Overview

Distribution

Global Range: From southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, northwestern Sonora and northeastern Baja California, Mexico.

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National Distribution

Mexico

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Not likely to be confused with anything else. Calyx hairy and inflorescence saucer-shaped while Pholisma arinarium has calyx hairless and inflorescence spiked.

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Found in drifting sand below 500 ft. elevation in creosote bush scrub.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20

Comments: Occurrences limited to southern Yuma County, Arizona (along the Mexican border); Colorado Desert, east of Imperial Valley, California, and NW Sonora and NE Baja California, Mexico.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL

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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled

Reasons: A moderately widespread but rare parasite, known from southwestern Arizona along border with Mexico east of San Luis, southeastern California (Imperial County), northwestern Sonora and northeastern Baja California, Mexico. "Widespread in Gran Desierto and a few locations in Arizona but low numbers within each occurrence." (Laurenzi and Spence 2012).

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements scarce.

Comments: Endemic to dunes and sandy areas near the Gulf of California; elevation range 50-150 m (100-450 ft). This rare plant parasitize's the roots of Eriogonum deserticola, Tiquilia palmeri and T. plicata, Ambrosia dumosa, and Pluchea sericea.

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Mexico

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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Global Short Term Trend: Unknown

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Threats

Degree of Threat: Very high

Comments: "Its habitat and host plants have been endangered by farming and recreational vehicle use in the fragile dune areas to which these plants are endemic." (Yatskievych, 1993). No indication from literature that harvesting by the Sand Papagos adversely affected population sizes (G. Nabhan, Desert Botanical Garden).

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Management

Biological Research Needs: Population biology and ecology of species and hosts.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: According to Munz (1959) once an important food for the local Indians.

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Wikipedia

Pholisma sonorae

Pholisma sonorae, commonly known as Sandfood, is a rare and unusual species of flowering plant endemic to the Sonoran Deserts to the west of Yuma, Arizona in the California Yuha and Colorado Desert, and south in the Yuma Desert, where it is known from only a few locations.[1]

Contents

Description[edit]

Pholisma sonorae is a perennial herb which grows in sand dunes, its fleshy stem extending up to two meters-six feet below the surface and emerging above as a small rounded or ovate form. It may be somewhat mushroom-shaped if enough sand blows away to reveal the top of the stem. It is a parasitic plant which attaches to the roots of various desert shrubs such as wild buckwheats, ragweeds, plucheas, and Tiquilia plicata and T. palmeri to obtain nutrients.

As a heterotroph, the Pholisma sonorae plant lacks chlorophyll and is grayish, whitish, or brown in color. It has glandular scale-like leaves along its surface. The plant obtains water not from its host plants, but through stomata in its leaves.[1] The plant blooms in centimeter-wide flowers which are pink to purple in color with white margins.

Uses[edit]

This was an important food item for certain desert-dwelling Native American peoples, including the Cocopah and the Hia C-ed O'odham.[2]

Status[edit]

The plant is rare and declining as its habitat of shifting dune sands is lost to development and damaged by off-road vehicle use.[1]

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: A remarkable species in a genus of plants without chlorophyll (root parasites).

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