Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Hoffmannseggia microphylla, Wand Holdback

Wand Holdback has yellow flowers with red streaking that blooms from March to October in Arizona and April in California. Hoffmannseggia microphylla Wand Holdback yellow flowers are typical “pea” flowers with “wings” and a “banner”. The plants have a limited distribution where that are found only in Arizona and California. Hoffmannseggia microphylla Wand Holdback is a perennial upright shrub that prefers dry sandy or rocky mesas and slopes. Largest populations of this species are in southern California. Hoffmannseggia microphylla Wand Holdback’s flowering stalk is an elongated raceme; fruits have a crescent- or sickle-shape to them. Hoffmannseggia microphylla Wand Holdback prefers sandy soil or desert washes. The plant in the photograph was growing near Box Canyon Road, Riverside, Co., California.

Scientific Name: Hoffmannseggia microphylla
Common Name: Wand Holdback

Also Called:

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Caesalpinia virgata)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: Up to 7 feet (2.1 m) or more.

Growth Form: Wand Holdback is a Shrub which stands erect; the plants are densely puberulous and have a woody taproot.

Leaves: Leaves are green and bipinnately compound, each leaf has 3 leaflets, leaves soon become deciduous and fall off.

Flower Color: Wand Holdback is yellow, yellow with red-streaked; the flowering stalk or inflorescence is an elongate raceme and the fruits are crescent- or sickle-shaped pods.

Flowering Season: March to October; April in California.

Elevation: Up to 1,000 feet (305 m); up to 3,000 feet (914 m) in California.

Habitat Preferences: Dry sandy or rocky mesas and slopes.

Recorded Range: Wand Holdback is relatively rare in the United States where it is found only Arizona and California. In Arizona it is limited to the southwest corner of the state; the largest populations occur in California where it is found in the southeast and Inyo County, California. It is also native to Baja California and Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Hoffmannseggia microphylla.

North America species range map for Hoffmannseggia microphylla:

North America species range map for Hoffmannseggia microphylla:
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, USDA Plants Database lists 13 native species for Hoffmannseggia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 32 accepted species names for the genus.

The genus Hoffmannseggia was published in 1798 by José (Joseph) Antonio Cavanilles, (1745-1804). In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and New Mexico each have 5 species of Hoffmannseggia, California has 3 species, Nevada and Utah each have 2 species and Texas has 11 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

Comments: The genus Hoffmannseggia is commonly referred to as “rushpeas”. As with many species in the Fabaceae, the fruit are pods. Rushpeas are native to the North- and South-America and also to south Africa.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Indian Rushpea, Hoffmannseggia glauca.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Hoffmannseggia microphylla has attractive flowers, the flowers, their seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of food, nectar and protection through cover.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Hoffmannseggia microphylla has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited or used by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, native bees and other insects in search of nectar, food or shelter and protection.

The genus “Hoffmannseggia” is named in honor of Johann Centurius Hoffmann, Count of Hoffmannsegg (1766-1849), a German nobleman, botanist, entomologist, ornithologist and a co-author of a flora of Portugal.

The genus Hoffmannseggia was published in 1798 by José (Joseph) Antonio Cavanilles, (1745-1804).

The species epithet microphylla translates to “micro” which means small and “phylla” which means leaf or small leaved.


Date Profile Completed: 04/12/2017, updated 11/18/2021
References and additional information:
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, 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 11/15/2021)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 11/15/2021).
Beryl B. Simpson 2012, Hoffmannseggia microphylla, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on November 18, 2021.
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - as Caesalpinia virgata
Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 11/18/2021)