Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


Boys teasing girls probably goes back as far as mankind, and if not carried too far, is enjoyed by both, if the truth were known. Animals have always been part of this—who doesn't remember excited squeals as a boy dangles a frog or earthworm in front of his victim's face? People who grew up in the Chihuahuan Desert may remember a plant as a teasing tool—memories of a boy or girl walking into class, unaware that "friends" had added leaves to their backs, much like the "kick-me" signs occasionally in vogue among the younger set.

Leaves that stick like velcro? And, luckily, peel off painlessly just as easily? Contributions of plants of the genus Mentzelia, commonly known as—what else—stickleaf. A common species in the northern desert has attractive, medium-sized, yellow flowers, while the infamous leaves are long and serrated. Roots of some species have been used as a remedy for various ills, and the seeds of some are edible when parched and ground—however, the real value undoubtedly lies in its teasing potential
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, 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.

flower and foliage

Flower and foliage of Stickleaf. Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. Photograph by A.H. Harris.



Web Resources

Blazing Star, another name for the same plant.