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Encelia farinosa has a bioregional distribution that includes California's eastern South Coast and adjacent Peninsular Ranges, as well as a desert distribution outside California to southwestern Utah, Arizona and northwest Mexico. The occurrences are restricted to elevations less than 1000 meters. Chief habitats are in coastal scrub and on stony desert hillsides.

This desert shrub, also known by the common name Brittlebush, reaches a height of 30 to 150 centimeters, manifesting a single or several trunks. The stems are much-branched above, with young stems tomentose; older stems exhibit smooth bark, This plant's sap is fragrant Leaves are clustered near stem tips, with leaf petioles 10 to 20 millimeters in length, and with ovate to lanceolate blades ranging from two to seven cm. These tomentose leaves are silver or gray in color. Inflorescence heads are radiate, and generally yellowish, although the disk flowers can be yellow or brownish-purple.

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