Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Thymophylla acerosa, Pricklyleaf Dogweed

Pricklyleaf Dogweed has showy lemon-yellow flower, small but attractive. Note flowers are both ray and disk. Thymophylla acerosa Pricklyleaf Dogweed bracts surrounds floral heads have visible translucent oil glands as shown in the photo.  Thymophylla acerosa Pricklyleaf Dogweed leaves are green and the blades are long, needle-shaped and pointed as shown. Thymophylla acerosa Pricklyleaf Dogweed has several local common names that include Fetid Marigold. A reference to the oil glands which emit a sharp pungent odor. Thymophylla acerosa Pricklyleaf Dogweed blooms from March to October or year-round with adequate water and prefers elevations between 3,500 to 6,000 feet (1,068-1,829 m) or more. Thymophylla acerosa

Scientific Name: Thymophylla acerosa
Common Name: Pricklyleaf Dogweed

Also Called: American Pricklyleaf, Fetid Marigold, Pickleleaf Dogweed, Prickleaf Dogweed, Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Scrubby Dogweed, Texas Dogweed, (Spanish: Contrayerba, Contra Hierba)

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Dyssodia acerosa)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 4 to 9 inches (10-23 cm)

Growth Form: Forb/herb or subshrub; aromatic; generally woody at the base with multiple branches from base; plants upright (erect) or spreading (spreading); plants may be covered with small soft erect hairs (villous) or (puberulous) or hairless (glabrous).

Leaves: Green; blades long needle-shaped (acerose) or filiform, sharp pointed; generally arranged oppositely along stem; translucent oil glands visible, oil glands emit sharp pungent odor.

Flower Color: Yellow, lemon-yellow flowers, flowers small; flora heads with both ray and disk florets; bracts or phyllaries fused (see photo above), visible translucent oil glands; fruit is a cypsela with a scaly pappus.

Flowering Season: March to October or year-round with adequate water

Elevation: 3,500 to 6,000 feet (1,068-1,829 m) or more

Habitat Preferences: Dry rocky slopes, sandy soils, mesas, low rolling hills; limestone soils; desert scrub to pinyon-juniper.

Recorded Range: Pricklyleaf Dogweed is primarily found in the southwestern United States in, AZ, NM, NV, TX and UT. It is also found scattered in northern and north east Mexico. Most heavily populated in AZ, NM and TX; small populations in southern UT and southeast NV.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Thymophylla acerosa.

North America species range map for Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa:

Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa: 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 8 species and 13 accepted taxa overall for Thymophylla. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 13 accepted species names and a further 30 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Thymophylla.

The genus Thymophylla was published in 1816 by Mariano Lagasca y Segura, (1776-1839).

The genus Thymophylla was previously included in the larger genus Dyssodia, which was published in 1801 by Antonio José (Joseph) Cavanilles, (1745-1804).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 3 species of Thymophylla, California has 1 species, Nevada has 2 species, New Mexico has 4 species, Texas has 7 species, Utah has 2 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

Comments: Pricklyleaf Dogweed or Fetid Marigold has its major population centers in Arizona, New Mexico and northwest Texas suggesting that this species is more closely aligned with the Chiricahua Desert. An interesting observation as its closest relative Fiveneedle Pricklyleaf, which is similar looking, is more aligned with the Mojave Desert.

As one of the common names "Fetid Marigold" might suggest, Dogweeds often have strong odors, generally thought to be more offensive than pleasant. The common name “Pricklyleaf” is often used for members of the Thymophylla genus.

In Southwest Desert Flora see similar species, Fiveneedle Pricklyleaf, Thymophylla pentachaeta which smaller and has more linear leaves, divided or lobed leaves and is slightly larger.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa has small showy daisy-like attractive flowers, the flowers, their seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of food, nectar and protection through cover.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa has small showy daisy-like attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited or used by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, native bees and other insects in search of nectar, food or shelter and protection.

The genus “Thymophylla” (Thymophyl'la:) is from the Greek thymos, "thyme," and phyllon, "leaf," meaning "thyme-leaved." The genus Thymophylla was published in 1816 by Mariano Lagasca y Segura, (1776-1839).

The genus Thymophylla was previously included in the larger genus Dyssodia, which was published in 1801 by Antonio José (Joseph) Cavanilles, (1745-1804).

The genus “Dyssodia” (Dysso'dia:) is from the Greek dysodia for "a disagreeable odor."

The species epithet acerosa (acero'sa:) means sharp, or with stiff needles.

Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa is used as a body bath for fevers and mixed with tobacco by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
  • Isleta Drug, Febrifuge; Decoction of leaves used as a body bath for fevers.
  • Keres, Western Other, Smoke Plant; Leaves mixed with tobacco for the flavor.

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

    Date Completed: 8/16/2014; updated 12/01/2020
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, as Dyssodia acerosa.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed 12/01/2020.
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;; accessed 12/01/2020.
    John L. Strother, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteracea; Thymophylla, 4. Thymophylla acerosa (de Candolle) Strother, Sida. 11: 376. 1986.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet; accessed 12/01/2020. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Michael J. Plagens; Arizonensis; Field Guide; Sonoran Desert Flora; Asteraceae, Pricklyleaf Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa; accessed 12/01/2020.
    FNA 2006, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Heil et al. 2013; Editors: S.Buckley 2010, F.S.Coburn 2015, A.Hazelton 2017; from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; accessed 12/01/2020.
    Kleiman, Russ, Dr., Associate Botanist, Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium; Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness; Thymophylla acerosa, (Spiny Dogweed, Prickle Leaf Dogweed; (accessed 12/01/2020) Presented in Association with the Western New Mexico University Department of Natural Sciences
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    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 12/01/2020)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved 01 December 2020].