Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Acourtia nana, Dwarf Desertpeony

Dwarf Desertpeony is a native herbaceous plant with small but beautiful flowers of pink, lavender and white. The plants bloom from March through June and sometimes later. Acourtia nana Dwarf Desertpeony, also called Desert Holly grows to about 10 inches or less and prefers elevations up to 6,000 feet. Acourtia nana Dwarf Desertpeony has single flower heads with phyllaries in 4 series, broadly ovate, tips pointed and with glandular margins. Acourtia nana Dwarf Desertpeony leaves are pale green, leathery, opposite, glabrous and scabrous. The leaves have broadly oval margins, spinulous and resembling unequal holly-type leaves. Note the leaves in the photo have conspicuous veins on both sides. Acourtia nana Dwarf Desertpeony is found in lower to middle deserts, desert scrub or chaparral communities, mesas, slopes, usually under bushes, gravel, sandstone and heavy clay or caliche soils. It is native to the southwestern U. S. and Mexico and is relatively rare found only in AZ, NM and TX. Acourtia nana

Scientific Name: Acourtia nana
Common Name: Dwarf Desertpeony
Also Called: Desert Holly
Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family
Synonyms: (Perezia nana)
Status: Native
Duration: Annual
Size: Small 6 to 10 inches.
Growth Form: Forb/herb, often single stem, plants usually dwarf.
Leaves: Green; pale green, leathery, opposite, glabrous, scabrous, cauline leaves sessile or with short petiole, sub-orbicular or broadly oval margins spinulose, resembling unequal holly-type leaves, leaf veins conspicuous on both sides.
Flower Color: Pink, lavender-pink or white; bilabiate disk florets only; flower heads solitary with 15 or more (24) florets; involucre is campanulate; phyllaries in 4 series, broadly ovate, phyllaries tips pointed, margin glandular; fruit an achene with a soft fluffy whitish-tan pappus.
Flowering Season: March to June, sometimes later.
Elevation: Up to 6,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Lower to middle deserts, desert scrub or chaparral communities, mesas, slopes, usually under bushes, gravel, sandstone and heavy clay or caliche soils.

Recorded Range: Acourtia nana is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. In the United States it is relatively rare found only in AZ, NM and TX. In Arizona it is found in much of the southern part of the state and Yavapai County. It is also well represented in New Mexico, less so in Texas where it is found primarily in the trans-Pecos and western Edwards Plateau. In Mexico it is native to (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Zacatecas).

North America & US County Distribution Map for Acourtia nana.

U.S. Weed Information: No data available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No data available.
Wetland Indicator: No data available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No data available.

Genus Information: In North America there are 5 species and 5 accepted taxa overall for Acourtia. World wide, The Plant List includes 84 accepted species names and includes a further 30 of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas each have 3 species of Acourtia, California, Nevada and Utah each have 1 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Dwarf Desertpeony is a small forb, relatively common in select areas where its herbage is slight often with only a few leaves per plant. Dwarf Desertpeony, or Desert Holly is often observed under the protection of bushes or trees. It has a pleasant fragrance reminiscent of violets.

According to Arizona Flora, the roots of this plant and also those of A. wrightii yield an acid (pipitzahoic) "which may be used in chemical analysis as an indicator of soil alkalinity"

The genus Acourtia was named in the 18th century in honor of amateur botanist Mary Elizabeth Catherine Gibbes A'Court (1792-1878).

In Southwest Desert Flora also see Thurber’s Desertpeony, Acourtia thurberi and Brownfoot or Wright’s Desertpeony, Acourtia wrightii.

Date Profile Completed: 8/27/2012; Updated, 07/25/2015, updated 09/02/2017
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, as Perezia nana.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search, (accessed 08/30/2017).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/30/2017).
Beryl B. Simpson, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae | Acourtia, 2. Acourtia nana (A. Gray) Reveal & R. M. King, Phytologia. 27: 230. 1973. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
McDougall 1973, Kearny and Peebles 1979, FNA 2006
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed 08/30/2017).
Thurber, George; JSTOR, Global Plants (accessed 09/01/2017).