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Argemone pinnatisecta
(Sacramento prickly poppy)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Papaveraceae

Scientific Name: Argemone pinnatisecta (G.B. Ownbey) S.D. Cervantes & C.D. Bailey

Synonyms: Argemone pleiacantha Greene ssp. pinnatisecta G.B. Ownbey; Argemone pleiacantha Greene var. pinnatisecta (G.B. Ownbey) Shinners

Vernacular Name: Sacramento prickly poppy

R-E-D Code: 3-2-3

Description: Robust, herbaceous perennial, with 3-12 branching stems, 0.5-1.5 m tall; leaves blue-green, 10-15 cm long, divided, the sinuses broad and square, margins, midribs, and veins armored with stout yellow spines; stem and leaf latex white; flowers large and showy; sepals 2-3, caducous, prickly, each with a subterminal horn; petals 6, white, 3-4 cm long, 8-9 cm wide; stamens numerous, anthers yellow; capsule with many fine spines, none branched; seeds round, black, 2.5 mm in diameter. Flowers May to August.

Similar Species: Argemone pleiacantha, which is common, has less deeply divided leaves, denser capsule spines branched at the base, and yellow-orange stem latex.


Distribution: New Mexico, Otero County, in 10 canyons on the western slope of the Sacramento Mountains from Fresnal Canyon on the north to Escondido Canyon on the south.

Habitat: Loose, gravelly soils of open disturbed sites; canyon bottoms and slopes, and sometimes along roadsides; 1,300-2,200 m (4,200-7,100 ft).

Remarks: The number of plants was about 1,300 in the late 1980s, but appears to have declined in recent years. The reasons are unknown; it is speculated plant establishment is very episodic. This rare species appears to be secondary successional. Individual plants are necessary to maintain seed production but disturbance within the habitat may not adversely affect the population in the long run.

Conservation Considerations: Activities like highway maintenance or pipeline construction could destroy some plants, but may also create suitable habitat.

This plant is being grown at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden in Albuquerque for display, public education, research, and conservation of the wild populations.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

*Cervantes, S.D., P. Tonne, R. Govindarajulu, P.J. Alexander and C.D. Bailey. 2010. Population genetic analysis of Argemone pleiacantha subsp. pinnatisecta (Sacramento prickly poppy, Papaveraceae) and re-evaluation of its taxonomic status. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 4(1):261-269.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

*Ownbey, G.B. 1958. The genus Argemone for North America and the West Indies. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 21:1-159.

Shinners, L.H. 1958. New varietal names in Argemone (Papaveraceae). Southwestern Naturalist 3:213-214.

*U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994. Sacramento prickly poppy (Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta) recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Information Compiled By: Charlie McDonald, 1999; last updated 2010

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Argemone pinnatisectaEEEE.S2G4G5T2


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council