Overview

Distribution

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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Global Range: Found throughout southwestern Arizona, southeastern California and northwestern Sonora, Mexico.

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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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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Mexico

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled

Reasons: A moderately widespread parasite, Pholisma sonorae is known from southwestern Arizona, southeastern California (Imperial County), northwestern Sonora, Mexico, and Baja California, Mexico.

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Threats

Comments: Off-the-road vehicle impact on sand dunes may cause reduction in numbers. No indication from literature that harvesting by the Sand Papagos adversely affected population sizes (G. Nabhan, Desert Botanical Garden). Military activities are also threats to this species.

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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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