Desert Sunflower

Geraea canescens

Field of desert sunflowers


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


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

close up of desert sunflower


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.


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

For state wildflower reports click on link below

Arizona | California | Nevada | Texas

Back to main wildflower report page.

Mojave Desert Wildflowers book
200 color photos

Desert Plants & Wildflowers Index


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