Eriogonum abertianum

Ethnobotany. According to the book “The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho” (Vestal, Paul A., 1952, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology), Eriogonum abertianum was used – in decoction – as a lotion for skin cuts of horses and human beings.

Diversity. Jim Reveal did not describe the different varieties of this species. Nonetheless, Raymond Fosberg in “Eriogonum and its varieties” (published in “Madroño” in 1938) described them and the descriptions are posted below the following pictures.

Recent researches. In the Journal of Ecology (September 1993), un article titled “Annual Seed Dormancy Cycles in Two Desert Winter Annuals” describes the annual cycles of dormancy in the seeds of Eriogonum abertianum.

Selon Baskin et al (1993), Nondormant seeds of the desert winter annual Eriogonum abertianum germinated to 86 and 79% in light at 15/6 and 20/10° C, respectively, but to only 3, I, and 0% at 25/ 15, 30/15, and 35/20 ° C, respectively.” 

In Oecologia (1997), l’article “Interactions between winter and summer annuals in the Chihuahan Desert”, Guo and Brown cites Kemp 1983 and Inouye 1991: “The three biseasonal species (Eriogonum abertianum, Haplopappus gracilis, and Baileya multiradiata), germinated in fall and winter, but unlike the winter annuals, individuals survived through the spring droughts (Fig. 1). Although mortality during this period was often severe (sometimes >95%) and the surviving rosettes lost their outer leaves, the surviving plants grew rapidly in response to the first summer rains. In years when mortality during the spring drought was relatively low, the surviving plants, because of their size advantage and well established root system, were often able to dominate the summer annual plant community in terms of both individual plant size and total species biomass”.

Description from Jim Reveal’s Manual. Plants herbs, erect or spreading, annual, 0.5–6 (7) dm tall, hirsute, greenish, grayish, tawny, or reddish; stems with caudex absent, the aerial flowering stems prostrate to erect, solid, not fistulose, 0.1–1 dm long, appressed- hirsute; leaves basal and cauline; basal: petiole 0.5–6 cm long, villous to hoary, blade oblong to obovate, 1–4 cm long, 1–3 cm wide, villous to hoary-tomentose and greenish, tawny, or reddish on both surfaces, the margins plane, occasionally crenulate; cauline: sessile, blade linear, lanceolate, or narrowly obovate, 1–4 cm long, 0.3–2 cm wide, similar to basal blade; inflorescences cymose, open to diffuse, 5–40 (60) cm long, 5–50 cm wide, the branches hirsute, the bracts 3–6, semi-foliaceous, 2–10 mm long, 1–3 mm wide; peduncles ascending to erect, mostly straight, slender, 0.5–6 cm long, villous to hoary-tomentose; involucres broadly campanulate, 2–3 mm long and wide, villous-canescent, the teeth 5, lobelike, usually reflexed, 4–6 mm long; flowers 3–4.5 mm long, the perianth white to pale yellow in early anthesis, becoming reddish or rose, glabrous, the tepals dimorphic, those of outer whorl orbiculate-cordate, those of inner whorl lanceolate to spatulate, the stamens mostly exserted, 1.5–3.5 mm long, the filaments mostly pilose proximally; achenes brown to dark brown, lenticular, 0.6–1 mm long, glabrous. 2n = 40.



Flowering year-round. Sandy, gravelly, or clayey flats, washes, and slopes, mixed grassland, saltbush, greasewood, creosote bush, blackbrush, and manzanita communities, oak and conifer woodlands; 400–2500 m.










Dr. John Torrey described Eriogonum abertianum in Major Emory’s “Notes of a Military Reconnoissance” (p. 151, 1848).

The plant is an annual, ordinarily dichotomously or trichotomously branched near or above the base, canescently tomentose to villous, with campanulate involucres bearing many flowers ; the perianth parts are in two series, the outer three expanded, more or less orbicular, membranous-scarious, covering the narrow inner ones. This species is closely related to E. pharnaceoides Torr., differing in the pubescence, the leaf shape, and in the more expanded outer perianth segments which are thinner and more scarious. It is also related to E. ovalifolium Nutt., from which it differs in being an annual, in the pubescence and shape of its leaves, and in the open rather than condensed inflorescence.

A study of material from the Mesilla Valley, New Mexico, indicated that there were two different entities which keyed, in the Flora of New Mexico by Wooton and Standley, to Eriogonum abertianum. In the synonymy was given the name Eriogonum cyclosepalum Greene (Muhlenbergia 6: 1. 1910) the description of which seemed to fit one of the Mesilla Valley plants. The remainder of the material agreed better with E. pinetorum as described by Greene in the same paper than with Eriogonum abertianum Torr. as interpreted by him.

In an effort to settle the problem, Eriogonum abertianum and related species were studied in the herbaria of Pomona College, California Academy of Sciences, Los Angeles Museum, and the University of California, Berkeley. The material examined included isotypes and cotypes of E. pinetorum Greene, E. cyclosepalum Greene, E. arizonicum Gandoger, Eriogonum abertianum var. neomexicanum Gandoger, and Eriogonum abertianum var. ruberrimum Gandoger. Dr. Gleason had photographed for me at the New York Botanical Garden the type of Eriogonum abertianum in the Torrey Herbarium.

As shown by these photographs, Dr. Torrey had at hand only one sheet which bears material collected by Abert. This sheet contains two specimens, one a small fragment of the top of a plant, labelled “July 17, Lt. Abert,” and another marked “Oct. 14th, 1846, Emory.” A careful study of Emory’s Report shows that on July 17 Lieutenant Abert was near the junction of the Pawnee River with the Arkansas River, in Pawnee County, Kan- sas, considerably out of the present range of the species, and on October 14, Emory was along the Rio Grande, apparently in Sierra County, New Mexico. Both of these plants seem to be Eriogonum abertianum var. neomexicanum Gandoger. The other sheet in Torrey’s herbarium bears four specimens. The plant on the left of the sheet, no. 1, collected in August by Dr. Bigelow from “Near San Diego (Vail, of R. Grande)” is Eriogonum abertianum var. bracteatum. The remaining three specimens should all be referred to Eriogonum abertianum var. cyclosepalum. They were collected in Mexico by Dr. Parry: no. 2 at Chihuahua; nos. 3 and 4 from Janos [Janas?], northern Chihuahua. All of these plants were named simply ” Eriogonum abertianum” by Torrey.

The groups of plants in this complex are best treated as varieties of a single species, Eriogonum abertianum Torr., because of the insignificance of the characters in which they differ. Miss S. G. Stokes (The Genus Eriogonum, 36. 1936) recognizes subsp. typicum and subsp. lappulaceum, considering other described segregates as mere ecological variations. The varieties treated in this paper, except var. lappulaceum would be included by her in subsp. typicum. Since these plants as observed in the field do not behave as ecological variants, I cannot agree with her treatment.

1. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. neomexicanum Gandoger, in Compt. Rend. Soc. Bot. Belg. 42: 196. 1906. E. pinetorum Greene, Muhlenbergia 6: 3. 1910.

Erect plants, soft villous but not conspicuously whitish except on young parts, seldom branched at base but usually repeatedly dichotomously or trichotomously branched above into a definite panicle, peduncles and upper branches usually filiform ; petioles 1— 2 cm. long, leaves near base broadly oblong-ovate to narrowly ovate, obtuse to acute at apex, truncate to attenuate at base, reduced above to small linear bracts 5 mm. or less long in the paniculate inflorescence ; peduncles 0.5—3 cm. long, filiform, usually 1 at a node, surmounted by a single turbinate involucre, 2— 2.5 mm. high, 3 mm. in diameter with lanceolate lobes usually 2.5—4 mm. long; flowers rather numerous, exserted on fine filiform pedicels, the rather spherical inflorescence 5—10 mm. in diameter; outer sepals 2.5—3 mm. broad, circular or slightly longer than broad, membranous-scarious, yellowish-white, tinged with red.

