The Desert Chicory is a plant that grows and thrives in desert habitats. It is a member of the sunflower family or Asteraceae, It survives in the Mojave and the Sonora deserts. Its range is from California to southern Texas to the tip of west Texas. It also grows in southern Arizona, parts of New Mexico and in the northern areas of Mexico. They grow in gravel pits, sandy soil in the shade of other plants and desert flats. The creosote (shrubs that are strongly scented and grow in a widely spaced patterns in many desert areas), scrub-lands and Joshua tree woodlands are particular favorites of the Desert Chicory. Joshua trees are not really trees. They are yucca plants that can grow up to fifty feet tall in the desert. The Desert Chicory grows from two hundred to three thousand feet above sea level.
The Desert Chicory has white flowers that have one to one and a half inch wide heads. The underside of the bloom has pink or violet stripes The flower head itself is made up of five eight inch long rays that are multiple thin strips that make up the flower petals, such as those of the dandelion. The base of the Desert Chicory is yellow. This brightly colored base makes a nice contrast to the white bloom and helps this plant stand out among the surrounding shrubs.
The stems of the Desert Chicory are hollow and quite weak. For this reason the stem often grows up through other shrubs and uses them as a means of support. The stem is a grayish green color and can grow from six to twenty inches tall. It has a few leaves at the base that are from two to eight inches long and they are basil leaves that are deeply pinnately lobed. This means they are somewhat feathery in appearance.
The Desert Chicory blooms from the month of February through the month of May in some parts of the country and from March to May in others.
The Native Americans used a root tea made from the Desert Chicory to treat colds, fevers and as an analgesic or pain killer. It is used today as an ingredient of many herbal teas. They leaves can be boiled and eaten. The flowers can be used in a salad. This is a very versatile plant. All the plants in the Desert Chicory family are considered to be herbs and can be used in hot drinks.