Brittle Spine Flower

Chorizanthe brevicornu

Brittle Spine Flower, Chorizanthe brevicornu, Photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed along Cave Creek, New River Mountains, Maricopa Co., Arizona. April 2008.

ANNUAL: Low growing, rather obscure annual of spring. Mostly less than 30 cm tall. Upright and intricately branched. However, after flowering and as the plant is beginning to die the stems turn bright orange-red (see below).

ARMED. The bracts surrounding the flowers grow tough and hook-like as they mature.

LEAVES: Leaves are narrow, linear and mostly basal - few leaves above ground level.

RANGE: Frequent throughout the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico on rocky slopes and along washes. Green plants visible from mid spring; drying stems and seeds present through late spring/early summer.

FRUIT: Dry capsules encircled by vertical bract-hooks. When mature these readily detach and hook into socks, etc. The bright colors might attract unsuspecting birds or mammals which end up dispersing the seeds.

FLOWERS: Mostly hidden behind the usually six hooked bracts.

Polygonaceae -- Buckwheat Family

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habit of Brittle Spine Flower, Chorizanthe brevicornu, photo © by Michael Plagens

This plant is bristling with sharp burs ready for dispersal. Photographed at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, May 2013.

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 19 June 2008,
updated 4 Sept. 2018.