Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Stephanomeria tenuifolia, Narrowleaf Wirelettuce

Narrowleaf Wirelettuce may have white, pink, rose or light blue flowers. The flowers are solitary with 5 lobed and strap-shaped (ligulate). Plants bloom early summer from May or June to fall September. Stephanomeria tenuifolia Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is one of several species that are difficult to distinguish from one another. One helpful characteristic is the color and form of the feathery-like plume (pappi) that sits above the seed. Plants are found in elevations from 1,00 to 9,800 feet (300-3,000 m). Stephanomeria tenuifolia Narrowleaf Wirelettuce has both lower (basal) and stem (cauline) leaves. The leaves are linear to filiform and the edges are smooth or toothed. Plants prefer are wide range of habitat types across they’re large geographic distribution. Stephanomeria tenuifolia

Scientific Name: Stephanomeria tenuifolia
Common Name: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce

Also Called: Lesser Wire-Lettuce, Lesser Wirelettuce, Narrow Leaved Stephanomeria, Narrow Leaved Wire-Lettuce

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Lygodesmia wrightii, Ptiloria tenuifolia, Stephanomeria minor, Stephanomeria minor var. minor, Stephanomeria minor var. myrioclada, Stephanomeria minor var. uintaensis, Stephanomeria minor var. uintensis, Stephanomeria myrioclada, Stephanomeria tenuifolia var. myrioclada, Stephanomeria wrightii)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial from stout rhizomes.

Size: 8 to 28 inches (20-70 cm), usually about 16 inches (40 cm) or so.

Growth Form: Forb/herb, subshrub; plants hairless (glabrous) with milky sap; thick woody root crown; stems 1 to 5, upright (erect) to spreading or ascending; densely to sparsely branched, branching into slender almost straight branchlets.

Leaves: Green; basal and stem leaves; basal leaves linear to filiform; leaf edges (margins) without divisions or lobes (entire) or toothed; stem leaves (cauline) much reduced and bract-like; leaves withered or dead at flowering; leaves hairless (glabrous).

Flower Color: White, light pink, light rose, light blue; ligulate flowers only; singles (solitary); fruit a smooth grooved tan cypsela with a pappus of 15 to 25 bright white (plumose) or feathery-like bristles.

Flowering Season: May or June to September.

Elevation: 1,000 to 9,800 feet (300-3,000 m).

Habitat Preferences: Stephanomeria tenuifolia has the widest distribution of any species of Stephanomeria; crevices in volcanic, granitic and sandstone outcrops, open rocky ridges and slopes, bases of cliffs.

Recorded Range: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is found mostly in the west half of the United States in: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA, WY and also native in BC, SK, Canada as well as Baja California and northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Stephanomeria tenuifolia as Stephanomeria minor var. minor.

North America species range map for Narrowleaf Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria tenuifolia:

Narrowleaf Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria tenuifolia: 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 for Stephanomeria. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 18 accepted species names and a further 29 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Stephanomeria.

The genus Stephanomeria was published in 1841 by Thomas Nuttall, (1786-1859).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 6 species of Stephanomeria, California has 11 species, Nevada has 7 species, New Mexico and Utah each have 5 species and Texas has 4 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

Comments: Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is undergoing taxonomic changes and is also described as Stephanomeria minor var. minor. As with other species in the southwest, Narrowleaf Wirelettuce is one of several members of the genus Stephanomeria with similar form and dimensions of its stems and branches and it is often difficult to distinguish. Again, as with other species in the southwest region you can appreciate just how variable this species is when you note the numerous synonyms and vast geographic range.

Brownplume Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria pauciflora is vary similar to Narrowleaf Wirelettuce which is less woody at the base, has glands on the flowering stalk (peduncle) and the seeds have a pappus of white feathery-like bristles from top to bottom.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Brownplume Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria pauciflora and Small Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria exigua.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Narrowleaf Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria tenuifolia has small but attractive attractive flowers, the flowers and their seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of nectar or food.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Narrowleaf Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria tenuifolia has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees and other insects in search of food and nectar.

Special Value to Native Bees
According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Narrowleaf Wirelettuce, Stephanomeria tenuifolia is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of Native bees. Click here for more information on their Pollinator Conservation Program.

The genus Stephanomeria is from the Greek word "stephane" meaning "wreath or crown" and "meros" meaning "division"; the references are a reference to the pappus on the cypsela fruit.

The genus Stephanomeria was published by Thomas Nuttall, (1786-1859) in 1841.

The species epithet "tenuifolia" (tenuifo'lia:) with finely-divided, slender leaves; (tenui-:) prefix indicating the characteristic of being slender.


Date Profile Completed: 11/11/2020
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 - as Stephanomeria minor var. minor - (accessed 11/06/2020)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 11/06/2020).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 02/25/2020). - as Stephanomeria minor var. minor - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
L. D. Gottlieb, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae; Stephanomeria, 12. Stephanomeria tenuifolia (Rafinesque) H. M. Hall, Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 3: 256. 1907. ; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
L.D. Gottlieb 2012, Stephanomeria tenuifolia, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on November 11, 2020.
FNA 2006, Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Heil et al. 2013, Allred and Ivey 2012; Editor: S.Buckley 2010, A.Hazelton 2017, from SEINet Field Guide (accessed 11/11/2020).
Don Knoke, David Giblin; Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Stephanomeria tenuifolia, wire lettuce, narrowleaf stephanomeria, University of Washington Burke Museum (ROWO) - (accessed 11/11/2020)
Wikipedia contributors, 'Stephanomeria tenuifolia', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 September 2018, 20:09 UTC, [accessed 11 November 2020]
Wikipedia contributors, 'Thomas Nuttall', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 September 2019, 06:04 UTC, [accessed 24 February 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 02/24/2020, 11/11/2020)
IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved 06 November 2020].