Regularity: Regularly occurring
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
Global Range: Found on Monterey Peninsula and Santa Cruz Island, Calif. (Smith and Berg, 1988).
Comments: Sandy soils from coastal dune and scrub communities to ponderosa pine sandhill communities.
Life History and Behavior
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
Chorizanthe pungens is a species of flowering plant in the buckwheat family known by the common name Monterey spineflower. It is endemic to California, where it is known from the San Francisco Bay Area south along the Central Coast.
It grows mainly in coastal habitat and that of the hills and mountains overlooking the coastline. This is a generally erect but sometimes spreading or prostrate plant with stems up to half a meter in length. It is green to gray to red in color and usually hairy in texture. The leaves are located at the base of the plant; there are also bracts along the stem at the bases of the inflorescences which look like leaves. The inflorescence is a dense cluster of flowers, each flower surrounded by six white to pink hairy bracts tipped in hooked awns. The flower itself is only a few millimeters wide with jagged tepals.
There are two varieties of this species:
- var. pungens is the more common
- var. hartwegiana is known only from the Santa Cruz Mountains north of Santa Cruz. This variety, known as the Ben Lomond spineflower, is treated as a federally listed endangered species. It is found in the same type of unique habitat, known as the Zayante sandhills, as other local rare endemic life forms such as the Ben Lomond wallflower Erysimum teretifolium and the Zayante band-winged grasshopper Trimerotropis infantilis. Threats to this plant and other endemic species include the destruction of the local habitat during sand mining.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Two varieties commonly recognized, both with U.S. federal status. Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana is listed endangered ('LE'); var. pungens is listed as threatened ('LT'), both listings dated 94-02-04. C. pungens is the earliest name in a variable and confusing complex with many local forms (Hickman 1993).