Mojave Aster

Xylorhiza tortifolia

Desert Aster


Sonoran, Great Basin and Mojave deserts of southeastern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and western Arizona.


Sandy or rocky desert slopes and canyons between 2,000 and 5,500 feet.


Many purple-to-lavender narrow rays surround yellow disks with the overall flowerhead growing up to 2 inches in diameter. While they usual bloom in spring between March and May, Mojave aster sometimes flowers in the fall as well.


This member of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae, formerly Compositae) is a shrubby perennial growing up to 30 inches high. It contains many long, gray-green stems with lanceolate, hairy, 3-inch leaves growing from the base. The stems tend to remain leafless near the top. Each plant may bear as many as 20 flowers.

After wet winters, it is common to see many black caterpillars with gray and orange stripes on the foliage of the Mojave aster. These are usually the larvae of the desert checkerspot (Charidryras neumoegeni) seeking nectar before transforming into a small orange butterfly interrupted by narrow black lines and spots.

Xylorhiza tortifolia

The Mojave aster is sometimes called the "Mohave aster" or "desert aster." Its nomenclature is further confused by the fact that many texts give it a taxanomic classification of Machaeranthera tortifolia.. The most recent revision (1996) of The Jepson Manual refers to the Xylorhiza genus as "DESERT-ASTER" and Xylorhiza tortifolia v. tortifolia as the "MOJAVE-ASTER."

-- A.R Royo

More Wildflowers

We have an online wildflower field guide that is designed to help you identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region and common name. The pictures are sized to work on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and similar devices. With your iPod or phone you will easily be able to identify wildflowers while in the desert. Links for downloads are on the bottom of the Wildflower Field Guide page.

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.

Mojave Desert Wildflowers - This book is the standard by which all other wildflower books are measured. The author, Jon Mark Stewart, has combined super photography with concise information. This book has an entire color page for each wildflower covered, with a discussion of the wildflower. 210 pages with 200 color photos. More...

What's Blooming Now - Check the Wildflower Reports

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