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Scientific Name: Eryngium sparganophyllum Hemsley
Vernacular Name: Arizona eryngo
R-E-D Code: 2-3-1
Description: Herbaceous perennial with a basal rosette of leaves and a scapose stem to 1.5 m tall; basal leaves linear, up to 1 m long, entire or rarely with one or two spinose teeth; cauline leaves few and reduced; inflorescence a compound umbel with compact head-like umbels terminating the branches; heads ovoid or ovoid-oblong, 12-25 mm long, 10-15 mm wide, with several ovate or lanceolate basal bracts and similar, but smaller bractlets within the head that barely exceed to the length of the fruits; corolla cream colored or bluish purple; fruit ovoid, 3-4 mm long with scales at the angles and smaller scales between. Flowering June through September.
Similar Species: There are no other Eryngium species with linear leaves in New Mexico. The entirely Mexican Eryngium longifolium Cav. is distinguished by spinose-ciliate, bristly or spinulose-dentate leaves and subglobose to ovoid heads about as long as broad. It also usually occurs in drier habitats at higher elevations.
Distribution: New Mexico, Hidalgo County at Las Playas Springs; Arizona, Pima County north and east of Tucson and Cochise County in upper San Pedro valley; Mexico, Chihuahua northwest of Casas Grandes; Sonora east of Esqueda; Sierra Madre of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas.
Habitat: 1,310 m (4,250 ft) in New Mexico. Wet soils of aridland spring ciénegas in desert scrub or oak woodland.
Remarks: Eryngium sparganophyllum was collected only one time in New Mexico at the Las Playas Springs type locality by Charles Wright in 1851 during the US/Mexico border survey (Gray 1853). The New York Botanic Garden has added “West of the Chiricahua Mountains, low subsaline valley” to its on-line record of the E. sparganophyllum type specimen. This location narrative would place the collection in Arizona, but is not actually written on the specimen sheet or the isotype specimen sheets at the Smithsonian (US) and Gray Herbarium (GH). All literature sources beginning with Asa Gray in 1853 place the type locality at Las Playas Springs in New Mexico.
This species has a very scattered and highly disjunct distribution. It is known from a few scattered springs in the four-corners region of Arizona, Chihuahua, New Mexico and Sonora and then is disjunct to the southeast more than 500 miles to the region where Durango Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas adjoin.
Conservation Considerations: Aridland spring habitats are being reduced in number and size throughout the range of E. sparganophyllum (Stevens and Meretsky 2008). Las Playas Springs have been dried by the Playas copper smelter and this species is probably extirpated from New Mexico. The few remnant ciénegas in the Animas Basin of Hidalgo County, New Mexico have been searched without discovering additional populations of this plant (Sivinski and Tonne 2011). It is still extant at a few vulnerable ciénegas in Arizona and rarely collected in western Mexico. This wetland species is rare and endangered in the United States, but additional information is needed on its distribution and abundance in Mexico.
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