Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy

Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum, Plains Blackfoot Daisy

Scientific Name: Melampodium leucanthum
Common Name: Plains Blackfoot Daisy

Also called: Blackfoot Daisy, Plains Blackfoot, Rock Daisy

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: ( )

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 12 to 24 inches (30-61 cm) tall and up to 40 inches (101 cm) wide

Growth Form: Subshrub; low, rounded or mounding, bushy plants, much wider than tall, stems grayish green or grayish brown with tiny splits and cracks (fissures), upper stems with whitish stiff hairs (strigose); woody or shrubby stems at the base.

Leaves: Green or gray-green; narrowly linear or lanceolate; covered with fine stiff hairs (strigose); leaves opposite along stems.

Flower Color: White or cream with yellow centers; numerous, scented, daisy-like flower heads, note the white petals above have 3-notches; solitary on branch tips; flowers showy, about 1½ inches (3.81 cm); both ray and disk florets; bracts surrounding flower heads ovate; fruit is a cypsela lacking a pappus.

Flowering Season: March or April to October or November

Elevation: 2,000 to 6,500 feet (610-2,000 m)

Habitat Preferences: Lower and upper deserts, open areas, dry rocky hillsides, chaparral, grasslands, slopes and mesas, prefers sandy and gravelly soil, often in limestone or caliche soils.

Recorded Range: Native to the southwestern United States in AZ, CO, KS, NM, OK, TX and northern and far eastern Mexico. The largest populations are found in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Melampodium leucanthum.

North America species range map for Plains Blackfoot Daisy, Melampodium leucanthum:

North America species range map for Plains Blackfoot Daisy, Melampodium leucanthum: 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 7 species and 7 accepted taxa overall for Melampodium. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 45 accepted species names and a further 18 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Melampodium.

The genus Melampodium are hardy plants from subtropical and tropical regions with most of the species found in Mexico.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and Texas each have 3 species of Melampodium, California has 1 species, Nevada and Utah have 0 species and New Mexico has 2 species. Data approximate and subject to revision.

Comments: Melampodium collectively are known as “blackfoots” which, some say is thought to be a reference to the black color at the base of the stem and roots (see full Etymology below).

Plains Blackfoot Daisy is an excellent landscape species for a natural look in rock landscapes and other arid gardens.

Plains Blackfoot Daisy may be easily confused with Desert Zinnia, Zinnia acerosa which also has white and yellow daisy-like flowers. The differences are not always clear but one difference is Desert Zinnia has fewer ray flowers; 4 to 6, versus 8 to 10 on Plains Blackfoot Daisy.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Shaggy Blackfoot, Melampodium strigosum and the similar looking Desert Zinnia, Zinnia acerosa.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Melampodium leucanthum showy daisy-like flowers, seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of food, nectar, shelter and protection through cover.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Bees and Insects
Melampodium leucanthum has showy daisy-like flowers, the flowers and plants may be visited by butterflies, moths and other insects in search of nectar and/or other food.

The genus Melampodium may be derived from the Greek words “melas”, meaning black, and “podion”, meaning foot. Other authorities, however, maintain that this is in error, that the name comes from Melampus, a soothsayer of renown in Greek mythology.

The species epithet leucanthum (leucan'thum:) from Greek “leukos”, white and “anthemon” flower and thus white-flowered.


Date Profile Completed: 06/23/2012; updated 09/05/2020
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 09/03/2020.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;; accessed 09/03/2020.
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet; accessed 09/03/2020. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
John L. Strother, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21 | Asteraceae, Melampodium, 1. Melampodium leucanthum Torrey & A. Gray, Fl. N. Amer. 2: 271. 1842.; 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, MacDougall 1973, Allred and Ivey 2012; Editors: S.Buckley 2010, F.S.Coburn 2014, A.Hazelton 2017; from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; accessed 09/03/2020.
T. Beth Kinsey, Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Plants; Melampodium leucanthum – Plains Blackfoot - accessed 09/03/2020.
Michael J. Plagens; Arizonensis; Field Guide; Sonoran Desert Flora; Asteraceae, Plains Blackfoot, Melampodium leucanthum; accessed 09/03/2020.
Kleiman, Russ, Dr., Associate Botanist, Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium; Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness; Melampodium leucanthum Torrey & Gray, (Blackfoot, Plains Blackfoot-Daisy); - accessed 09/03/2020; Presented in Association with the Western New Mexico University Department of Natural Sciences
Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Melampodium', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 July 2020, 13:13 UTC, [accessed 3 September 2020]
Etymology: Michael L. Charters, California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - accessed 09/03/2020.