by Two Local Cultures. Science 191: 283–285.

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1976. Seri Indian food plants: desert subsistence without agriculture. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 5(1): 13–27. 

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1974. Columnar cacti in Seri Indian culture. The Kiva 39 (3-4): 257–275.

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1974. Seri Indian pharmacopoeia. Economic Botany 28 (4): 414–436. 

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1973. Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in the Gulf of California: discovery of its nutritional value by the Seri Indians. Science 181: 355–356.

Henrickson, J. & Felger. 1973. Microanalysis and identification of a basket fragment from Sonora, Mexico. The Kiva 38 (3-4): 173–177.

Felger & M.B. Moser. 1971. Seri use of mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana). The Kiva 37 (3-4): 53–60.

bottom of page