Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Carphochaete bigelovii, Bigelow's Bristlehead

Bigelow's Bristlehead has brilliant white discoid flowers (only 3 to 4 flowers per head) with purplish throats. Note in the photograph that the corollas each have 5 pointed lobes with exserted stamens and numerous fine bristles surrounding the petal lobes. Carphochaete bigelovii Bigelow's Bristlehead has only 4 disk flowers; note in photograph of side view of bud, 2 of the 4 flowers. Also note rough, gland-dotted phyllaries subtending flowers. Carphochaete bigelovii Bigelow's Bristlehead has only 4 disk flowers; note in photograph of side view of bud, 2 of the 4 flowers. Also note rough, gland-dotted phyllaries subtending flowers. Carphochaete bigelovii Bigelow's Bristlehead is found in a variety of habitat preferences which often include large and small rocks and boulders. There are found in upland Sonoran desert habitats, chaparral and pinyon-juniper and canyons. Carphochaete bigelovii Bigelow's Bristlehead has dull green leaves, mostly opposite and often fascicled on older growth. The leaves are linear or narrow elliptical and the margins entire. Carphochaete bigelovii Bigelow's Bristlehead or Bigelow Bush is named in honor of Dr. John Milton Bigelow, (1804-1878), American physician and botanist who was born in Vermont. Carphochaete bigelovii

Scientific Name: Carphochaete bigelovii
Common Name: Bigelow's Bristlehead

Also Called: Bigelow Bush

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: ( )

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 1 to 4 feet (30-122 cm) or more.

Growth Form: Forb/herb, subshrub; bases woody, slender stems often stiff, brittle, upright (erect), reddish, pubescent.

Leaves: Green; dull, leaves arranged generally oppositely along stems; leaves fascicled on older growth; lower leaves oblong-spatulate, upper leaves oblong to linear; blades without supporting stems or stalks (sessile); leaf edges or margins smooth, not lobed or toothed (entire).

Flower Color: White, purplish throats; flowering heads solitary or 2 or more in clusters from leaf axils or terminal on branch tips; disk flowers only; fruit a cypsela, yellow-green to golden brown, pappus scales brownish to purplish.

Flowering Season: January to July; may bloom again in late winter.

Elevation: 2,500 to 7,000 feet (760-2,100 m).

Recorded Range: Bigelow's Bristlehead is relatively rare in the United States where it is found mostly only in Arizona and also in southwest New Mexico and far western Texas. It is also native to northwestern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sonora).

Habitat Preferences: Upland Sonoran desert habitats, chaparral vegetation and pinyon-juniper, grasslands in rocky areas, rocky hillsides, rocky slopes, canyons, sandy soils.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Carphochaete bigelovii.

North America species range map for Carphochaete bigelovii:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Carphochaete bigelovii: 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

Recorded Range: Limited distribution in the United States. Found only in AZ, NM and TX; Southwest NM and southwest TX. Found also in northern and central Mexico. In the U.S. it is most prevalent in Arizona where it occurs in the central, eastern and southern parts of the state.

Genus Information: In North America there is 1 species and 1 accepted taxa overall for Carphochaete. World wide, The Plant List includes 6 accepted species names and includes a further 1 name of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas each have 1 species of Carphochaete, California, Nevada and Utah have 0 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Bigelow’s Bristlehead is a monotypic species in the United States, unique to the southwest and Mexico.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Tiny seeds of Carphochaete bigelovii may possibly be eaten by birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Carphochaete bigelovii flowers may be visited by butterflies, bees and other small insects.

The genus Carphochaete is derived from two Greek words karphos", meaning "a small dry object, splinter, twig" and "chaete" meaning long bristle; a reference to its' stiff bristles.

The species epithet bigelovii is named in honor of Dr. John Milton Bigelow, American physician and botanist (1804-1878); Dr. Bigelovii was a professor of botany who collected in the western United States under Joseph Whipple Congdon in the Pacific Railroad Survey of 1853-1854. In addition, he worked with 3 top American botanists of the day, John Torrey, Asa Gray, and George Engelmann; and had a significant collection of California plants that yielded many new species.


Date Profile Completed: 8/4/2012; updated 06/04/2020
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 06/04/2020)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 06/04/2020).
David J. Keil, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae | Carphochaete; 1. Carphochaete bigelovii A. Gray, Smithsonian Contr. Knowl. 3(5): 89. 1852.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
FNA 2006, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editors; S.Buckley 2010, F.S.Coburn 2014 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; (accessed 06/04/2020).
Wikipedia contributors, 'Carphochaete bigelovii', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 February 2018, 06:47 UTC, [accessed 4 June 2020]
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet - (accessed 06/04/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
Virginia Tech Dendrology; Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information
Michael L. Charters; California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology; (accessed 06/03/2020)