Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Cryptantha gracilis, Narrowstem Cryptantha

Narrowstem Cryptantha has small but showy flowers, white with yellow centers in the corolla tube. The flowers grow in small clusters; flowering stems are coiled and hairy. Cryptantha gracilis Narrowstem Cryptantha blooms from May to June in elevations ranging from 1,500 to 7,000 feet. Cryptantha gracilis Narrowstem Cryptantha has green linear or narrowly oblanceolate bristly leaves. Stems may be single or multiples, branched or not and also coarse hairy, stiff or bristly. Cryptantha gracilis Narrowstem Cryptantha is a native annual that grows to 12 inches or so. It prefers mesas and rocky slopes and limestone soils. Often found in Creosote bush and pinyon-juniper communities. Cryptantha gracilis

Scientific Name: Cryptantha gracilis
Common Name: Narrowstem Cryptantha

Also Called: Narrowstem Catseye, Narrow-Stem Cat's-Eye, Narrowstem Pick-Me-Not, Slender Cryptantha

Family: Boraginaceae, Forget-Me-Not Family

Synonyms: (Cryptantha hillmanii, Cryptantha linearis)

Status: Native

Duration: Annual

Size: 4 to 14 inches (10-35 cm) tall.

Growth Form: Forb/herb; plants slender; decumbent to erect; branches zero or multiple throughout; straight, stiff hairs, (strigose).

Leaves: Green; leaves ⅓ to 1⅓ inches (1-3.5 cm); leaf shape very narrow (linear) to narrow-oblanceolate; leaves also dense-bristly.

Flower Color: White, bright white with yellow secondary parts (appendages) in center of corolla; flowering stems inflorescence a cyme curved like a scorpion tail (scorpioid); fruit a nutlet, generally 1 seed.

Flowering Season: March, April or May to June or July

Elevation: 1,500 to 7,000 feet (450-2100 m).

Habitat Preferences: Sandy to rocky soils, dry slopes, mesas, frequently on limestone; in Creosote Bush, Sagebrush, Joshua-tree and Pinyon-juniper communities.

Recorded Range: Narrowstem Cryptantha is found in the southwest and northwest portions of United States in; AZ, CA, CO, ID, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA and WY.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Cryptantha gracilis.

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

Comments: Members of the genus Cryptantha are collectively referred to as Cat’s Eyes or Popcorn Flowers. There are many species of Cryptantha in Arizona all with similar taxonomic characteristics making them difficult to identify to species. Many can be spotted blooming in spring or early summer.

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.

Narrowstem Cryptantha is similar to Fendler's Cryptantha, Cryptantha fendleri, however Fendler's Cryptantha has a more open flowering stem (inflorescence), the outer whorl of the flower (the calyx) is rounded and there are 4 nutlets.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see Bearded Cryptantha, Cryptantha barbigera, Gander's Cryptantha, Cryptantha ganderi, Panamint Cryptantha, Johnstonella angustifolia, Redroot Cryptantha, Cryptantha micrantha, Torrey's Cryptantha, Cryptantha torreyana, and Wingnut Cryptantha, Cryptantha pterocarya.

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

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Cryptantha gracilis 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 "gracilis" (gra'cile:) meaning slender and graceful.


Date Profile Completed: 1/4/2015, updated 03/11/2020
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 - (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 gracilis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=21235, accessed on March 11, 2020.
The Calflora Database; (Accessed: Mar 11, 2020).
SEINet on-line Field Guide; Editor: Springer et al. 2008 - (accessed 03/11/2020)
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 03/11/2020)