Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Phacelia heterophylla, Varileaf Phacelia

Varileaf Phacelia has beautiful showy flowers ranging in color from white to lavender. The corolla is bell-shaped and the reproductive parts are exerted and also attractive. Phacelia heterophylla Varileaf Phacelia is a native biennial or perennial herb that may grow up to 3 feet with assistance of adjacent plants or structures. Phacelia heterophylla Varileaf Phacelia has light green mostly basal leaves with variable shapes. The leaves each have a stem or “petiole”. Plants grow at elevations form 400 to 8,000 feet in California. Phacelia heterophylla

Scientific Name: Phacelia heterophylla
Common Name: Varileaf Phacelia
Also Called: Variable-leaf Scorpion-weed, Virgate Phacelia, Wand Phacelia
Family: Hydrophyllaceae (Boraginaceae, Hydrophylloideae), the Waterleaf Family
Synonyms: (Phacelia heterophyllum)
Status: Native
Duration: Biennial or perennial;
Size: Up to 3 feet with assistance of adjacent plants or structures.
Growth Form: Forb/herb; early stems erect, lateral stems ascending, stiff hairy (hispid).
Leaves: Green, light green; mostly basal, leaf shape variable, leaves with petiole.
Flower Color: White to lavender; corolla bell-shaped, stamens and style exserted, fruit a capsule.
Flowering Season: May to July in California.
Elevation: 400 to 8,000 feet in California.
Habitat Preferences: Desert areas, slopes, mesas and roadsides.

Recorded Range: Phacelia heterophylla is found in the western ½ of the United States. It is also native to Baja California and northern Mexico. In Arizona it occurs in the central and eastern parts of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Phacelia heterophylla.

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

Wetland Indicator: In North America Phacelia heterophylla has the following wetland designations; Arid West, FACU; Great Plains, FAC; Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FACU;
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands,
FAC = Facultative, occur in wetlands and non-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.

2 sub-species in Phacelia heterophylla;
Phacelia heterophylla subsp. heterophylla Varileaf Phacelia (western ½ USA, excludes CA; NV)
Phacelia heterophylla subsp. virgata, Varileaf Phacelia (CA, ID, NV, OR, WA, WY)

Comments: The flowers in the photos above, with unusual color variation, were observed and photographed at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

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, Distant Phacelia, Phacelia distans, Fremont's Phacelia, Phacelia fremontii, Kaweah River Scorpion-weed, Phacelia magellanica and Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia.

Varileaf Phacelia has been used to dress wounds and used as greens in foods.

  • Miwok Drug, Dermatological Aid; Poultice of pulverized, dried plant put in fresh wounds.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Food, Vegetable; Used for greens in foods.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 10/06/2105,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, as variety of Phacelia magellanica.
    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 10/06/2105)
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information