Plants perennial, cespitose, 0.5-1.5 dm; roots primary, diffuse, woody. Stems ascending, with 1-2 pairs of leaves, sparsely villous, often glabrate. Leaves mostly basal; petiole to 3 cm; blade green, obovate or oblong, 3.5-7.5 × 2-3 cm, apex rounded or obtuse, densely grayish appressed-pilose. Inflorescences: heads white, subglobose, 10-17 mm diam.; bractlets not crested, margins dentate near apex. Flowers: tube densely white-pilose; perianth lobes white to yellow, linear to lanceolate, 4.5-5 mm, hyaline, apex obtuse. Utricles ovoid, 2 mm, apex acute. Seeds 1.5 mm. Flowering spring-early summer. Open woodlands, especially oak-juniper woodlands, hillsides; 600-2000 m; Ariz., N.Mex.; Mexico (Sonora).
Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, FNA 2004
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Crowded, caespitose perennial herb from woody rootstock, to 15 cm tall; stems ascending, nearly leafless, sparsely villous, often glabrate, terminating in short dense flower clusters. Leaves: Most leaves in a basal cluster, on petioles to 3 cm long; also 1-2 subsessile pairs of opposite leaves on each stem; blades elliptic, oblanceolate, ovate, or suborbicular, 1-5 cm long, up to 2 cm wide, densely grayish appressed-pilose on both surfaces. Flowers: White, perfect, in subglobose clusters (-heads-) at branch tips, the heads 1-2 cm diameter. Each flower subtended by one bract and 2 bracteoles, all of them showy, white, and hyaline. Perianth lobes 5, white to yellow, hyaline, 4-5 mm, the tube densely white-pilose. Fruits: Utricle 2 mm, ovoid, with reddish brown shiny seeds 1.5 mm long. Ecology: Found on grassy and rocky slopes from 3,500-5,000 ft (1067-1524 m); flowers March-June. Distribution: AZ, s NM, sw TX; south to c MEX. Notes: The genus Gomphrena is characterized by having heads of densely clustered flowers, each flower subtended by showy bracts. G. caespitosa is distinguished by being perennial and very low-growing, with a cluster of tightly bunched, hairy, gray-green basal leaves, a few nearly leafless stems emerging from them, barely rising above the ground, and tipped with white globose flower clusters. These characters differ from the annual life form in G. nitida and reddish bracts of the more upright G. sonorae. Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Gomphrena is derived from Gromphraea, the Greek name for a different type of Amaranth; caespitosa means densely clumped or tufted. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2015