Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Acourtia wrightii, Brownfoot

Brownfoot has pink, purple, lavender or white showy, fragrant clustered flower heads. Plants bloom from June to November or later. Acourtia wrightii Brownfoot has 8 to 12 florets per head in contrast with A. thurberi which has 3 to 6 florets per head. Note in photo the linear to lanceolate bracts or phyllaries in 2 to 3 series. Acourtia wrightii Brownfoot grows erect and has multiple stems. The 1 to 5 inch leaves turn brown at the base of “foot” and thus the common name “Brownfoot”. Leaves are green, alternate and sessile with variable shapes ranging from oblong-lanceolate to elliptic-oblong. Acourtia wrightii Brownfoot is a perennial species that grows up to 2 feet or more tall. Plants prefer elevations from 1,200 to 5,000 feet or higher. They are found in both upper and lower deserts, foothills, rocky hillsides, canyons in gravel, caliche or Sandy loamy soils. Acourtia wrightii

Scientific Name: Acourtia wrightii
Common Name: Brownfoot

Also Called: Pink Perezia, Wright’s Desertpeony

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Perezia wrightii, Perezia arizonica)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 1 to 3 feet (30-90 cm).

Growth Form: Forb/herb; more or less upright (erect), multiple stems; leaves turn brown at base or "foot" of plant thus the common name "Brownfoot".

Leaves: Green; leaves arranged alternately along the stems; leaves without stalks (sessile); leaf shape variable; bases of leaves are shaped like the head of an arrow (sagittate) or partially or completely surrounding the stem (clasping); leaf edges or margins toothed.

Flower Color: Pink or purple; heads fragrant, flower heads in dense clusters; there are 8 to 12 florets per head, in contrast to Acourtia thurberi which has 3 to 6 florets per head; the fruit is a cypsela with a pappus of bright white hairs.

Flowering Season: June to November or later; March to November in Texas.

Elevation: 1,200 to 5,000 feet (400-1,500 m) or higher.

Habitat Preferences: Upper and lower Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, foothills, rocky hillsides, ravines, canyons; gravel, caliche or sandy loamy soils; prairies, plains, meadows, pastures, savannas and woodlands edges and canyons in Texas.

Recorded Range: Brownfoot is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, NM, NV, TX, UT. It is also native to northern and central Mexico in (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Zacatecas).

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: Unknown
Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

North America & US County Distribution Map for Acourtia wrightii.

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

North America species range map for Acourtia wrightii: Click image for full size map
Click image for full size map

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 the genus.

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: The common name, Brownfoot is so called because of the brown color of leaves and dense hairs at the foot of the plant. Although native in both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, Brownfoot is more of an eastern distributed Chihuahuan Desert species.

According to Arizona Flora, the roots of this plant and also those of Dwarf Desertpeony, Acourtia nana yield an acid (pipitzahoic) "which may be used in chemical analysis as an indicator of soil alkalinity"

The very similar looking Thurber Desert Holly, Acourtia thurberi, differs from Brownfoot with having only 3 to 6 flowers per head, while Brownfoot has 8 or more. A third Acourtia species native to Arizona, the smallest of the 3, Dwarf Desertpeony, Acourtia nana, grows to 6 or 10 inches (15-25 cm) high.

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

Special Value to Native bees, Butterflies and Insects
Wright's Desertpeony, Acourtia wrightii 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 specific epithet, wrightii (wright'ii:) is named to honor Charles Wright, (1811-1885).

Brownfoot has been used as a postpartum medicine, a styptic and as a poultice by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
  • Hualapai Drug, Dermatological Aid; Poultice of wooly 'cotton' applied to open, bleeding wounds.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Gynecological Aid; Plant used for difficult labor, a postpartum medicine.
  • Pima Drug, Hemostat; Plant used as a styptic.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.
    Date Profile Completed: 8/13/2012; updated 01/12/2021
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, as Perezia wrightii..
    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, 4. Acourtia wrightii (A. Gray) Reveal & R. M. King, Phytologia. 27: 232. 1973. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    FNA 2006, Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editor: L Crumbacher 2011, F S Coburn 2014, A Hazelton 2015 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; - (accessed 04/13/2020).
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 04/13/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Acourtia wrightii', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 May 2018, 22:20 UTC, [accessed 13 April 2020]
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Charles Wright (botanist)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 March 2019, 20:10 UTC, [accessed 13 April 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 04/10/2020)