Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Cryptantha barbigera, Bearded Cryptantha

Bearded Cryptantha has white flowers in spikes curved over and resembling a scorpion’s tail. The flowering stems are often in pairs and the flowers are covered in stiff bristles slightly resembling beards. Cryptantha barbigera Bearded Cryptantha; note in the photo that the flowering stems (inflorescences) are often seen in pairs. The flowers bloom in early spring from February or March through May or June. Cryptantha barbigera Bearded Cryptantha stems and leaves are covered in stiff white rough hairs. The leaves are arranged alternately along the stems. Cryptantha barbigera Bearded Cryptantha grow erect to 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) tall but may grow up to 20 inches  (50 cm) tall. Cryptantha barbigera Bearded Cryptantha leaves vary in size from .5 to 2 inches (1-5 cm) long. Note that the leaves have no stems and are technically called sessile. Note the leaves are mostly linear and the tips may be blunt or rounded. Cryptantha barbigera

Scientific Name: Cryptantha barbigera
Common Name: Bearded Cryptantha

Also Called: Bearded Cat's-Eye, Bearded Catseye, Narrowleaf Nievitas; (Spanish: Peluda)

Family: Boraginaceae, Forget-Me-Not Family

Synonyms: (Krynitzkia mixta)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) tall (up to 20 inches (50 cm).

Growth Form: Forb/herb; stems 1 or few; erect slender stout plants, branched at the base and above, branches ascending, plants white-hairy, foliage hair rough, longish (hirsute).

Leaves: Green; leaves generally alternate along stems, .5 to 2 inches (1-5 cm) long; leaves (sessile); shape mostly linear or blunt-lanceolate, leaves blunt or rounded (obtuse ) at the tips; white straight stiff hairs (bristles) spreading, small bulbous base.

Flower Color: White, flowers in spikes curved like a scorpions tail (scorpioid), about 6 inches (15 cm) long and usually paired at the ends of the branches, plants with numerous white stiff hairs (bristles at the base of the flower; calyx lobes linear-lanceolate, about 4 to 10 mm long and constricted above the nutlet; fruit is a nutlet.

Flowering Season: February or March to May or June

Elevation: Below 5,000 feet (1,524 m).

Habitat Preferences: Common in desert areas, sandy areas, along arroyos and on hillsides and rocky areas.

Recorded Range: Bearded Cryptantha is found in the southwestern United States primarily in; AZ, CA and NV and also in southwest NM, southwest UT and extreme west Texas. It is also Native to northwest Mexico and northern Baja California.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Cryptantha barbigera.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No information available.

Genus Information: In North America there are 117 species and 117 accepted taxa overall for Cryptantha. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 179 accepted species names and a further 142 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 37 species of genus, California has 60 species, Nevada has 44 species, New Mexico has 23 species, Texas has 15 species, Utah has 55 species. All data approximate and subject to revision.

The genus Cryptantha was published by Johann Georg Christian Lehmann in 1837.

There are 2 varieties Cryptantha barbigera (AZ, CA, NM, NV, TX, UT);
Cryptantha barbigera var. barbigera, Bearded Cryptantha (CA, NM, UT, Baja California);
Cryptantha barbigera var. fergusoniae, Palm Springs Cryptantha (AZ, CA).

Comments: Members of the genus Cryptantha are collectively referred to as Cat’s Eyes or Popcorn Flowers.

Cryptantha species have typically white flowers in spikes like a scorpions (scorpioid) tail. They are often difficult to identify in the field or lab and a close examination (10x loupe or dissecting scope) of the flowers and the small seeds or nutlets is usually required. Bearded Cryptantha however is a little easier to identify in the field as it is generally an erect and slender plant covered in dense stiff hairs (bristles) and linear or blunt-lanceolate leaves, blunt or rounded (obtuse) at the tips.

Bearded Cryptantha is similar looking to Nevada Cryptantha, Cryptantha nevadensis whose branches are more flexuous and less stout that Bearded Cryptantha. Also Bearded Cryptantha has horizontal extending hairs (spreading).

The type species species (Krynitzkia mixta) is from the Mescal Mountains (Jones), southern Gila County, Arizona.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Gander's Cryptantha, Cryptantha ganderi, Narrowstem Cryptantha, Cryptantha gracilis, Panamint Cryptantha, Johnsonella angustifolia (Cryptantha), Redroot Cryptantha, Cryptantha micrantha, Torrey's Cryptantha, Cryptantha torreyana, and Wingnut Cryptantha, Cryptantha pterocarya.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Although seeds of Cryptantha barbigera are tiny, they may be eaten by ground foraging birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Cryptantha barbigera flowers may be visited by bees and other small insects.

The genus Cryptantha (Cryptan'tha:) is from the Greek word "kryto", meaning "to hide, hidden," and "anthos", meaning "flower"; together meaning "hidden flower", a reference to the first known species which had small inconspicuous flowers which self-fertilized without opening. The genus Cryptantha was published by Johann Georg Christian Lehmann in 1837.

The species epithet "barbigera" (barbig'er/barbig'era/barbig'erum:) means bearded, a reference to the visible stiff bristles.


Date Profile Completed: 03/10/2020
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 03/04/2020) - State seach for Cryptantha.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 03/04/2020).
Ronald B. Kelley, Michael G. Simpson & Kristen E. Hasenstab-Lehman 2012, Cryptantha barbigera, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=21194, accessed on March 08, 2020.
Wiggins 1964, Felger 2000, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Allred and Ivey 2012, Kelley et al 2014 (Jepson); Editors; S. Buckley 2010, F. S. Coburn 2015, A. Hazelton 2015:from SEINet on-line Field Guide (accessed 03/08/2020).
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 03/09/2020)