Desert Baileya , Desert Marigold

Baileya multiradiata

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)


An annual or weak perennial, mound-shaped, herb of the sunflower family that grows from a well-developed taproot.  Described by SW Field Guide in SEINet as “gray-green foliage, soft woolly leaves deeply 3-lobed and mostly condensed to the base; multiple erect nearly leafless flowering stalks bearing terminal showy flower heads with many, large, yellow, 3-lobed rays.”  Desert Baileya, also known as Desert Marigold, grows to 1 to 1.5 feet or 30 to 45 cm tall with leaves arranged alternately along the stem and covered with woolly hairs.  The petiolate basal leaves are a 3-lobed rosette and the sessile stem leaves are entire and alternate.  The showy single yellow flowers rise on long (10-30 cm) leafless stalks from a leafy base and form impressive solid yellow mounds.  Each flower head is 4-5 cm wide, comprised of 35-55 ray flowers about 2 cm in size, arranged in overlapping rows each with a 3-toothed apex and over 100 disk flowers. Desert Baileya blooms from spring through late fall. 


Desert Baileya is generally confined to desert regions from Texas to southern California and south into Mexico. Most often found on sandy/gravelly soils in arroyo bottoms or outwash slopes and dry plains and mesas up to 5,000 feet or 1,524 m in elevation. The plant is also common in disturbed areas. Because of its appearance and drought tolerance, it is being studied for nursery production as a possible landscape plant. 

Toxic Agent

The toxic agent is an unknown water-soluble compound. All parts of a green or dried plant are poisonous; flowers and seed heads are more toxic than leaves. Sheep, goats, and rabbits have been poisoned experimentally by Desert Baileya, although under range conditions only sheep are poisoned. Horses and cattle have not been reported as affected. Feeding trials suggest that 16 to 65 pounds of dry or green Desert Baileya are lethal to an adult sheep. Although sheep eat Baileya more readily when range feed is scarce, they have grazed it extensively when ample green grass was available. They appear to relish the flowers and seed heads. In Texas, there have been reports of 25% losses in over-grazed rangeland.

Signs of Livestock Ingestion

The first sign of poisoning in sheep is frothy green salivation, followed by extreme weakness, a rapid heartbeat, and trembling limbs. Under range conditions, poisoned animals may trail the flock with a stiff gait and show marked weakness. Other signs include: Rapid, pounding heart rate, audible without a stethoscope; Trembling and loss of appetite; Standing with back arched; Lying down, unresponsive.

Management Strategies

Graze problem areas with cattle only. Remove sheep and goats from infested pastures as soon as clinical signs are noticed, provide supplemental feed and good quality water and keep them calm. Sheep poisoned by Desert Baileya may refuse to eat for a few days, but most regain their appetite and recover. Losses from Desert Baileya generally occur when other feed is short or when sheep are trailed through dense stands. Because sheep like the flowers and seed heads, do not graze them in pastures with dense stands of Desert Baileya. Sheep losses from this plant in Presidio County were between $50,000 and $100,000 annually in 1958 and 1959. Chemical and mechanical controls tend to be impractical. Losses can best be minimized through good livestock management.