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Goosefoot Bursage

Goosefoot Bursage
Ambrosia chenopodifolia


Asteraceae, Sunflower Family




Baja California and Coastal Sonora, Mexico


Hillsides, slopes, plains and mesas

Living Desert Location:

Vizcaino Garden


Check under a Goosefoot Bursage, it just might be a nurse plant.

Goosefoot bursage is an interesting, small sized shrub that is very common in the central desert of Baja California.  It can grow to nearly four feet tall and equally as wide.  It has gray-green, triangular-shaped leaves and small fruits, called burs, covered with small hooked spines.  This wind-pollinated species produces both male and female flowers.  The staminate (male) flowers are arranged above the pistillate (female) flowers on the same spike, or paniculate inflorescence.

In central Baja California rainfall occurs predominantly during the fall and winter months, with the summers being hot and dry.  These winter rains encourage growth and flowering in goosefoot bursage.  Goosefoot bursage is closely related to and resembles the triangle-leaf bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea), which is often a dominant shrub in portions of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.  As a dominant shrub in some parts of its range, goosefoot bursage can play an important role as a nurse plant for young succulent plants.  Succulents, such as Mammillaria and Ferocactus cacti, and the infamous Boojum (Fouquieria columnaris) require the shelter found beneath a nurse plant in order to survive the first years of their lives.  Later, when these young succulent plants are large enough and develop strong enough root systems,

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