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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 our Ceanothus species.

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus. Synonyms: Ceanothus greggii, Ceanothus greggii var. franklinii, Ceanothus franklinii. (Desert Buckthorn)
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

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

The three photographs above and the top one at left show what was considered to be the type specimen of Ceanothus greggii variety franklinii, (changed to the name Ceanothus franklinii in 2015 by Utah plant expert, Stanley Welsh). However, Rhamnaceae experts Rogers McVaugh, Cliff Schmidt, Dylan Burge, and Dieter Wilken, all working independently of each other from 1988 through about 2015 all concluded that 1) C. greggii is a Mexican species not found in the U.S. and 2) those U. S. populations previously labeled C. greggii were actually all Ceanothus pauciflorus. The Utah populations labeled as Ceanothus greggii, Ceanothus greggii var. franklinii, Ceanothus franklinii are all Ceanothus pauciflorus. For the detailed research, see "A Taxonomic Conspectus of Ceanothus subgenus Cerastes (Rhamnaceae)" in Systematic Botany (2015), 40(4): pp. 950–96 and "Taxonomy of the Ceanothus vestitus Complex (Rhamnaceae)" in Systematic Botany (2013), 38(2): pp. 406–417.

The Flora of North America entries for Ceanothus were written by Schmidt and Wilken and the species shown on this page is labeled C. pauciflorus.

The top three photographs and the top photographs at left show C. pauciflorus just beginning to open its flowers on the rim rock of Muley 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. pauciflorus with fully opened flowers.

C. pauciflorus is commonly a spreading, intricately branched shrub growing to 36 inches high, 16 inches as shown on this page. Leaves are leathery, persistent, elliptic, suborbiculate, 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.

C. pauciflorus was named by A. P. de Candolle in 1825 from collections made by Sesse and Mocino, extensive Spanish collectors in the New World at the turn of the 18th century. "Pauciflorus" means, "with few flowers", which this species is not, so we can only surmise that the type specimen was not typical of the species.

                                                                                                                      

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus pauciflorus. Synonyms: Ceanothus greggii, Ceanothus greggii var. franklinii, Ceanothus franklinii. (Desert Buckthorn)
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Semi-desert.  Rim rock. Spring.
Muley 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

Combine the two maps below for the presently accepted range of Ceanothus pauciflorus.

Ceanothus pauciflorus

Range map for Ceanothus pauciflorus

Ceanothus franklinii

Range map for Utah's Ceanothus pauciflorus
(Synonyms: Ceanothus franklinii, C. greggii var. franklinii)