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Sand Food
Pholisma sonorae
About Sand Food (Pholisma sonorae) 0 Nurseries Carry This Plant Pholisma sonorae, commonly known as sandfood, is a rare and unusual species of flowering plant endemic to the Sonoran Deserts to the west of Yuma, Arizona in the California Yuha and Colorado Desert, and south in the Yuma Desert, where it is known from only a few locations. Pholisma sonorae is a perennial herb which grows in sand dunes, its fleshy stem extending up to two meters-six feet below the surface and emerging above as a small rounded or ovate form. It may be somewhat mushroom-shaped if enough sand blows away to reveal the top of the stem. It is a parasitic plant which attaches to the roots of various desert shrubs such as wild buckwheats, ragweeds, plucheas, and Tiquilia plicata and T. palmeri to obtain nutrients. As a heterotroph, the Pholisma sonorae plant lacks chlorophyll and is grayish, whitish, or brown in color. It has glandular scale-like leaves along its surface. The plant obtains water not from its host plants, but through stomata in its leaves. The plant blooms in centimeter-wide flowers which are pink to purple in color with white margins. Uses. This was an important food item for certain desert-dwelling Native American peoples, including the Cocopah and the Hia C-ed O'odham. Status. The plant is rare and declining as its habitat of shifting dune sands is lost to development and damaged by off-road vehicle use.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Plant Type
Perennial herb

1.6 - 4.9 ft tall

Flower Color
Flower Color
Pink, White, Purple

Landscaping Information
Natural Setting
Annual Precipitation: 2.6" - 3.6", Summer Precipitation: 0.52" - 0.99", Coldest Month: 58.4" - 63.9", Hottest Month: 87.4" - 88.5", Humidity: 7.81" - 39.17", Elevation: -182" - 783"

Alternative Names
Common Names: Sandfood

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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