FAMILY: Asteraceae — Aster family
ETYMOLOGY: The genus Baileya was named by botanists William Henry Harvey and Asa Gray for their colleague Jacob Whitman Bailey (1811-1857), a chemist and microscopist.
The species name multiradiata describes the many ray flowers that surround the central disk flowers.
Although the flower of Desert marigold resembles the common marigold, Baileya multiradiata is not a member of the marigold family, the genus Tagetes.
GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Found in the deserts of CA, UT, AZ, NM, TX, and northern Mexico.
HABITAT: Sandy plains and bajadas, often along roadsides, below 5,000'.
BLOOMING SEASON: Early spring through fall.
DESCRIPTION: Annual or short-lived perennial plants to 12-24" tall with a spread of 6-12".
Flowers are bright yellow, up to 2" across with 3-lobed ray flowers arranged in layers around a dense mound of disk flowers. Flowers become papery as they age, eventually dropping off to leave a button-like seed head.
Deeply lobed leaves, 1-4" long, grow from a taproot and are clustered at the base of the plant forming a rosette. Smaller narrow leaves grow along the thick stems. Both leaves and stems are silvery white and covered with fine hairs, giving a wooly appearance, especially to the leaves.
Toxicity: Desert marigold, especially the flower, is poisonous to sheep and goats but not other livestock.
Plant-Insect Associations: The larvae of the desert marigold moth (Schinia miniana) causes the large yellow flower to curl in on itself to form a dense ball around the larvae, which feeds on the developing fruit of the central disk.
Desert Adaptations: The fine hairs covering the leaves and stem of the plant deflect sunlight to lower the temperature of the plant.