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Jussieu named Rhamnaceae in 1789 and Linnaeus named the Ceanothus genus in 1753.   "Ceanothus" is a Greek name for a spiny plant not related to Ceanothus species.

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii (Franklin's Buckthorn)
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Semi-desert.  Rim rock. Spring.
Top and left photographs: Mokey Point, San Juan County, Utah, May 4, 2018.

The three photographs above and the top one at left show the type specimen of Ceanothus franklinii just beginning to open its flowers on the rim rock of Mokey point, on cliffs high above the San Juan River. The next three photographs, taken just a few miles away on the same substrate, show another C. franklinii with fully opened flowers.

C. franklinii is commonly a spreading, intricately branched shrub growing to no more than 20 inches high, 16 inches as shown on this page. Leaves are leathery, persistent, elliptic or (as here) obovate. Leaf length and width vary as does the hairiness of both sides.

As the photographs at left show, flowers are numerous, in tight clusters, very showy, and (unfortunately not noticeable from photographs) softly sweet smelling. Viewing the flowers from the top, one would not suspect the floral structure shown in the second photograph at left taken from the side of a flower cluster. The sepals are united at their base in a long tube; the tapered and spoon-shaped petals alternate with the sepals and the stamens. The top photograph at left shows the stamens poking between the blue triangular  sepals; the second photograph shows more opened flowers, still with the stamens showy and upright, but now with cup-shaped petals arching back through the slit between the sepals, most of which are still folded over with the style in their center.

If you get a chance to view Ceanothus flowers, be sure to look at them with a hand lens for a beautiful thrill.

This species was for many years (in the first four editions of Welsh's A Utah Flora and in other floras) known as Ceanothus greggii variety franklinii. In Welsh's 5th edition of 2016, a new name was given: Ceanothus franklinii. C. greggii is now considered to exist only in Mexico, the home of its type specimen.

Ceanothus franklinii is, as the map below indicates, a rare plant. It is well documented in San Juan and Grand Counties, but the Garfield County record is now questioned and the Utah County record is so far from the southern counties that it should also be questioned.

It should be noted that the Flora of North America maintains that this species should now be called C. pauciflorus, a species ranging across all southwestern states.

The type specimen of C. franklinii was found at 1691 meters on Muley Point on rim rock of Cedar Mesa Sandstone in 1983.

M. A. (Ben) Franklin works for the Utah Natural Heritage Program.                                                                                                                      

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii

Ceanothus franklinii (Franklin's Buckthorn)
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Semi-desert.  Rim rock. Spring.
Mokey Point, San Juan County, Utah, May 4, 2018.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Ceanothus franklinii

Range map for Ceanothus franklinii