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Inflorescence of sandfood (<em>Pholisma sonorae</em>)
C. Matt Guilliams San Diego State University Biology San Diego California USA
C. Matt Guilliams, Pholisma sonorae, Coanat Awards
The Algodones Dunes of southeastern California and northeastern Baja California can be quite an inhospitable place. Temperatures in the summer seldom drop below 105 degrees Fahrenheit, rain is a scant 2 inches per year on average, and active sand creates challenges for even the most versatile of organisms. Many highly specialized plant species have become adapted to life on the Algodones Dunes. Termed endemic species, these plants are found nowhere else in the world. Most peculiar of the Algodones Dunes endemic species is Pholisma sonorae, commonly known as sandfood. P. sonorae is a holorhizoparasite, meaning that it invades and persists within the root system of host plants such as Tiquilia plicata and Eriogonum deserticola, from which it steals essential sugars without providing any benefit to the host. During the flowering period of P. sonorae, it develops a fleshy-stemmed shoot that pushes upward through the sand, eventually terminating in a "mushroom-shaped" inflorescence at the surface. The inflorescence, shown in this picture, is quite impressive to behold. It is even more impressive when one considers that the host roots are often up to 6 feet below the surface of the dunes!
Botanical Soceity of America
Additional data
copyright: 7-1-2005, Summer, BSA
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Botanical Name
<em>Pholisma sonorae</em>
Common Name
Location Area
Algodones Dunes, Imperial County
Location State
Location Country
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