California Cudweed

California Cudweed © TCorelli

Ladies’ Tobacco, California Rabbit Tobacco, California Everlasting
Pseudognaphalium californicum

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
  • Annual or biennial herb
  • Leaves
    • Mostly narrow, oblong to lance-shaped, with wavy edges
    • May attach directly to stem (sessile)
    • Sometimes with woolly, glandular (sticky) hairs
    • Aromatic
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of branched, open (loose) sets of flowerheads
    • Each disciform head (see Sunflower family) is tightly packed with minute, yellow flowers
      • 100-140 female (pistillate) peripheral flowers with reduced or missing rays
      • 7-12 bisexual central disk flowers
    • Flowerheads are surrounded by rows of whitish, paper-like phyllaries (vase-like floral bracts, collectively called the involucre), like the wrapping around a flower bouquet
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open) with a pappus of bristles
  • Height 2-4 ft.


  • Native to California
    • Grows in forests, foothill woodlands, and chaparral
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows from Oregon to Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations between 200 and 2,600 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Visited by insects
    • Larval food source (host) for the American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly
  • Native people
    • Used an infusion of the plant to treat colds and stomach pain
    • Leaves were used as a poultice for burns, bruises, and cuts

Name Derivation

  • Pseudognaphalium (soo-doe-na-FAY-lee-um) – literally, false Gnaphalium, referring to a superficial resemblance of plants in this genus to those in the genus Gnaphalium
    • Gnaphalium, from the Greek gnaphalon, “a lock of wool,” referring to the woolly leaves
  • Cudweed – commonly used worldwide for a number of plants in the Sunflower family, especially those in the genera Pseudognaphalium and Gnaphalium
Dried Floral Bracts © SBernhard


  • Aromatic leaves deter browsing
    • Some people smell maple syrup; others smell cumin: judge for yourself by rubbing the leaves – no need to pick them!
  • Bristles on fruit help dispersal by wind or animals
  • Floral bracts (phyllaries) remain on the plant long after flowering and open outward as they dry and fruit has ripened, appearing like petals; thus, the flowers seem to be “everlasting” (Mitchell 2017)
    • Everlasting is another common name for plants in this and related genera, collectively called the Everlasting tribe
  • What distinguishes the genus Pseudognaphalium from the related genus Gnaphalium (not found in Edgewood)?
    • Pseudognaphalium species are generally erect plants that grow in dry habitats
    • Gnaphalium species are low-growing, spreading or prostrate plants that grow in moist, often coastal habitats

ID Tips

  • May be confused with 4 other species of cudweed at Edgewood; of these, cotton-batting plant (P. stramineum) and weedy-white cudweed (P. luteoalbum) are the most frequently seen
California CudweedCotton-batting PlantWeedy-white Cudweed
Height< 4 ft.< 2 ft.< 2 ft.
Woolly Hairssometimesyes, whole plant densely woollyyes, whole plant somewhat woolly
Glandular (sticky)yesnono
Flowerheadsmany open (loose) setsusually a single, dense, terminal (top) clusteroften red-tipped, from many long stems that branch from base
California Cudweed (L), Cotton-batting Plant (M), Weedy-white Cudweed (R)
© DSchiel (L), AFengler (M), TCorelli (R)

At Edgewood

  • Found in open and disturbed areas in grasslands, coastal scrub, and chaparral
  • Flowers May – August

See General References

Specific References

Mitchell, M. 2017. Asteraceae: Sunflower family – Gnaphalieae (cudweed) tribe – 1. Monterey County Wildflowers, Trees, and Ferns – A Photographic Guide

Prigge, B.A. and A.C. Gibson. 2013. Pseudognaphalium californicum. A Naturalist’s Flora of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, California. Web version, hosted at Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. United States Department of Interior, National Park Service.

Vadheim, C. 2016, June 8. Plant of the month (June) : California everlasting – Pseudognaphalium californicum. Mother Nature’s Backyard. Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve.