Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Chaenactis stevioides, Esteve’s Pincushion

Esteve’s Pincushion has pretty white flowers, mostly discoid. The plants bloom in early spring from February to May or June. Chaenactis stevioides Phyllaries on Esteve’s Pincushion are linear, narrowly tapered and hairy glandular, often cobwebby looking. Chaenactis stevioides Esteve’s Pincushion is an annual native forb or herb in the Sunflower Family. The florets are small but showy. Chaenactis stevioides Esteve’s Pincushion is found in the west central and southwestern United States and in Baja California and northern Sonora, Mexico. Chaenactis stevioides Esteve’s Pincushion has green or gray-green leaves, both basal and along stems. The leaves are alternate and concentrated on the lower stems. Note leaves are pinnatifid or even bi-pinnatifid. Chaenactis stevioides Esteve’s Pincushion grows up to a foot or more with 1 or multiple stems. Plants prefer elevations from 100 to 6,500 feet (30 – 1,800) and are found in lower and upper deserts, openings in chaparral, pinyon-juniper, mesas, plains, sandy or gravelly slopes and washes. Chaenactis stevioides

Scientific Name: Chaenactis stevioides
Common Name: Esteve’s Pincushion

Also Called: Desert Pincushion, Pincushion Flower, Steve's Dusty Maiden, Steve's Dustymaiden, Steve's Pincushion

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Chaenactis gillespiei, Chaenactis latifolia, Chaenactis mexicana, Chaenactis stevioides var. brachypappa, Chaenactis stevioides var. thornberi)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: Up to 16 inches (40 cm) or less.

Growth Form: Forb/herb; erect, one or up to 12 stems, open airy branches, multiple blue-green or purplish stems; thin cobwebby, silky hairs, older plants glabrous.

Leaves: Green or gray-green; thin or slender; alternate concentrated on lower stems; basal leaves withering; cauline leaves pinnatifid or bi-pinnatifid, lobes linear, elliptical or obtuse, with 4 to 8 pairs of primary lobes.

Flower Color: White, pinkish-white, cream or yellow floral heads; some in light shades of yellow, heads mostly discoid florets; several heads on 4 inch (10 cm) stalks; fruit is a cypsela and often mistaken as an achene.

Flowering Season: February to May or June.

Elevation: 100 to 6,500 feet (30 -1,800 m).

Habitat Preferences: Lower and upper deserts, arid habitats, openings in chaparral, pinyon-juniper, mesas, plains, sandy, gravelly and rocky slopes and washes.

Recorded Range: Found primarily in the west central and southwestern United States (AZ, CA, CO, ID, NM, NV, NY, OR, UT, WY,); Baja California and northwest Mexico (Sonora). This species occurs throughout most of Arizona. A record from New York is likely a cultivated escapee.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Chaenactis stevioides.

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

North America species range map for Chaenactis stevioides: North America species range map for Chaenactis carphoclinia: North America species range map for Centaurea solstitialis: North America species range map for Centaurea melitensis: 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 17 species and 17 accepted taxa overall for Chaenactis. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 19 accepted species names and a further 55 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Chaenactis.

Members of Chaenactis are commonly referred to as “pincushions” or “dustymaidens”.

The genus Chaenactis was published in 1836 by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 6 species of genus, California has 13 species, Nevada has 8 species, New Mexico has 3 species, Texas has 0 species, Utah has 5 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

Comments: Esteve’s Pincushion is a common early spring bloomer heavily populated in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and northward into the Great Basin Desert. It is well represented throughout Arizona.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Fleshcolor Pincushion, Chaenactis xantiana and Pebble Pincushion and Chaenactis carphoclinia var. carphoclinia.

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

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

The genus Chaenactis (Chaenac'tis:) from the Greek chaino, “to gape," and aktis, “a ray," thus meaning a gaping ray, and given because in many species the outer florets are enlarged into a wide-open flaring ray-like mouth.

The genus Chaenactis was published in 1836 by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle.

The species epithet stevioides (Ste'via/stevio'ides:) is named in honor of the Spanish botanist, physician and humanist Pedro Jaime Esteve (1,500-1,556).

Native Americans made an infusion of the plant to slow down heartbeats of children with fevers.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Other, Fasteners, Juice used as glue to mend broken ceremonial items.
  • Nevada Indian Drug, Heart Medicine, Infusion of plant used to slow down heartbeats of children with fevers.
  • Nevada Indian Drug, Pediatric Aid, Infusion of plant used to slow down heartbeats of children with fevers.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 8/7/2012; updated 06/12/2020
    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 06/12/2020)
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 06/12/2020).
    FNA 2006, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Heil et al 2013, Welsh et al 1987, Kearny and Peebles 1979; Editors; S.Buckley 2010, A.Hazelton 2015; SEINet A Field Guide
    James D. Morefield 2012, Chaenactis stevioides, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=1987, accessed on June 12, 2020.
    James D. Morefield, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae | Chaenactis; 16. Chaenactis stevioides Hooker & Arnott, Bot. Beechey Voy. 353. 1839., Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    "Pedro Jaime Esteve." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 29 Mar 2020, 08:47 UTC. Jun 12, 2020, 3:44 PM
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Chaenactis stevioides', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 March 2018, 02:07 UTC, [accessed 12 June 2020]
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Chaenactis', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 June 2019, 18:57 UTC, [accessed 12 June 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 02/03/2020)