One of our most common spring wildflowers here in the Sonoran Desert is New Mexico Plumeseed or Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana). Depending on the winter rains and the temperature, this annual wildflower blooms anytime from February until our weather turns hot and dry, usually sometime in May.
New Mexico Plumeseed or Desert Chicory has white flowers similar in shape to the blue flowers of cultivated Chicory (Cichorium intybus), which is likely why this desert wildflower is called Desert Chicory. The flower heads have no disk flowers, only broad, square-tipped, 5-toothed rays. The rays are shining white above, but they are usually streaked with maroon below. The flowers are followed by plumed seeds, the origin of this plant's other common name.
New Mexico Plumeseed or Desert Chicory has very similar flowers to those of two other spring wildflowers found here, but it generally has the largest flowers of the three, 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide, and the fewest but the widest rays. California Plumeseed (Rafinesquia californica) has smaller flowers with more numerous, narrower rays. White Tackstem (Calycoseris wrightii) has more numerous rays and can be distinguished by the tack-shaped glands on its stems.