Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle


Geraea canescens, Hairy Desertsunflower

Hairy Desertsunflower has showy large heads of gold yellow flowers, either solitary or in multiple clusters. Geraea canescens Hairy Desertsunflower may be in large numbers or a few individuals in direct proportion to rainfall. In dry years, Hairy Desertsunflower may bloom at 2 or 3 inches tall while in wet years these plants may reach 30 inches or more. Geraea canescens Hairy Desertsunflower or Desert Gold has bright green alternate leaves (with or without a small stem) covered in a bristly pubescence, stems are singles or in multiple branches. Geraea canescens Hairy Desertsunflower has gray-green leaves with tooth-like margins. This species blooms from January to June in Arizona and from February to May and again from October to November in California. Geraea canescens

Scientific Name: Geraea canescens
Common Name: Hairydesertsunflower

Also Called: Desert Gold, Desert Sunflower, Desertgold, Hairy Desert Sunflower, Hairy Desert Sun-flower, Hairy Desert-Sunflower, Hairydesertsunflower, Geraea canescens

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Encelia eriocephala var. paniculata, Geraea canescens var. canescens, Geraea canescens var. paniculata)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual.

Size: 4 to 31 inches (10 to 80 cm) tall or more

Growth Form: Forb/herb; single branches/stems hairy; bristly (strigose) or soft-hairy (villous) with dense white hair (canescent).

Leaves: Green or gray or brown; leaf blades somewhat variable, ovate to lanceolate, leaves arranged along stem in alternate fashion; leaf edges may to with or without dentition

Flower Color: Yellow; golden-yellow; showy large heads; flowers solitary on tips of branches; both ray (10 to 21) and disk florets; fruit is a cypsela with small pappus.

Flowering Season: January to June in Arizona; February to May and again in October to November in California.

Elevation: -130 to 4,500 feet (-37 to 1,372 m) or lower; below 4,000 (1,219 m) in California.

Habitat Preferences: Common in Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) communities in desert sandy and gravelly soils.

Recorded Range: Geraea canescens is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, CA, NV, UT. It is also native to Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. In Arizona it is found in the western and southwestern parts of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Geraea canescens.

North America species range map for Hairy Desertsunflower, Geraea canescens:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Hairy Desertsunflower, Geraea canescens: 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 2 accepted taxa overall for genus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 2 accepted species names and a further 4 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

The genus Geraea was published in 1846 by John Torrey, (1796-1873) and Asa Gray, (1810-1888).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, Nevada and Utah each have 1 species of genus, California has 2 species and New Mexico and Texas have 0 species. Data approximate and subject to revision.

Comments: Geraea canescens is a Mojave and Colorado Sonoran Desert species with high tolerances to alkaline soils. This species is known to hybridize with Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Geraea canescens flowers, seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals in search of food, nectar or cover.

Special Value to Native bees, Butterflies and Insects
Geraea canescens brightly colored flowers and plants may be visited by butterflies, moths and other insects in search of food, nectar or cover.

The genus “Geraea” (Gerae'a:) from the Greek word "geraios" for old, for the white-haired involucre.

The genus Geraea was published in 1846 by John Torrey, (1796-1873) and Asa Gray, (1810-1888).

The species epithet canescens (canes'cens:) means covered with short gray or white hairs.


Date Profile Completed: 11/25/2016, updated 07/28/2020
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, 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 -
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;
Gary I. Baird, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae | Geraea, 1. Geraea canescens Torrey & A. Gray, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 1: 49. 1847.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
David J. Keil & Curtis Clark 2012, Geraea canescens, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=3054, accessed on July 28, 2020.
Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Plants DB; Editor; S.Buckley, 2010 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; (accessed 07/28/2020).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the InternetLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX. - (accessed 07/28/2020).
Wikipedia contributors, 'Geraea canescens', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 December 2019, 06:03 UTC,> [accessed 28 July 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 07/18/2020)