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Desert Diary
Plants/Desert Marigold


Calling someone an opportunist is almost certain to earn you a nasty look, if not worse. Yet, in the natural world, being opportunistic can be a good thing. Many desert plants have this characteristic in the best sense--taking advantage of the brief moments of time when conditions are right for sprouting, growing leaves, or blooming.

The Desert Marigold is a plant whose seeds sprout with moderate rain, regardless of season, as long as it's warm enough to allow growth. Most such plants tend to have rather drab flowers, but not this beauty from the sunflower family—its showy and often profuse yellow flowers, frequently an inch or more across, brighten up the desert landscape as few others can. But its flowering, like its germination, depends on the right moment—onceagain, a rain is the signal that its time to go to work. Aren't we glad to have this opportunist in our Chihuahuan Desert?
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

overview of desert marigold

Overview of Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, Centennial Museum. Photograph by A. H. Harris.

flowers of Desert Marigold

Flowers and buds of the Desert Marigold, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, Centennial Museum. Photograph by A. H. Harris.