Desert Rose: Types, and Where Are Desert Roses Found

Desert rose is the colloquial name given to rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains. The 'petals' are crystals flattened on the C crystallographic axis, fanning open in radiating flattened crystal clusters.

Desert rose is a mineral formation that takes the shape of a rose. It is made up of gypsum or baryte crystals that have been deposited in a circular pattern around sand grains. Desert roses typically form in arid desert regions, where the evaporation of water leaves behind the minerals.

Desert roses are crystals which usually take the form of rose petal. They have definite crystal shapes, and enclose sand grains. A gypsum rosette is not a rose at all, it is a mineral which crystalizes in a unique rosette growth pattern.

Desert Rose Types, Uses, and Where are Desert Roses found?
Natural Desert Roses. Large cluster of Desert Rose crystals, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Credit: CrystalMiner

Some even form large clusters comprised of many small rosette crystals which are the color of sand and usually brown. In order for gypsum rosettes to form they must have an arid environment, a large source of CaSO₄(calcium sulfate), and a seasonal fluctuation of water. In terms of geological time gypsum rosettes form very rapidly in that they form in tens to hundreds of years. This would explain their abundance across the world.

How Do Desert Rose Form

Desert roses form when water evaporates from a shallow salt basin. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind dissolved minerals, such as gypsum or baryte. These minerals then crystallize into thin, blade-like crystals. The crystals grow in a circular pattern around sand grains, which are trapped in the center of the formation.

There are two typical forms of rosettes found
  • In more shallow regions is an amber colored compact ball of intergrown crystals with small, thin blades pointing out from the core seems to be the standard.. Sometimes large transparent amber blades protrude out of this core producing spectacular specimens.

  • In deeper layers, the crystals in the rosette are larger, more distinct and blocky. The color in these specimens are typically yellow, but can also be colorless. Large blades protruding from these rosettes are also blocky.

In both forms, some of the large blades may have clay or a rock included. All the crystals are fluorescent and phosphorescent, glowing a pale white under ultraviolet light.

Gypsum Rosettes
Gypsum Rosettes Crystals from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Credit: GEODE

Desert Roses Types

Types of Desert Roses, classified by the mineral they are composed of:

Gypsum Rose: This is the most common type of Desert Rose, and it is made up of gypsum crystals. Gypsum is a soft, white mineral that is often used to make plaster and drywall. Gypsum Roses are typically white, brown, or beige in color, and they have sharper crystal edges than other types of Desert Roses.

Baryte Rose: This type of Desert Rose is made up of baryte crystals, which are also known as barite. Baryte is a harder, heavier mineral than gypsum, and it is often used in drilling fluids and as a weighting agent in paints. Baryte Roses are typically red, brown, or yellow in color, and they have more rounded crystal edges than Gypsum Roses.

Celestine Rose: Formed from celestine crystals, which are similar to gypsum but have a sky-blue color.

Sand Rose: Not a true Desert Rose, but a similar formation made of sand grains cemented together by calcite or other minerals.

Sahara Desert Rose
Large Baryte Desert Rose cluster from Tunisia.
Photo: Past Impressions Crystal

Where Are Desert Rose Crystals Found

The rosette crystal habit tends to occur when the crystals form in arid sandy conditions, such as the evaporation of a shallow salt basin. The crystals form a circular array of flat plates, giving the rock a shape similar to a rose blossom. 

Desert roses are found in arid regions around the world, including the Sahara Desert, the Namib Desert, and the Mojave Desert. The largest desert roses in the world are found in the Sahara Desert, where they can grow up to several feet in diameter.

Size and Color of Desert Roses


Range: They can vary significantly in size, from tiny, pebble-sized formations (less than 1 cm) to large, multi-pound clusters spanning several feet.

Factors influencing size: The duration of crystal growth, availability of mineral resources, and specific environmental conditions all play a role in determining their final size.


Palette: Desert Rose colors are primarily influenced by impurities trapped within the crystal lattice during their formation. This leads to a wide and diverse range, including:

White: Pure gypsum crystals often appear white or translucent.

Red and Brown: Iron oxides contribute to various shades of red and brown, often the most common colors.

Black: Impurities like manganese can create dark, almost black Desert Roses.

Other Colors: Less common colors like yellow, green, and even blue can occur due to specific minerals present.

desert rose cluster
Large selenite desert rose cluster from Mexico

What Are the Uses of Desert Rose Crystals

Desert Rose crystals, with their captivating rose-like formations and diverse colors, have garnered various uses beyond their undeniable aesthetic appeal. Here's a closer look at the different ways these unique geological wonders are employed:

Home Decor: Their intricate shapes and vibrant hues make them stunning additions to any space, adding a touch of natural elegance to living rooms, offices, and even gardens.

Jewelry: Smaller, polished Desert Roses can be crafted into unique and eye-catching jewelry pieces like pendants, earrings, and bracelets. However, due to their softness, careful handling is crucial.

Souvenirs: They are popular souvenirs for tourists, serving as a reminder of the desert's beauty and geological wonders.

Healing Properties: Some believe Desert Roses possess healing properties and use them in meditation or crystal healing practices. However, it's important to remember that there's no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Spiritual Significance: In some cultures, Desert Roses symbolize abundance, prosperity, and fertility due to their resemblance to blooming flowers.

Facts About Desert Rose Crystals

  • The largest desert rose ever found was 10 inches in diameter.
  • Desert roses can take hundreds of years to form.
  • Desert roses are sometimes called "sand roses" or "selenite roses."
  • Desert roses are said to bring good luck and prosperity.

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