Desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) is a native annual growing in sandy or gravelly flats and slopes in deserts between 3,500 and 7,000 feet. It can be found in Southeastern California and Southern Utah south to Northern Mexico.
Also commonly called New Mexico plumeseed and plumeseed, this member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) arises from a taproot. Desert chicory is a greyish-green plant with a weak, sparsely-leaved stem that zig-zags. The stems are often supported by other shrubs. The alternate leaves near the base of the stem are long and pinnately divided into narrow lobes. The upper leaves are smaller. The sap is milky.
The flower heads, located at the ends of branches, are composed entirely of white ray flowers. The outer ray flowers have rose-colored veins on the underside and are five-toothed. The outer ray flowers extend beyond the phyllaries (bracts) while those toward the center of the head are shorter. The bracts in the outer row are small with the tips curling back.
Desert chicory fruits are slender achenes with a rigid stalk bearing feathery hairs at the top.
The genus name honors Constantine S Rafinesque (1783 – 1849), a naturalist and botanist, among other professions, who lived much of his life in the United States.
These desert chicory plants were growing along the Fall Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park CA.