Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Palafoxia arida var. arida, Desert Palafox

Scientific Name: Palafoxia arida var. arida, Desert Palafox
Common Name: Desert Palafox

Also Called: Desert Needle, Spanish Needles

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Palafoxia linearis)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: 3 to 5 feet (90-150 cm) .

Growth Form: Forb/herb; taproot; stems rough to the touch (scabrid) to nearly smooth (glabrous); distal stems may have small stipules (stipulate) glands (glandular hair).

Leaves: Green, gray-green, almost white (canescent); alternate along stem; linear or lanceolate; margins entire.

Flower Color: White, light pink or flesh colored; (flowering stems cylindric; heads disk florets only, with 5 to 40 heads, heads tubular (cylindric) measuring about .75 to 1.1 inches (2-3 cm) and surrounded by long pointed phyllaries; which are rough to the touch (scabrid) and may have small stipules (stipule) glands (glands); fruit a cypsela The fruit is often mistaken for an achene.

Flowering Season: February to November (late winter early spring through summer)

Elevation: Sea Level to 2,000 feet (0-1,000 m)

Habitat Preferences: Sandy plains, mesas, washes, dunes; creosote-bush scrub community.

Recorded Range: Desert Palafox is native to both the Mojave and Sonoran Desert Eco-regions of California and the southwestern United States (AZ, NV, UT) and Mexico (Baja California, Sonora).

North America & US County Distribution Map for Palafoxia arida var. arida.

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

Genus Information: In North America there are 11 species and accepted taxa overall for genus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 12 accepted species names and a further 17 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus Palafoxia. P. linearis is a Mexican species

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah each have 1 species of Palafoxia, New Mexico has 2 species and Texas has 7 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

There are 2 sub-species in Palafoxia arida, Desert Palafox
Palafoxia arida var. gigantea, Giant Spanish Needle, (AZ, CA);
Palafoxia arida var. arida, Desert Palafox, (AZ, CA, NV, UT).

Comments: Desert Palafox was originally classified as Palafoxia linearis which is a Mexican species also called Desert Palafox, but one that does not reach as far north. Perhaps additional research will provide insight into the relationship between these two species, if in fact they are separate species.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Giant Spanish Needles, Palafoxia arida var. gigantea.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Insects may feed from the florets of Desert Palafox.

The genus Palafoxia is in honor of perhaps Josè Rebolledo de Palafox y Melzi (1776-1847), Duke of Saragossa. However, a paper published by Hervè M. Burdetin suggests that the first choice name was originally to honor and commemorate Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (1600-1659), who was a bishop and founder of the University of Mexico. The paper further suggests this is so because the other Palafox, Josè Regolledo de Palafox y Melzi became a national hero and the attribution was transferred to him.

The species epithet "arida" means "growing in dry places" or "dry land".

Ethnobotany: Cahuilla used it to make a yellow dye.

Date Profile Completed: 02/21/2020
Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California; as Palafoxia linearis.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 02/21/2020) for Palafoxia
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 02/21/2020).
FNA 2006, Shreve and Wiggins 1964, Kearny and Peebles 1979, Editor: A. Hazelton 2015, from SEINet Field Guide - (accessed 02/21/2020).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet - (accessed 02/21/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
David J. Keil 2012, Palafoxia arida var. arida, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=8000, accessed on February 20, 2020.
David J. Keil 2012, Palafoxia arida var. gigantea, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=8001, accessed on February 20, 2020.
John L. Strother,FNA | Family List |FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae | Palafoxia ; 5. Palafoxia arida B. L. Turner & M. I. Morris, MadroƱo. 23: 79. 1975.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
'Palafoxia arida', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 March 2018, 07:16 UTC, [accessed 21 February 2020]
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 02/03/2020)