Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Phacelia distans, Distant Phacelia

Distant Phacelia has small but attractive flowers, either blue or bright blue. The corolla is funnel- or bell-shaped and the fruit is a capsule. Phacelia distansDistant Phacelia is an annual or perennial herb, a clambering species that climbs up to 2 feet or more. The stems may be decumbent or erect with stiff glandular hair. Phacelia distansDistant Phacelia is superficially similar to the Blue Fiestaflower, Pholistoma auritum, and Dainty Desert Hideseed, Eucrypta micrantha. This species blooms from February to March or March to May to California. Phacelia distansDistant Phacelia has highly variable green compound leaves (bipinnate or pinnatifid). The few leaflets are large or small. Phacelia distansDistant Phacelia leaves are noticeably hairy. Distant Phacelia is also called Caterpillar Phacelia, Distant Scorpion-weed and Wild Heliotrope. Species prefer elevations from 1,000 to 4,000 feet. Phacelia distans

Scientific Name: Phacelia distans
Common Name: Distant Phacelia
Also Called: Caterpillar Phacelia, Caterpillar Weed, Distant Scorpion-weed and Wild Heliotrope.
Family: Hydrophyllaceae (Boraginaceae, Hydrophylloideae), the Waterleaf Family
Synonyms: (Phacelia cinerea, Phacelia distans var. australis)
Status: Native
Duration: Annual, perennial;
Size: Clambering to 2½ feet or more.
Growth Form: Forb/herb; decumbent, erect, stiff glandular hair.
Leaves: Green; leaf shape highly variable, bipinnate or pinnatifid, plants with few large leaflets others with several small leaflets.
Flower Color: Blue, bright blue or whitish; flowers small, attractive, corolla funnel- or bell-shaped; fruit a capsule.
Flowering Season: February to May; March to May in California.
Elevation: 1,000 to 4,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Common under and in bushes for support, along washes, foothills and slopes, clay or rocky soils. California; North Coast Ranges, Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Central Western California, Southwestern California and East of Sierra Nevada.

Recorded Range: In the United States Phacelia distans is native to the southwest in; AZ, CA and NV. Introduced in WI and MA. Also native to Baja California and northern Mexico. In Arizona it is found throughout most of the state above 3,500 feet, few records in the northeast part of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Phacelia distans.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Phacelia distans has the following wetland designations; Arid West, OBL; Northcentral & Northeast, UPL; Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, OBL.
OBL = Obligate Wetland, almost always occur in wetlands;
UPL = Obligate Upland, almost never occur in wetlands.

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, 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.

Comments: Distant Phacelia is superficially similar to Blue Fiestaflower, Pholistoma auritum, and Dainty Desert Hideseed, Eucrypta micrantha.

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, Cleftleaf Wildheliotrope, Phacelia crenulata, Fremont's Phacelia, Phacelia fremontii, Varileaf-Phacelia, Phacelia heterophylla, Kaweah River Scorpion-weed, Phacelia magellanica and Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia.

Distant Phacelia is cooked and eaten as greens.

  • Kawaiisu Food, Vegetable; Leaves steam cooked and eaten as greens.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 10/05/2015, updated 02/27/2017, 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 10/05/2015),4587,4621
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information
    Wisconsin State Herbarium,
    Consortium of Wisconsin Herbaria: WisFlora. 2015. Accessed on October 07, 2015.