Desert Sunflower

Geraea canescens

Field of desert sunflowers

Range

Sonoran and Mojave deserts of southeastern California to southwestern Utah and south to Arizona and northwestern Mexico.

Habitat

Sandy, barren desert flats and roadsides below 3,000 feet.

close up of desert sunflower

Flowers

Two-inch, golden-yellow flower heads appear at the ends of branches. Flowers are composed of 10 to 20 oblong rays surrounding the golden disk. Blooms February through May and sometimes, with moist summers, again in October and November.

Description

The desert sunflower is a slender, hairy plant that grows 1 to 3 feet high. The sparse, gray-green, ovate, leaves grow to 3 inches long and have toothed margins. "Geraea" is derived from the Greek word for "old man" -- "geraios" -- which refers to the white hairs on the seed-like, flat fruits.

The flower of this colorful annual is popular with bees and birds, while the seeds are an important food source for birds and rodents. After a spring rainfall, the desert sunflower can be found in abundance along desert roadways and is common along with sand verbena and dune evening primrose.

Photo tips

Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.

-- A.R. Royo


Wildflower Season - Videos
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2009 Wildflowers video

2008 Anza Borrego Desert State Park
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