Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Cryptantha torreyana, Torrey's Cryptantha

Torrey's Cryptantha has very small white flowers, usually in 2’s congested at the tips. The outer whorl of the flowers (calyx) is generally constricted above. Cryptantha torreyana Torrey's Cryptantha has leaves that are linear to oblanceolate with straight stiff hairs (strigose) or rough-hairy or bristly. A few hairs have bulbous bases. Cryptantha torreyana Torrey's Cryptantha is also called Torrey’s Cat’s-Eye and Torrey’s Cryptantha in honor of John Torrey (1796-1873) legendary North American botanist. Cryptantha torreyana Torrey's Cryptantha has a large geographic range and is found throughout far western North America. This species prefers elevations from 1,100 to 5,000 feet (150-1,500 m). Note second much smaller plant in upper left of photo. Cryptantha torreyana

Scientific Name: Cryptantha torreyana
Common Name: Torrey's Cryptantha

Also Called: Torrey's Cat's-Eye, Torreys Cryptanth

Family: Boraginaceae, Forget-Me-Not Family

Synonyms: (Cryptantha affinis var. flexuosa, Cryptantha calycosa, Cryptantha eastwoodiae, Cryptantha flexulosa, Cryptantha flexuosa, Cryptantha torreyana var. calycosa, Cryptantha torreyana var. pumila)

Status: Native
Duration: Annual

Size: 4 to 16 inches tall (10-40 cm.)

Growth Form: Forb/herb; stems branched or not branched.

Leaves: Green; leaf shape linear to oblanceolate, stiff, straight hairs (strigose) or rough-hairy or bristly, a few hairs with bulbous bases.

Flower Color: White; flowers usually in 2's, congested at tips; the outer whorl of the flower (calyx) is generally constricted above; fruit is a nutlet.

Flowering Season: April or May to June and July

Elevation: 1,100 to 5,000 feet (150-1,500 m)

Habitat Preferences: Open spaces, slopes, chaparral vegetation, open coniferous forests, dry to moist soils.

Recorded Range: Torrye's Cryptantha is found primarily in western North America in CA, ID, NV, OR, UT and WA with small populations in MT, ND and WY; then northward into BC and AK.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Cryptantha torryeyana.

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 is 1 variety Cryptantha torryeyana;
Cryptantha torryeyana var. pumila, Dwarf Cryptantha (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.

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

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

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Cryptantha torreyana 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 "torreyana" is named in honor of John Torrey (1796-1873), a legendary North American botanist who described hundreds of plants collected by well known field explorers including John C. Fremont, William Emory and many others.


Date Profile Completed: 03/10/2020
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 torreyana, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=21312, accessed on March 09, 2020.
James C. Hickman, 1993; The Jepson Desert Manual; Higher Plants of California, 1996 edition; Univ. of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California
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 03/10/2020)