Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus, Rayless Goldenhead

Rayless Goldenhead is a native perennial with attractive yellow flowers that blooms from April to October. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus Rayless Goldenhead has flowers that may be single or clustered heads on short stalks on tips of new grow stems. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus Rayless Goldenhead has small green linear or lanceolate leaves that are alternate along the stems. Lower leaves are fascicled or clustered. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus Rayless Goldenhead is a shrub or sub-shrub that is mostly smooth, erect or ascending branches at the woody base. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus
Scientific Name: Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus
Common Name: Rayless Goldenhead

Also Called: Goldenhead

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: ()

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial from a taproot.

Size: Usually less than 3 feet (1 m) tall; generally about 1.5 feet (.5 m).

Growth Form: Shrub or subshrub; generally stems upright (erect) or less common ascending; herbage mostly without surface ornamentation (glabrous) or with small and somewhat bristly hairs (hirtellous); branching stems whitish (new growth) to gray bark which becomes shredded with age.

Leaves: Green or pale green to gray green; leaves smooth (glabrous) or with small and somewhat bristly hairs (hirtellous); leaves small, arranged alternately along stem, sometimes growing in small clusters; leaf edges or margins, without teeth or minutely spine-tiped; blades variable, spatulate, linear or lanceolate, lower leaves fascicled or clustered.

Flower Color: Yellow; showy medium sized flowers; the flowering stalk or inflorescence is called a cyme; the floral heads may be single (solitary) or in small rounded to flat-topped clusters, clusters on short stems; flowers with disk florets only (discoid), 13 to 27 florets per head with yellow corollas, flower heads hemispherical or spherical (globose); fruit is a cypsela covered with thick scales and bristles.

Flowering Season: March or April to October in Arizona and April to June in California and March to June in Texas.

Elevation: 1,000 to 4,500 feet (305-1,370 m) in Arizona; 200 to 7,250 feet (60-2,200 m) in California.

Habitat Preferences: Gravelly or rocky soils and rocky areas, dry plains, mesas, grasslands, deserts and woodlands.

Plant associations include; Catclaw Acacia (Acacia greggii), California Juniper (Juniperus californica), Scrub Oak (Quercus turbinella), Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), Golden Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa), and Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera).

Recorded Range: Rayless Goldenhead is found in the southwestern United States occurring in desert regions in the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran deserts. Found in AZ, CA, NV and UT. In Arizona, it occurs in the western half of the state and also in Graham County.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus.

North America species range map for Rayless Goldenhead, Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus: 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 2 species and 4 accepted taxa overall for Acamptopappus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 2 accepted species names with 1 infraspecific rank for Acamptopappus.

In the Southwestern United States, in Arizona and Utah there is 1 species of Acamptopappus, in California and Nevada there are 2 species, New Mexico and Texas have 0 species. All data approximate, subject to taxonomic changes.

The genus Acamptopappus was published by Asa Gray, (1810-1888) in 1873.

There are 2 *varieties in Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus;
Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. hirtellus, Rayless Goldenhead; (AZ, CA, NV);
Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. sphaerocephalus, Rayless Goldenhead; (AZ, CA, NV, UT).
*Varieties sometimes occur together and intergrade.

Comments: Rayless Goldenhead is a southwestern species with a tendency or partiality of the majority of its populations toward the western geographic area of the Mojave Desert and some species extend north into the Great Basin Desert; it also is readily found in the Sonoran Desert.

For a comprehensive thoroughly documented review of Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus see the USDA; USFS Fire Effects Information System, or FEIS.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Rayless Goldenhead, Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus seeds may likely be eaten by birds and small mammals. This species is browsed by sheep when better forage is unavailable.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Rayless Goldenhead, Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus is likely visited by Native Bees This species may also be visited by butterflies, other bees and small insects.

from Greek "akamptos" meaning "stiff" and "pappos" meaning "pappus"; references to the stiff or unbending pappus.

The genus Acamptopappus was published by Asa Gray, (1810-1888) in 1873.

The species epithet "sphaerocephalus" (sphaeroceph'alus:) from Greek meaning "sphere- or round-headed".

Rayless Goldenhead, Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. hirtellus, Rayless Goldenhead is used as a salve for pain by the Kawaiisu Tribe.

  • Kawaiisu Drug, Analgesic Tribe; Mashed plant used as a salve for pain.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 9/10/2012; updated 01/12/2021
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; (accessed 02/29/2020). for Acamptoppus.
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;; (accessed 02/29/2020).
    Griffith, Randy Scott. 1991. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
    Available: [2017, August 23].
    Guy L. Nesom, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 20 | Asteraceae | Acamptopappus ; 2. Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus (Harvey & A. Gray) A. Gray, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 8: 634. 1873. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Guy L. Nesom & Meredith A. Lane 2012, Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=669, accessed on February 28, 2020.
    FNA 2003, Jepson 2012, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editor: L. Crumbacher 2012, A. Hazelton 2015; from SEINet Field Guide (accessed 02/28/2020).
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 02/29/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 February 2019, 23:24 UTC, [accessed 29 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 02/29/2020)