Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Heterotheca subaxillaris, Camphorweed

Camphorweed has numerous yellow daisy-like flowers.  Heterotheca subaxillaris Camphorweed, also called Golden Aster and Telegraph Weed blooms from March or April to October or November. Heterotheca subaxillaris Camphorweed has green leaves that are generally dull looking and hairy on both sides. The shape is ovate-lanceolate. The leaves in the photo have no stem or supporting stalk and are clasping to the stem. Heterotheca subaxillaris Camphorweed may grow up to 6 feet (150 cm) tall. The plants have an asymmetrical shape and the stems are rough-hairy. Heterotheca subaxillaris Camphorweed is found in elevations ranging from 1,000 to 5,500 feet (304-1,676 m). Camphorweed is found in the lower and upper deserts in disturbed areas, roads, dry desert washes and ditches. Heterotheca subaxillaris

Scientific Name: Heterotheca subaxillaris
Common Name: Camphorweed

Also Called: Golden Aster, Telegraph Weed; (Spanish: Arnica)

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Chrysopsis scabra, Heterotheca lamarckii, Heterotheca latifolia, Heterotheca latifolia var. arkansana, Heterotheca latifolia var. macgregoris, Heterotheca psammophila, Heterotheca scabra, Heterotheca subaxillaris var. latifolia, Heterotheca subaxillaris var. petiolaris, Heterotheca subaxillaris var. procumbens and Heterotheca subaxillaris var. psammophila)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual, biennial from a taproot.

Size: 1 to 6 feet (30-150 cm)

Growth Form: Forb/herb; weedy looking; plants upright or spreading outward, generally not symmetrical, stems rough-hairy.

Leaves: Leaves generally green leaves that are generally dull looking and hairy on both sides; leaf shape ovate-lanceolate; upper leaves without supporting stem and clasping to the stem.

Flower Color: Yellow; daisy-like flowers; numerous flower heads, both ray and disk florets; fruit is a cypsela with a pappus.

Flowering Season: March or April to October or November

Elevation: 1,000 to 5,500 feet (304-1,676 m)

Habitat Preferences: Lower and upper deserts, disturbed areas, roads, dry desert washes and ditches. Southern half of the US, from CA and NV, east to NY; south to c MEX

Recorded Range: Southern half of the United States, southward to northwest and northwest Mexico bording Texas. In the southwestern United States it is most predominate in AZ, CA, NM, TX

North America & US County Distribution Map for Heterotheca subaxillaris.

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

North America species range map for Camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris: Click image for full size map.
Click image for full size map

U.S. Weed Information: In North America Heterotheca subaxillaris can be weedy or invasive according to the following authoritative sources:
  • Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains;
  • Weeds of the West.
  • Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.

    Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
    Wetland Indicator: Unknown

    Threatened/Endangered Information: In North America, Broad-leaf Golden-aster, Heterotheca subaxillaris var. latifolia is listed by:
  • The State of Kentucky as "Threatened."
  • Genus Information: In North America there are 18 species and 18 accepted taxa overall for Heterotheca. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 25 accepted species names and a further 125 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Heterotheca.

    The genus Heterotheca was published in 1817 by Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassinni, (1781-1832).

    In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California and Utah each have 7 species of Heterotheca, Nevada has 4 species, New Mexico has 8 species, and Texas has 6 species. Data approximate and subject to revision.

    There are 2 sub-species in Heterotheca subaxillaris;
    Heterotheca subaxillaris subsp. latifolia, (Texas to Delaware);
    Heterotheca subaxillaris subsp. subaxillaris, (throughout southern United States).

    Comments: Heterotheca subaxillaris has variable characteristics across its range yet it has a very distinguishable profile even from a distance. A similar species Telegraph Weed, Heterotheca grandiflora has relatively large flower heads compared to Camphorweed. Camphorweed has a camphor-like odor and is considered a weed by many authorities.

    Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
    Heterotheca subaxillaris, flowers, seeds and foliage provide food and cover value to birds, rodents and insects.

    Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Bees and Insects
    The brightly colored yellow flowers of Heterotheca subaxillaris attract butterflies, moths and other insects in search of food.

    The genus “Heterotheca” (Heterothe'ca:) is derived from the Greek heteros, “different,” and theke, “ovary,” from the unlike cypselas of the ray and disk florets.

    The genus Heterotheca was published in 1817 by Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassinni, (1781-1832).

    The species epithet subaxillaris (sub-:) below, under, almost, approaching, somewhat; and (axillar'is:) meaning positioned in the leaf axils.


    Date Profile Completed: 8/3/2012; updated 08/12/2020
    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 08/11/2020)
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/11/2020)
    Kentucky Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves; (accessed 08/11/2020)
    John C. Semple, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 20 | Asteraceae, Heterotheca, 1. Heterotheca subaxillaris (Lamarck) Britton & Rusby, Trans. New York Acad. Sci. 7: 10. 1887. 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; S.Buckley 2010, F.S.Coburn 2014 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; (accessed 08/11/2020).
    John C. Semple 2012, Heterotheca subaxillaris subsp. latifolia, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=89011, accessed on August 11, 2020; as Heterotheca subaxillaris subsp. latifolia
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Heterotheca subaxillaris', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 June 2018, 04:44 UTC, [accessed 11 August 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 08/12/2020)