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Abronia bolackii
(Bolack's sand verbena)

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



Family: Nyctaginaceae

Scientific Name: Abronia bolackii Atwood, Welsh, & Heil

Synonyms: Abronia elliptica

Vernacular Name: Bolack's sand verbena

R-E-D Code: 1-1-3

Description: Herbaceous perennial with cord-like creeping rhizomes forming extensive colonies; stems 9-18 cm tall; leaves elliptic to ovate, entire; blades 1-2.8 cm long, 0.5-1.6 cm wide, with a few short hairs; petioles 0.5-3.2 cm long; inflorescence capitate, glandular-puberulent; peduncles 1.8-5.5 cm long; bracts 5, green and becoming white at maturity, ovate, the tips rounded or apiculate, 6-10 cm long, 4-10 cm broad; flowers 16-25 per head, perianth green-white, tube 7-11 mm long, glandular, the lobes about 3 mm wide; anthocarps obconic, (3- to) 5-winged or angled, puberulent, 5-6.7 mm long. Flowers May to June.

Similar Species: Both Abronia fragrans and A. nana grow in the Four Corners region. Abronia fragrans lacks rhizomes and has larger flowers; A. nana also lacks rhizomes, is subscapose, definitely not caulescent, and has mostly basal leaves.


Distribution: New Mexico, San Juan County.

Habitat: Gypsiferous clay often on very steep hillsides in a Juniperus, Hilaria, Amelanchier, Purshia, Ephedra community or on sandy shale with Atriplex; 1,600-1,750 m (5,250-5,750 ft).

Remarks: Ackerfield and Jennings (2008) cited to the conclusion that A. bolackii is a race of A. elliptica that occurs in silty-clay gypseous soils at the southeastern edge of the range of A. elliptica. Both have flowers of similar size, similar number of flowers per head (16-25 for A. bolackii versus 14-34 for A. elliptica), and papery fruits with hollow wings expanded into small pads on the distal edge. They are vegetatively the same including the presence of rhizomes. Absent from taxonomic descriptions, and missed by most collectors, is that fact that A. elliptica is usually rhizomatous in the eastern half of its range. An extensive series of documenting specimens dug by Spellenberg has been deposited in the Biology Department herbarium (NMC) at New Mexico State University to illustrate the conspicuously rhizomatous nature of A. elliptica and indistinctness of A. bolackii.

Conservation Considerations: Occurs on a variety of land ownerships in a region that is heavily impacted by energy development (coal strip-mining and natural gas). Additional surveys are needed to determine the distribution of this plant and potential threats to its habitats.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Ackerfield, J. and W.F. Jennings. 2008. The genus Abronia (Nyctaginaceae) in Colorado, with notes on Abronia bolackii in New Mexico. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 2(1):419-423.

*Atwood, D.N., S.L. Welsh and K.D. Heil. 2002. A new species of Abronia (Nyctaginaceae) from San Juan County, New Mexico, U.S.A. Novon: A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature from the Missouri Botanical Garden 12:167-169.

Information Compiled By: Kenneth D. Heil, 2002; last updated 2015

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Abronia bolackiiSoCSoC...SNRGNR


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