Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Cryptantha micrantha, Redroot Cryptantha

Redroot Cryptantha has tiny white flowers with yellow centers. The flowering stalk is either along axils or is terminate; fruits are nutlets. Cryptantha micrantha Redroot Cryptantha blooms from March to June and grows at elevations from 500 to 7,000 feet. Taproot is generally red or purple, branches may be spreading to erect. Cryptantha micrantha Redroot Cryptantha has small green leaves, linear to narrowly oblanceolate and with short bristly hairs. Plants may grow up to 6 inches tall. Cryptantha micrantha Redroot Cryptantha is found mostly in the southwestern United States with spotty distribution. This species is also native to Baja California and northwestern Mexico. Cryptantha micrantha

Scientific Name: Cryptantha micrantha
Common Name: Redroot Cryptantha

Also Called: Greater Alley Cat's-Eye, Purpleroot Pick-me-Not, Purple-rooted Forget-me-Not, Redroot Catseye, Redroot Cryptantha (Spanish: Peluda (generic), Nievitas)

Family: Boraginaceae, Forget-Me-Not Family

Synonyms: (Eremocarya lepida, Eremocarya micrantha var. micrantha)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: Up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall, more or less.

Growth Form: Forb/herb; plants mostly wider than tall; taproots and lower parts of stems with red-purple dye; slender thread-like stems and branches, branching from mostly above; branching ascending or spreading to openly erect; plants covered with small appressed hairs (strigose).

Leaves: Green; leaf blades variable, linear or oblong to oblanceolate; leaves without attaching stalks (sessile); relatively few leaves and scattered along stem; hairs short-bristly; leaves crowded at base near the flowering stalk or inflorescence; leaves quite small, less than 1 mm wide by ⅛ to ⅓ inches (3-8 mm) long.

Flower Color: White, tiny flowers (corollas) funnelform with yellow secondary parts (appendage) in center; (inflorescence) 1 or 2 curving spikes not strongly resembling a scorpions tail (scorpioid) as with other Cryptantha species; fruit a nutlet.

Flowering Season: March to June; in CA var. "micrantha" blooms February to June.

Elevation: 500 to 7,000 feet (150-2,134 m).

Habitat Preferences: Desert flats, washes, sandy to fine-gravelly soils; Creosote bush communities; in California; Creosote Bush Scrub, Yellow Pine Forest, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, Coastal Sage Scrub.

Recorded Range: Redroot Cryptantha, is found mostly in the southwestern United States with spotty distribution; AZ, CA, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT. In AZ Redroot Cryptantha is scattered throughout the state. This species is also native to Baja California and northwest Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Cryptantha micrantha.

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 117 species and 117 accepted taxa overall for Cryptantha. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 179 accepted species names and a further 142 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 37 species of genus, California has 60 species, Nevada has 44 species, New Mexico has 23 species, Texas has 15 species, Utah has 55 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

The genus Cryptantha was published by Johann Georg Christian Lehmann in 1837.

There are 2 varieties in Redroot Cryptantha, Cryptantha micrantha:
Cryptantha micrantha var. lepida, (CA);
blooms March to August; 1,000 to 9,000 feet (300-2,800 m); habitat: mountain slopes, flats, valleys, granite-based gravelly soils, generally conifer forest, also chaparral, foothill woodland, Joshua-tree woodland;
Cryptantha micrantha var. micrantha, (AZ, CA, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT).
blooms February to June; below than 6,200 feet (1,900 m); habitat: desert flats, washes, sandy to fine-gravelly soils.

Comments: Members of the genus Cryptantha are collectively referred to as Cat’s Eyes or Popcorn Flowers. Cryptantha micrantha is one of over 100 species of Cryptantha found in the United States.

Cryptantha species have typically white flowers in spikes like a scorpions (scorpioid) tail. They are often difficult to identify in the field or lab and a close examination (10x loupe or dissecting scope) of the flowers and the small seeds or nutlets is usually required. Cryptantha micrantha is relatively easy to identify in the field with its red or purplish roots and a somewhat unusually small appearance and few leaves with bare stems.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see Bearded Cryptantha, Cryptantha barbigera, Gander's Cryptantha, Cryptantha ganderi, Narrowstem Cryptantha, Cryptantha gracilis, Panamint Cryptantha, Johnstonella angustifolia, Torrey's Cryptantha, Cryptantha torreyana, and Wingnut Cryptantha, Cryptantha pterocarya.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Although seeds of Cryptantha micrantha are tiny, they may be eaten by ground foraging birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Cryptantha micrantha flowers may be visited by bees and other small insects.

The genus Cryptantha (Cryptan'tha:) is from the Greek word "kryto", meaning "to hide, hidden," and "anthos", meaning "flower"; together meaning "hidden flower", a reference to the first known species which had small inconspicuous flowers which self-fertilized without opening. The genus Cryptantha was published by Johann Georg Christian Lehmann in 1837.

The species epithet "micrantha" (micran'tha/micran'thum/micran'thus:) means small-flowered.


Date Profile Completed: 02/13/2017, updated 03/11/2020
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 03/04/2020) - State seach for Cryptantha.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 03/04/2020).
Ronald B. Kelley, Michael G. Simpson & Kristen E. Hasenstab-Lehman 2012, Cryptantha micrantha, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=21262, accessed on March 11, 2020.
S. Buckley 2010, F. S. Coburn 2015, A. Hazelton 2015; Editors;Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Welsh et al. 2003, Allred and Ivey 2012, Kelley et al 2014 (Jepson); from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; - (accessed 03/11/2020).
The Calflora Database; - (Accessed: Mar 11, 2020).
Kleiman, Russ, Dr., Associate Botanist, Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium; Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness; SPECIES; (accessed 03/11/2020 ) Presented in Association with the Western New Mexico University Department of Natural Sciences
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 03/11/2020)