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Agastache cana
(Grayish-white giant hyssop)

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

Family: Lamiaceae

Scientific Name: Agastache cana (W.J. Hooker) Wooton & Standley

Synonyms: Brittonastrum canum (W.J. Hooker) Briquet

Vernacular Name: Grayish-white giant hyssop

R-E-D Code: 1-1-2

Description: Semi-woody, profusely branched, erect perennial; stems 20-100 cm long; leaves ovate, lanceolate, or elliptic, 2-3 times longer than wide, 8-12 mm long, grayish green because of light pubescence especially on lower surface; flowers rose-pink, 12-25 mm long, in whorls in compact spikes, zygomorphic, petals 5, fused into a tube, the two small upper petals extending forward much like the visor of a cap, the three larger lower petals forming a reflexed lip; fruit dividing into 4 dark nutlets each about 2 mm long. Flowers June to September.

Similar Species: There are several species of Agastache in New Mexico. Agastache cana has the following combination of characters: calyx tube longer than 3 mm, the upper calyx teeth 1/4-1/2 the total length of the calyx, the stems slightly woody with the bark peeling at the base of the stem, and leaves 2-3 times longer than wide.

Distribution: New Mexico, Dona Ana, Grant, Luna, and Sierra counties; Texas, El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

Habitat: Crevices and bases of granite cliffs or in canyons with small-leaved oaks at the upper edge of the desert and lower edge of the pi├▒on-juniper zone, at 1,400-1,800 m (4,600-5,900 ft).

Remarks: Martin and Hutchins (1981) illustrate a considerably expanded range over that mapped by Sanders (1987), the species according to them occurring in Bernalillo and Otero counties, in addition to southwestern counties. This expanded distribution must be considered as one proposed before Agastache was better understood through Sanders careful study. Henrickson and Johnson (1997) record the species from Hueco Tanks and the Franklin Mountains in western Texas, and cite south-central New Mexico as the remainder of the range, but they do not indicate the species to be known in Mexico. Wooton and Standley cite the range of the species correctly as "mountains of western Texas and southern New Mexico, but then give part of the range for New Mexico as "headwaters of the Pecos," an inconsistency (if not outright error) in citation of range. Habitat is somewhat restricted, that is, on igneous rock on north-facing or northeast-facing slopes at the ecotone between desert and scrub. No authors note rarity.

Conservation Considerations: Clearly this is a regional endemic. It occurs in areas not easily accessible to collectors, development, or even domestic livestock (if they utilize this species). There are no apparent threats to the species under current land uses.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Henrickson, J. and M.C. Johnston. 1997. A flora of the Chihuahuan Desert region, ed. 1.2, 2 vols. Published by J. Henrickson, Los Angeles (trial version for correction).

Martin, W.C. and C.R. Hutchins. 1981. A Flora of New Mexico, vol. 2. J. Cramer, Vaduz.

*Sanders, R.W. 1987. Taxonomy of Agastache section Brittonastrum (Lamiaceae-Nepeteae). Systematic Botany Monographs 15:1-92.

Wooton, E.O. and P.C. Standley. 1915. Flora of New Mexico. Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium 19:1-794.

Information Compiled By: Richard Spellenberg, 1999

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Agastache canaAgastache cana...S3

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