These are rugged plants native to the tropical to subtropical regions that include Central America, Southwestern United States, California, Florida, the Caribbean, and South America. Most of the species can be found in Mexico, five in the Southwestern United States, and three are scattered in Colombia and Brazil. Some sources say that the name Melampodium is derived from the Greek words μέλας (melas), meaning "black", and πόδιον (podion), meaning "foot". This refers to the color of the base of the stem and roots. Members of the genus are commonly known as blackfoots.