Specimens examined. Kansas. Arkansas River, Pawnee Co., July 17, 1846, Lt. Abert (type, New York Bot. Gard.). Arizona. Tucson, Thornber 196; Tucson, May 10, 1896, J. W. Tourney; Outlaw Canon, Chiricahua Mts., Goodding 2373; Pearce, Cochise Co., Aug. 19, 1910, W. TV. Jones; Antelope, C. A. Purpus 52; Clifton, A. Davidson 4^5. New Mexico. Rio Grande, Sierra Co., Oct. 14, 1846, Lt. Emory (cotype). Dona Ana County: vicinity of Pyramid (Bishop’s Cap) Peak, Mesilla Valley, south end of the Organ Mts., F. R. Fosberg S3300, S3Jf87, S3550, 83653, S3700, S37U, S3790, S3794* S3801, S£047j mesa west of the Organ Mts., Oct. 17, 1903, E. 0. Wooton; Organ Mts., E. 0. Wooton 1^27 (type of var. neomexicanum) ; Mogollon Mts., Sierra Co., H. L. Rusby 359.

2. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. ruberrimum Gandoger, in Compt. Rend. Soc. Bot. Belg. 42: 196. 1906.

Similar to var. neomexicanum but with peduncles mostly under 0.5 cm. long; flowers just as numerous in the involucre, but not so far exserted, heads very compact, 5—6 mm. in diameter; outer sepals 1.5—2 mm. broad, nearly circular, dark reddish in color.

Specimens examined. Mexico. Near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, C. H. T. Townsend $ C. M. Barker 369 (type).

3. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. villosum var. nov. Erect plant, up to 4 dm. tall, more or less white villous, more so in young plants, stem usually not branched at base, dichotomously or trichotomously (often several times) branched above, floriferous ordinarily at upper nodes only leafy to the top, the leaves somewhat smaller above, but not conspicuously reduced; leaves oblong-ovate, acute to obtuse at apex, truncate or at least abruptly contracted at the base; petioles 2—3 cm. long on lower leaves, becoming shorter above to about 0.5 cm ; peduncles solitary in the upper axils, rather robust, usually 2—6 cm. long (very short  in material collected at Douglas, Ariz., by L. N. Goodding, May 22, 1907); involucre solitary, 3 mm. high, 3 mm. in diameter, turbinate, with ovate-lanceolate lobes about as long as the tube ; flowers many, exserted on rather long pedicels, the spherical inflorescence 1—1.5 cm. in diameter; outer sepals 2.5—3.5 mm. broad, nearly circular, slightly broader than long, with a narrow sinus at the base, membranous-scarious.

Specimens examined. Arizona. Road to Soldier’s Camp, Santa Catalina Mts., alt. 6000 ft., G. J. Goodman C. L. Hitchcock 1263 (type, Herb. Univ. Calif, no. 426,460) ; Douglas, L. N. Goodding 2265 (low plant, very villous, peduncles mostly short, possibly quite young) ; Lowell, W. F. Parish 233 (in habit resembling var. cyclosepalum) ; Chiricahua Mts., Sept., 1881, J. G. Lemmon and wife; Tucson, May 10, 1896, J. W. Tourney; Nogales, May 24, 1892, T. S. Brandegee; Douglas, May 17,1915, Carlson; Ox Bow Hill, Apache Trail, Eastwood 17524- New Mexico. Mimbres River, Grant Co., July 1, 1904, alt. 5500 ft., 0. B. Metcalfe 1057 ; Mogollon Creek, Mogollon Mts., Socorro Co., alt. 8000 ft., 0. B. Metcalfe 234; Deming, Grant Co., alt. 4400 ft., J. W. Gillespie 5321. Texas. El Paso, April 18, 1884, M. E. Jones. Mexico. San Requis, Lower Calif., May 2, 1889, T. S. Brandegee; Dry Mts., east of Rio San Miguel, Chihuahua, C. V. Hartman 654 (last two collections extremely villous).

4. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. cyclosepalum (Greene) comb. nov. E. cyclosepalum Greene, Muhlenbergia 6: 1. 1910.

