Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Phacelia crenulata, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope

Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope has showy purple to violet-purple (rarely white) bell-shaped flowers often with a white throat. Each flower is on its own stem or “pedicel”. Fruit is capsule. Phacelia crenulata Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope is an annual native species that prefers plains, mesas and foothills and sandy or gravelly washes. Phacelia crenulataCleftleaf Wildheliotrope blooms from February to June. Phacelia crenulataCleftleaf Wildheliotrope is found in the southwest United States. This is a popular cultivated native species that is also called Caterpillar Weed, Cleft-leaf Wild Heliotrope, Heliotrope Phacelia, Notchleaf Phacelia and Scorpion-weed. Phacelia crenulataCleftleaf Wildheliotrope has green variably shaped leaves with scalloped margins or even deeply lobed. The leaves reduce in size toward the top of the plant. Phacelia crenulata

Scientific Name: Phacelia crenulata
Common Name: Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope
Also Called: Caterpillar Weed, Caterpillarweed, Cleft-leaf Wild Heliotrope, Heliotrope Phacelia, Notchleaf Phacelia, Notch-leafed Phacelia, Notch-leaf Scorpion-weed, Scorpion-weed
Family: Hydrophyllaceae (Boraginaceae, Hydrophylloideae), the Waterleaf Family
Synonyms: ()
Status: Native
Duration: Annual
Size: Up to 2 feet more or less, usually much less.
Growth Form: Forb/herb; stems erect, glandular hair short-hairs.
Leaves: Green; shape variable, margins scalloped or deeply lobed, leaves are reduced in size toward the top of the plant.
Flower Color: Purple, violet-purple, (rarely white); flowers bell-shaped, often with a white throat, showy, attractive with deep violet-purple color, flowers on short pedicel, fruit a capsule.
Flowering Season: February to June
Elevation: Below 4,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Plains, mesas and foothills and sandy or gravelly washes.

Recorded Range: In the United States Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope is found in; AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, TX and UT. It is also native to Baja California and northwest Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Phacelia crenulata.

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 more than 166 species for Phacelia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 186 accepted species names and a further 184 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 49 species of genus Phacelia, California has 96 species, Nevada has 54 species, New Mexico has 23 species, Texas has 13 species, Utah has 42 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

5 varieties in Phacelia crenulata;
Phacelia crenulata var. ambigua, Purplestem Phacelia (AZ, CA, NV, UT);
Phacelia crenulata var. angustifolia, Cleftleaf Phacelia (AZ, UT);
Phacelia crenulata var. corrugata, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope (AZ, CO, NM, NV, TX, UT);
Phacelia crenulata var. crenulata, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope (AZ, CA, NM, NV, UT);
Phacelia crenulata var. minutiflora, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope (AZ, CA, UT).

Comments: With over 150 species of Phacelia in Arizona, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope is one of our more common. This species has an foul unpleasant onion-like odor and may cause skin rash with its glandular hairs.

Special Value to Native Bees; Species of the genus Phacelia are known to, or thought to attract large numbers of native bees including Yellow Faced Bees, Miner Bees and Mason Bees. This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see; Desert Bluebells, Phacelia campanularia, Distant Phacelia, Phacelia distans, Fremont's Phacelia, Phacelia fremontii, Varileaf-Phacelia, Phacelia heterophylla, Kaweah River Scorpion-weed, Phacelia magellanica and Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia.

Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope is used injury in animals, sore throats and swellings (anti-rheumatic).

  • Hopi Drug, Veterinary Aid; Plant used for injury in animals, especially horses.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Antirheumatic (External); Infusion of root used as a rub for swellings.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Throat Aid; Infusion of plant used for sore throat.

  • See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 10/04/2105, updated 07/24/2017, updated format 10/12/2017
    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 07/22/2017)
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 07/22/2017).
    1993, The Jepson Manual, Citation: (accessed 10/04/2105),4587,4613
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Phacelia crenulata', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 August 2013, 05:25 UTC, [accessed 4 October 2015]
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information