Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce

Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce, Southwest Desert Flora Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce, Southwest Desert Flora Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce, Southwest Desert Flora    Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce, Southwest Desert Flora Stephanomeria exigua, Small Wirelettuce, Southwest Desert Flora    Weeds of the Northeast, Southern Weed Science Society, and Weeds of the West

Scientific Name: Stephanomeria exigua
Common Name: Small Wirelettuce

Also Called: Skeletonplant, Wire Lettuce

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: 2 feet or more.

Growth Form: Forb/herb, subshrub; thin single stems, branching; may be smooth (glabrous) or slightly hairy; with milky sap.

Leaves: Green, light green; alternate; linear or lobed to pinnatifid (pinnately cut) below, leaves above (cauline) smaller or much reduced (bractlike); withered at flowering.

Flower Color: White, variable pink or rose; flowers are all strap-shaped (ligulate) and of the same size; fruit is a 5 ribbed achene with plumose bristles.

Flowering Season: April to September

Elevation: 2,000 to 8,000 feet

Habitat Preferences: Plains, mesas and hillsides, disturbed areas.

Recorded Range: Found in the southwest and the southern part of the northwest in the United States in AZ, CA, CO, ID, NM, NV, NY, OR, TX, UT, WY. Also occurs in Baja California. Most heavily represented in southeast California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona; In Arizona, Small Wirelettuce is recorded throughout most of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Stephanomeria exigua.

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: 17 species in Stephanomeria in the United States west of the Mississippi River. 6 species throughout Arizona. 5 Sub-species in Stephanomeria exigua:
Stephanomeria exigua ssp. carotifera, Whiteplume Wirelettuce, CA only;
Stephanomeria exigua ssp. coronaria, Whiteplume Wirelettuce, CA, ID, NV, OR;
Stephanomeria exigua ssp. deanei, Deane's Wirelettuce, CA only;
Stephanomeria exigua ssp. exigua, Small Wirelettuce, AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, NY, TX, UT, WY
Stephanomeria exigua ssp. macrocarpa, Whiteplume Wirelettuce, CA only.

Comments: Small Wirelettuce is an inconspicuous spindly and bland looking subshrub usually growing among other stronger shrubs and most noticeable if for no other reason than because of the small white or pinkish flowers readily apparent. Growing among other shrubs undoubtedly provides the plant with some shade and support.

They are not stand-out or otherwise showy plants as far as desert wildflowers go but their flowers are rather striking especially with the aid of a 10 power loop. Small Wirelettuce flowers somewhat resemble the flowers of Desert Chicory.

Date Profile Completed: 8/15/2014; updated 10/11/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search: (accessed 8/15/2014)
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles
1993, The Jepson Manual, Citation: (accessed 8/15/2014)
L. D. Gottlieb, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae | Stephanomeria, FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 Page 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 357, Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford. (accessed 8/15/2014)
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations,
New York Flora Association. 1990. Preliminary vouchered atlas of New York State flora, ed. 1. New York State Museum Institute, Albany.
Mitchell, R.S. (ed.). 1986. A checklist of New York State plants. Contributions of a Flora of New York State, Checklist III. New York State Bulletin No. 458. New York State Museum, Albany.