Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Acourtia thurberi, Thurber's Desertpeony

Thurber's Desertpeony has beautiful showy flowers of pink, white and lavender or purple. The plants bloom from June to October and October to November in California. Acourtia thurberi Thurber's Desertpeony has flower heads in clusters of 3 to 6 florets per head in contrast with A. wrightii which has 8 to 12 florets per head. Plants prefer elevations between 3,200 and 6,400 feet. Within those elevations they are found rocky hillsides, slopes and canyons in gravel and caliche soils. Acourtia thurberi Thurber's Desertpeony leaves are dull green, alternate and ovate to ovate-elliptical in shape. Note the leaf bases are shortly sagittate or clasping while the margins are slightly dentate. Acourtia thurberi Thurber's Desertpeony fruits are called cypsela. Note the bristly bright white pappi hairs on top of the achenes in the photo. Acourtia thurberi Thurber's Desertpeony is also called Thurber Perezia, a through-back to the original genus Perezia. The species is native to the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. In the United States it is limited to Arizona and New Mexico. Acourtia thurberi

Scientific Name: Acourtia thurberi
Common Name: Thurber's Desertpeony

Also Called: Thurber Perezia (Spanish: Cola de Zorra, Mata Gusano, Mata Gusanocola de Zorra, Pipichowa)

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Acourtia mexicana, Perezia thurberi, Perdicium mexicanum)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 1 to 5 feet (40-150 cm).

Growth Form: Forb/herb; erect, stems with furrows or grooves along parallel, longitudinal lines, stems with secretory structures on the surface (glands); stems are green.

Leaves: Green; leaves without stalks (sessile); arranged alternately along stem; leaf shape variable; leaf edges armed with sharp prickles; leaf bases partially or completely surrounding the stems (clasping); leaf surface with secretory structures (glands) and covered with minute soft erect hairs.

Flower Color: Purple or variable shades of purple, pink or lavender; flower heads narrow, clustered; florets 3 to 6 per head (in contrast to Acourtia wrightii which has 8 to 12 florets per head); the fruit is a cypsela with a bristly bright white pappus as shown in the photo above.

Flowering Season: June to October; October to November in California and Texas.

Elevation: 3,200 to 6,400 feet (975-1,950 m).

Habitat Preferences: Sonoran desert scrub; rocky hillsides, slopes and canyons; gravel and caliche soils.

Recorded Range: Thurber's Desertpeony, Acourtia thurberi is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. In the United States it is limited in distribution to Arizona and New Mexico (SW corner). In Arizona it is found in much of the southern part of the state and Mohave County. In Mexico it is native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts in northern and central Mexico in Chihuahua, Durango and Sonora.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Acourtia thurberi.

North America species range map for Thurber's Desertpeony, Acourtia thurberi:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Acourtia thurberi: 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 5 species and 5 accepted taxa overall for Acourtia. World wide, The Plant List includes 84 accepted species names and includes a further 30 of infraspecific rank for Acourtia.

The genus Acourtia was published in 1830 by David Don.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and Nevada each have 5 species of genus, California has 13 species, New Mexico has 7 species, Texas has 4 species, Utah has 6 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

Comments: Thurber’s Desertpeony is the largest of the 3 Acourtia species found in Arizona. It may reach up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height while Brownfoot, Acourtia wrightii grows up to 4 feet (1.22 m). The smallest of the 3, the diminutive Dwarf Desertpeony, Acourtia nana, only grows to 6 or 10 inches (15-25 cm) high.

In Arizona, Thurber’s Desertpeony may be found in groups of several plants or in small numbers of 1 or more.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Seeds of Thurber's Desertpeony, Acourtia nana may likely be eaten by birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native bees, Butterflies and Insects
Thurber's Desertpeony, Acourtia nana flowers may be visited by butterflies, bees and other small insects.

The genus Acourtia was named in the 18th century in honor of amateur botanist Mary Elizabeth Catherine Gibbes A'Court (1792-1878).

The genus Acourtia was published in 1830 by David Don.

The specific epithet, thurberi (thur'beri:) is named after George G. Thurber, (1821-1890).

Date Profile Completed: 9/24/2012; updated 01/12/2021
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, as Perezia thurberi.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search, (accessed 04/10/2020).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 04/10/2020).
Beryl B. Simpson, FNA | Family List |FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21|Asteraceae |Acourtia; 3. Acourtia thurberi (A. Gray) Reveal & R. M. King, Phytologia. 27: 231. 1973. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
FNA 2006, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editors; L.Crumbacher 2011, F.S.Coburn 2014, A.Hazelton 2015 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; - (accessed 04/11/2020).
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information
Wikipedia contributors, 'Acourtia thurberi', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 May 2018, 22:05 UTC, [accessed 11 April 2020]
Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 04/10/2020)