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What is a Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)

A painted lady butterfly is partially hidden in a lavender Mojave Aster flower

Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)

Mojave Aster Overview

The Mojave Aster is a small, perennial shrub that grows in the American southwest and is known for its lavender, violet, or blue flowers when it blooms. Also known as the Mojave Woodyaster, this plant grows in arid climates and sandy soil that is found in canyons or rocky slopes throughout the desert.

The Havasupai, native to Arizona, use this shrubs flower as an incense or perfume that is carried on their person to help with body odor.

Blooms of Mojave Aster in the California Desert after a rainy winter


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Clade: Asterids
  • Order: Asterales
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Genus: Xylorhiza
  • Species: X. tortifolia


As stated before, the Mojave Aster is a small shrub that will bloom light purple, violet, or blue flowers in the spring around March to June. Depending on the season, this plant can be seen with blooms in the fall as well. Being related to the sunflower, the Mojave Aster has a very bright yellow center that attracts insects to pollinate it.

The petals grow to around 2 inches in diameter with a green bud underneath it supporting the flower. The leaves are jagged and prickly and typically have a layer of short soft hair on them.

Purple and yellow flowers grow in the Mojave Desert of southern California.


The Mojave Aster grows around 790 to 6,560 feet in elevation and is native to southeast California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and western Arizona.

If you’re trekking through the Sonoran, Great Basin, or Mojave deserts, you can expect to see these plants during your travels.


These shrubs are plentiful in the southwest and because of that, there are no federal or state laws protecting them. There may be general protections applied to the plant at National Parks so be sure to check the park rules before going.

References Used

Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)