Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Malacothrix glabrata, Smooth Desertdandelion

Smooth Desertdandelion blooms from March to July across in large geographic range. Flowers are pale yellow with ligulae flowers extending from others. Malacothrix glabrata Smooth Desertdandelion is a native annual flower whose outer phyllaries are narrowly linear as in the photograph. Malacothrix glabrata Smooth Desertdandelion or Desert Dandelion as it is also called grows in elevations up to 6,000 feet or so. Plants may grow erect or ascending. Malacothrix glabrataSmooth Desertdandelion is common and abundant on plains and mesas; it prefers coarse soils in open desert locations. The white flowers in the photograph are Esteve’s Pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides. Malacothrix glabrata

Scientific Name: Malacothrix glabrata
Common Name: Smooth Desertdandelion
Also Called: Desert Dandelion, Smooth Desert Dandelion
Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family
Synonyms: (Malacothrix californica var. glabrata)
Status: Native
Duration: Annual
Size: Up to 16 inches or so.
Growth Form: Forb/herb; plants ascending to erect; mostly glabrous, some glaucous; plants branched above the base.
Leaves: Green; basal leaves are not fleshy; leaves pinnately divided, mostly oblong-oblanceolate.
Flower Color: Yellow, pale yellow, sometimes white; flowers mostly solitary in cyme-like clusters; flowers with long peduncles; outer phyllaries lanceolate to linear; glabrous or short white-hairy; ligules of outermost flowers generally exserted.
Flowering Season: March to June; March to July in California.
Elevation: Below 6,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Common and abundant on plains and mesas; coarse soils, open areas or among shrubs in desert habitats, often in creosote bush communities, foothill woodlands.

Recorded Range: Smooth Desertdandelion is found mostly in the southwestern United States; AZ, CA, ID, NM, NV, OR, UT. This species is also native to Baja California and Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Malacothrix glabrata.

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

Genus Information: In North America there are 20 species and 28 accepted taxa overall for Malacothrix. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 21 accepted species names and a further 22 of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 8 species of genus, California has 16 species, Nevada has 6 species, New Mexico has 4 species, Texas has 2 species, Utah has 5 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Malacothrix glabrata is the desert's version of the common dandelion growing in the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran deserts. Its color is actually a pale yellow and the vegetative parts are mostly smooth or glabrous. With heavy winter rains this species is found in large carpets of yellow flowers.

Malacothrix glabrata has been used for medicinal purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Apache, White Mountain Drug, Blood Medicine; Roots used as a blood medicine.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 04/18/2017, updated format 10/10/2017
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 04/18/2017)
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 04/18/2017).
    W.S. Davis 2017. Malacothrix glabrata, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 18, 2017.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 04/18/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    W. S. DavisFNA | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae | Malacothrix 7. Malacothrix glabrata (A. Gray ex D. C. Eaton) A. Gray in A. Gray et al., Syn. Fl. N. Amer. 1(2): 422. 1884; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed 04/18/2017).