Mojave Desert-star

The growth of many desert plants depends on rainfall. When there is ample water the plants grow in profusion. When rainfall is scanty, these plants grow only a fraction of an inch tall (if they germinate/grow at all) and have only one flower that is disproportionately large in comparison to the rest of the plant. Death Valley National Park (CA) is very dry this year. A Mojave desert-star (Monoptilon belliodes) photographed in March in the Furnace Creek Wash is a good example of form being dependent on rainfall.

Mojave desert-star is usually a low plant that grows sideways as though clinging to the ground. In wet years it has many flowers and resembles a mat. In dry years there is only one flower and few leaves.

The leaves of this Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) member are alternate and linear to oblong. The stems are reddish purple. Both the stems and leaves of Mojave desert-star are covered in stiff white hairs.

The flower head resembles a daisy and is composed of up to twenty white to pinkish ray flowers and yellow disk flowers.

Mohave desert-star fruits are plump, brown achenes topped with several short scales and longer bristles.

An annual native, Mojave desert-star grows in sandy and gravelly flats and washes at the lower levels of the Sonoran Desert – Southeast California, Southwest Utah, Western Arizona and Northwest Mexico.

The genus name means “one feather” (mono/one and ptilon/feather) and refers to the pappus of another species in this genus that is composed of only one bristle. The species designation comes from the Latin word “bellis” or pretty and with the suffix indicates the plant “resembles the genus Bellis“.

I am very happy that I noticed this tiny plant hidden among the rocks.

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