Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Baileya multiradiata, Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold has large showy bright yellow flowers solitary on naked stems. Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold has bracts or phyllaries surrounding the floral heads which are linear-lanceolate as shown in this photo. Note also that the bracts are covered in soft and woolly hairs. Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold has greenish-white, greenish-gray or even greenish-silver colored leaves. Note, that the leaves are covered with dense, fine grayish-white (tomentose) hairs. Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold has pretty showy yellow flowers atop a long stems (peduncles) 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm). Plants bloom from March to November and prefer elevations 1,500 to 5,000 feet (460-1,500 m). Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial to annual species and one of the more common yellow flowers over a wide range which blooms for long periods along roadsides in early spring sometimes through the fall. Baileya multiradiata

Scientific Name: Baileya multiradiata
Common Name: Desert Marigold

Also Called: Desert Baileya, Many-flowered Desert Marigold, Paper Daisy, Showy Desert Marigold; (Spanish: Hierba Amarilla)

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Baileya australis, Baileya multiradiata var. nudicaulis, Baileya multiradiata var. thurberi)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual, biennial or short lived perennial.

Size: 8 to 16 inches (20-40 cm) tall.

Growth Form: Forb/herb; forms clumps of mounding gray woolly plants covered with dense, fine grayish-white hairs (tomentose), branching at base; stems growing horizontally but turned or curving up (decumbent) (ascending); plants with soft and woolly covering hairs (floccose).

Leaves: Greenish-gray or silvery-green; mostly basal; woolly or covered with dense white or grayish-white down or wool (canescent); pinnately lobed with linear lobes.

Flower Color: Bright yellow; large, 1 or 2 inch (1.5-5 cm) showy, single solitary flowers; long flowering stems or peduncles 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) long; flower heads with both ray (34 to 55) and disk (100 +) florets (radiate), ray "petals" moderately to deeply 3-toothed; bracts or phyllaries surrounding heads linear-lanceolate; fruit is a cypsela.

Flowering Season: March to November

Elevation: 1,500 to 5,000 feet (460-1,500 m).

Habitat Preferences: Lower deserts, open sunny areas, sandy plains and mesas, gravelly washes, hillsides, dry soils, common along roadsides.

Recorded Range: Native to the southwestern United States; AZ, CA, NM, NV, TX, UT; also native to northern Mexico in the States of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Aguascalientes. Desert Marigold is found throughout most of Arizona.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Baileya multiradiata.

North American species range map for Baileya multiradiata:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North American species range map for Baileya multiradiata: Click image for full size map
Click image for full size map

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: Unknown
Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

Genus Information: In North America there are 3 species and 3 accepted taxa overall for Baileya. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 3 accepted species names with 8 infraspecific rank for the genus.
The genus Baileya was published by William Henry Harvey and Asa Gray in 1848.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California and Utah each have 3 species of Baileya, Nevada and New Mexico each have 2 species, Texas has 1 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

Comments: Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial to annual species and one of the more common yellow flowers over a wide range which blooms for long periods along roadsides in early spring sometimes through the fall. This species often grows in large clumps and has a distinctive look with several long, naked stems each topped with showy bright yellow flowers. Although found in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, Desert Marigold is considered more of a Mojave Desert species.

The common name Desert Marigold is mis-leading as this species is not even a relative of the true "Marigolds".

Comments: Desert Marigold is often used as a commercial landscape plant in the southwest by homeowners and often used as a roadside planting by state highway departments.

It is very similar to Woolly Desert Marigold, Baileya pleniradiata which is more of a fall bloomer. According to Flora of North America, both species can be observed in the same areas and hybrids have not been recorded. I would agree as I have seen many occurrences of each species and characteristics always appear distinct.

According to Arizona Flora, horses crop the flower heads off and "fatal poisoning of sheep and goats eating this plant on overgrazed ranges has been reported."

In Southwestern Desert Flora also see Woolly Desert Marigold, Baileya pleniradiata.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Seeds of Baileya multiradiata may likely be eaten by birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Desert Marigold is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of Native Bees. This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

In addition Desert Marigold and other "Daisy" type Asters may by visited by butterflies and other small insects.

The genus Baileya (Bai'leya:) is named in honor of Jacob Whitman Bailey (1811-1857), an early American West Point Military graduate. Mr. Bailey was one of the first scientists to use the microscope as a means of investigative work.
The genus Baileya was published by William Henry Harvey and Asa Gray in 1848.

The species epithet "multiradiata" (multi-:) a prefix indicating many and (radia'ta/radia'tum:) meaning spreading out like rays, usually the petals of florets; thus a reference to the many spreading ray petals.

Baileya multiradiata has been used by southwestern American indigenous peoples for the following;
  • Jemez Fiber, Building Material; Plant mixed with clay, used in making adobes and plant used in plaster.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Dermatological Aid; Plant rubbed under arms as deodorant.

  • See species account from Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 8/2/2012; updated 05/21/2020
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database for Baileya
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 05/21/2020).
    David J. Keil 2012, Baileya multiradiata, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=1622, accessed on May 21, 2020.
    M. W. Turner, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae; Baileya ; 1. Baileya multiradiata Harvey & A. Gray, Mem. Amer. Acad. Arts, n. s. 4: 106. 1849. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    FNA 2006, Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editors; L. Crumbacher 2011, S. Buckley 2010, F. S. Coburn 2014, A. Hazelton 2015
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Baileya multiradiata', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 February 2018, 11:37 UTC, [accessed 21 May 2020]
    Virginia Tech Dendrology; Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet 05/21/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin.
    Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 05/21/2020)