A low, tufted, dark green, prickly plant with 1 small, deep yellow flower head on each of several leafless stalks above foliage.
This common low plant frequently grows near Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) and Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) or among piņon, juniper, and Snakeweed. The closely related Prickly Fetid Marigold (T. acerosa) is more woody and prickly, with flower heads that sit among undivided leaves. Both species were once included in the larger genus Dyssodia. Thymophylla is one of dozens of western North American genera that also have species in southern South America but have no species in the great distance between these two regions. This range distribution probably requires the long-distance dispersal of seeds, perhaps by migratory birds.
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