Very similar to var. villosum in general appearance and in pubescence but branched at base, depressed in habit, 1 dm. or less tall, floriferous to the base; peduncles 1-3 cm. long; involucres turbinate, the tube 2 mm. high, 3 mm. in diameter, the lobes very large, more or less spatulate with rounded apex, 6—10 mm. long, 1-2 mm. broad; flowers many, the cluster 1-1.5 cm. in diameter; outer sepals 3.5—4 mm. broad, nearly circular but slightly longer than broad, membranous-scarious, yellow tinged with red.

Specimens examined. New Mexico. Mesa west of the Organ Mts., Dona Ana Co., May, 1905, E. 0. Wooton; Silver City, Eastwood 8419. Texas. El Paso, M. E. Jones 3738; Fort Bliss, April 22, 1915, Carlson. Mexico. Chihuahua, April, Dr. Parry; Janos  [Janas?] March, Dr. Parry; San Luis Potosi, J. G. Schaffner 2178.

5. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. bracteatum var. nov.

Plant branched at the base, soft villous, green in color, branches ascending, many times dichotomously or trichotomously branched, floriferous often almost to base, forming usually a small rounded plant, ordinarily not more than 2 dm. tall, but when in very favorable localities reaching a height of 4 dm. ; leaves small, the lower short-petioled, ovate, usually obtuse at apex, attenuate at base, rapidly reduced to narrowly lanceolate, sessile bracts above, these seldom over 1 cm. long, but quite abundant ; peduncles mostly about 5 mm. long, in axils from top often practically to base of plant ; involucre small, turbinate, 2 mm. high, 2 mm. in diameter, with oblong-lanceolate lobes 4—6 mm. long, few-flowered; flowers exserted on rather long pedicels, the spherical inflorescence 5—10 mm. in diameter; outer sepals 3-3.5 mm. broad, nearly circular, slightly broader than long, with a narrow sinus at the base, membranous-scarious, yellow, tinged with red.

Specimens examined. New Mexico. Near San Antonio, Socorro Co., Ferris Duncan 2309; vicinity of Pyramid (Bishop’s Cap) Peak, near south end of Organ Mts., Dona Ana Co., F. R. Fosberg S32U, S3307, S3486 (type, Herb. Los Angeles Mus.), S86U, S365J^, S3793. Texas. Gravelly mesa north of Chisos Mts., Brewster Co., J. A. Moore $ J. A. Steyermarh 3267; Fort Davis, Davis Mts., Jen 0 Davis Co., Ferris Duncan, 26^1. Locality uncertain. “Near San Diego (Vail, of R. Grande),” August, Bigelow.

6. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. gillespiei var. nov.

Similar to var. bracteatum, but plant more diffuse ; peduncles mostly longer, 1-2 cm. long; involucres larger, many-flowered, 3 mm. high, 3-4 mm. in diameter, lobes 2.5—4.5 mm. long; inflorescence 1—1.5 cm. in diameter, outer sepals apparently not yellowish, as in var. bracteatum, but whitish, tinged with red, midrib very noticeable, dark red.

Specimens examined. Arizona. Apache Gap, Pinal Co., 2500 ft., J. W. Gillespie 8797 (type, Herb. Univ. Calif, no. 489,490).

7. Eriogonum abertianum Torr. var. lappulaceum (Greene) comb. nov. E. lappulaceum Greene, Muhlenbergia 6: 2. 1910. Eriogonum abertianum subsp. lappulaceum Stokes, Gen. Eriog. 37. 1936.

Erect or ascending, 1.5 dm. high, softly villous but not hoary, branches few, alternate, in no degree cymose or paniculate ; leaves on lower undivided portion of stem rhombic-ovate to elliptic, short petioled; involucres few-flowered, the lobes oblong, longer than the body, often equalling the flowers, outer sepals obovate, almost truncately obtuse at apex (ex. char.).

I have not seen specimens of this variety but, judging from the description, it belongs here. Greene cites only one collection : Camp Charlotte, Texas, 1889, Nealley.

University of Hawaii, Honolulu,. June, 1936.