Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Stephanomeria tenuifolia, Narrowleaf Wirelettuce

Narrowleaf Wirelettuce may have white, pink, rose or light blue flowers. The flowers are solitary with 5 lobed and strap-shaped (ligulate). Plants bloom early summer from May or June to fall September. Stephanomeria tenuifolia Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is one of several species that are difficult to distinguish from one another. One helpful characteristic is the color and form of the feathery-like plume (pappi) that sits above the seed. Plants are found in elevations from 1,00 to 9,800 feet (300-3,000 m). Stephanomeria tenuifolia Narrowleaf Wirelettuce has both lower (basal) and stem (cauline) leaves. The leaves are linear to filiform and the edges are smooth or toothed. Plants prefer are wide range of habitat types across they’re large geographic distribution. Stephanomeria tenuifolia

Scientific Name: Stephanomeria tenuifolia
Common Name: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce

Also Called: Narrow Leaved Stephanomeria, Narrow Leaved Wire-Lettuce

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: ([Lygodesmia wrightii, Ptiloria tenuifolia, Stephanomeria minor, Stephanomeria minor var. minor, Stephanomeria minor var. myrioclada, Stephanomeria minor var. uintaensis, Stephanomeria minor var. uintensis, Stephanomeria myrioclada, Stephanomeria tenuifolia var. myrioclada, Stephanomeria wrightii)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 8 to 28 inches (20-70 cm), usually about 16 inches (40 cm) or so.

Growth Form: Sub-shrub or forb/herb; plants glabrous with milky sap; rhizomes and a thick woody root crown; stems 1 to 5, erect to ascending, inter-node lengths and branching angles variable - relatively densely to sparsely branched, freely branching into slender mostly straight branchlets.

Leaves: Green; basal and stem leaves; basal leaves linear to filiform; margins entire or toothed; stem leaves (cauline) much reduced and bract-like; leaves withered or dead at flowering; all leaves hairless.

Flower Color: White, light pink, light rose, light blue; ligulate flowers solitary; flowering stem (peduncle) has bracts pressed closely but not fused (appressed) forming a cup-shaped structure called a calyculi; fruit a smooth grooved tan cypsela with a pappi of 15 to 25 bright white feathery-like bristles wholly (plumose).

Flowering Season: May or June to September

Elevation: 1,000 to 9,800 feet (300-3,000 m).

Habitat Preferences: Stephanomeria tenuifolia has the widest distribution of any species of Stephanomeria; volcanic, granitic and sandstone outcrops, rocky ridges and slopes, bases of cliffs.

Recorded Range: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is found mostly in the west half of the United States in: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA, WY and also in BC, SK, Canada as well as Baja California and northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Stephanomeria tenuifolia as Stephanomeria minor var. minor.

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 17 species for Stephanomeria. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 18 accepted species names and a further 29 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Stephanomeria.
The genus Stephanomeria was published by Thomas Nuttall, (1786-1859) in 1841.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 6 species of Stephanomeria, California has 11 species, Nevada has 7 species, New Mexico and Utah each have 5 species and Texas has 4 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

Comments: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is undergoing taxonomic changes and is also described as S. minor var. minor. As with others in the southwest, Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is one of several members of the genus Stephanomeria with similar form and dimensions of its stems and branches and it is often difficult to distinguish from others. Again, as with other species in the southwest you get a good idea just how variable this species is when you note the synonyms and vast geographic range.

Brownplume Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria pauciflora is vary similar to Narrowleaf Wirelettuce which is less woody at the base, has glands on the flowering stalk (peduncle) and the seeds have a pappus of white feathery-like bristles from top to bottom.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Brownplume Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria pauciflora and Small Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria exigua.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is important to and attracts large numbers of Native bees.
For excellent information on invertebrate conservation visit The Xerces Society.

The genus Stephanomeria is from the Greek word "stephane" meaning "wreath or crown" and "meros" meaning "division"; the references are a reference to the pappus on the cypsela fruit. The genus Stephanomeria was published by Thomas Nuttall, (1786-1859) in 1841.

The species epithet "tenuifolia" means finely-divided, slender leaves. The pre-fix "tenui" means slender.


Date Profile Completed: 02/27/2020
Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, 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 02/24/2020) for Stephanomeria
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 02/23/2020).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 02/25/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
L. D. Gottlieb, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae | Stephanomeria ; 12. Stephanomeria tenuifolia ; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
L.D. Gottlieb 2012, Stephanomeria tenuifolia, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=5164, accessed on February 25, 2020.
FNA 2006, Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Heil et al. 2013, Allred and Ivey 2012; Editor: S. Buckley 2010, A. Hazelton 2017, from SEINet Field Guide (accessed 02/24/2020).
Don Knoke, David Giblin; Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Stephanomeria tenuifolia, wire lettuce, narrowleaf stephanomeria, University of Washington Burke Museum (ROWO) - (accessed 02/25/2020)
Wikipedia contributors, 'Stephanomeria tenuifolia', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 September 2018, 20:09 UTC, [accessed 25 February 2020]
Wikipedia contributors, 'Thomas Nuttall', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 September 2019, 06:04 UTC, [accessed 24 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 02/24/2020)