Bahiopsis laciniata is a drought-tolerant shrub native to the chaparral and coastal sage scrub regions of California and Baja California. It can be found at elevations of 20m to 1030m (65-3350 ft.). It is commonly known as San Diego sunflower, canyon sunflower, and tornleaf goldeneye.
Previously named Viguiera laciniata, in 2002 Edward E. Schilling and Jose L. Panero elevated Bahiopsis from subgenus to genus based on morphological characteristics and molecular data (see: E.E. Schilling & Panero (2002). A revised classification of subtribe Helianthinae (Asteraceae: Heliantheae). I. Basal lineages. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. doi: 10.1046/j.1095-8339.2002.00079.x). Bahiopsis contains 12 species, all of which are native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. The name Bahiopsis means “
similar to looks like the genus Bahia.”
The sunny yellow flower heads of San Diego sunflower bloom from February to August, either singly or in flat-topped clusters. Each flowering head is a pseudanthium, or a flower-like composite of many tiny disk and ray flowers. Over 50 disk flowers make up the center of each flower head, and 5-13 ray flowers surround the perimeter. The ray flowers are nearly identical to the disk flowers except that each one carries a 6-12mm (0.25-0.5 in.) long petal-like ray. The flower heads are faintly fragrant and attract butterflies, hummingbirds and insect pollinators. The seeds are 2-4mm long.
San Diego sunflower may be difficult to spot during dry spells, as flowering stops and the leaves blend in amongst the surrounding foliage. Apart from the blooms, San Diego sunflower can be recognized by its light to dark green crinkled leaves and the resinous coating on its stems and leaves. The lanceolate to lance-ovate leaves are generally alternate, with laciniate margins and obtuse to acute tips. San Diego sunflower is evergreen with a branching form, and grows to 0.5-1.3m (1.75-4.25 ft.) tall by up to 2m (6 ft.) wide.
Bahiopsis laciniata is considered to be moderately threatened in California due to its limited distribution. It is rated as a 4.2 by the California Native Plant Society and listed as “rare and/or endangered” by The Digital Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California (University of California Press, 2012). However, San Diego sunflower is also a fast-growing plant; it is often grown for wildlife gardens and environmental restoration projects, where it is used to protect slopes from erosion and revegetate disturbed regions.