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   Chaenactis' mass of finely cut leaves usually draws our attention first, for Chaenactis flowers are small, rayless, and inconspicuously light white, cream, or yellow. But a close look at the flowers shows their intricacy and beauty and makes them special with wildflower enthusiasts.

    "Chaenactis" is from the Greek "open or gaping rays", but since Chaenactis flowers have no ray flowers the genus name perhaps refers to what appear to be ray flowers in some species.  These seeming ray flowers are, in the words of the Flora of North America, "enlarged peripheral disc corollas".

Chaenactis stevioides (Esteve's Chaenactis, Esteve's Dusty-Maiden, Esteve's Pincushion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring, summer.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, May 5, 2005.

Chaenactis stevioides has a very open, airy growth pattern topped by a spray of white disk flowers. Plants grow from two to 12 inches tall with anywhere from one to a dozen stems sporting up to 20 flower heads. Chaenactis stevioides likes hot and dry, open sandy/gravelly areas, shrublands or even sometimes Juniper woodlands. As the map below shows, it is found in almost every county of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona and spills over a bit into nearby states.   

According to the on-line Calflora Botanical Dictionary: "there is a genus Stevia in the Asteraceae that grows in Paraguay....  It was named after Pedro Jaime Esteve (d. 1566), a Spanish botanist and physician.  From the form of the name "stevioides" ... it [is] likely that it means 'like [the genus] Stevia'".  William Jackson Hooker named the plant in 1839 and it is likely he knew of Esteve.

Chaenactis stevioides

Chaenactis stevioides

Chaenactis stevioides

Chaenactis stevioides (Esteve's Chaenactis, Esteve's Dusty-Maiden, Esteve's Pincushion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring, summer.
Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, May 2, 2016.

Leaves are deeply cut or even pinnate and quite as hairy as the rest to the plant. Lower leaves often wither to maroons and reds by flowering time. Stems, too, are often flushed with maroon.

The three photographs at left show a first year plant at top, then a plant several years old, and then the oldest plant. Plants are progressively taller, more robust, have more leaves and more flowers, etc. All three plants grew within a few hundred feet of each other.

 

Chaenactis stevioides (Esteve's Chaenactis, Esteve's Dusty-Maiden, Esteve's Pincushion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring, summer.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, May 5, 2005.

The seeming pins in a cushion are actually individual flowers packed tightly into almost spherical flower heads. The flower head at 2 o'clock has all of its individual flowers fully open with stamens and styles sticking upward.

In the other three flower heads, the tiny yellow central bumps are closed disk flowers that will open white. 

Each disk flower corolla is a very narrow tube with only small lobes at its tip; there are no petals. However, fully opened disk flowers around the edge of the flower head often are enlarged and have flared lips that resemble petals, i.e., ray flowers. These flared flowers are probably the source of the genus name which translates as "open or gaping rays".  Chaenactis flower heads have no ray flowers.  See the note at the top of this page.

In the background of the photograph at left you can see the yellow flowers and straight green stems of Mormon Tea, Ephedra torreyana.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Chaenactis stevioides