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Eriogonum palmerianum

Eriogonum palmerianum
Eriogonum palmerianum (Palmer's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
McElmo Canyon, November 7, 2013.

As the map below indicates, Eriogonum palmerianum is wide-spread through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona but it is found in just a few counties of the Four Corners area and is, in fact, quite rare in Colorado. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program tracks it as a rare species with an S1 ("critically imperiled") designation.

Eriogonum palmerianum grows from a very small and delicate 1 decimeter (4 inches), as shown here, to a more robust, more branched and tangled 3 decimeters. Much of the plant is covered in dense hairs. Its flowering stems are usually upright and branched. There are no stem leaves; basal leaves have an even greater abundance of thick hairs than the stem. Flowering stems branch repeatedly; peduncles are absent and the hairy, minute involucres (1.5-2 millimeters long and wide) have 5 teeth and are appressed; flowers are just 1.5–2 mm long with white to pink or pale yellow, glabrous tepals, those of the outer whorl narrowly fan-shaped, broadly oblanceolate, or obovate with the inner whorl of tepals narrower. (Most of the above descriptive details were taken from James Reveal's Eriogonum Society Manual 2013).

Andre Michaux named the Eriogonum genus in 1803. Eriogonum palmerianum was first collected for science by Edward Palmer in 1869. In 1870 John Torrey and Asa Gray described the species and named it Eriogonum plumatella variety palmeri. In 1968 James Reveal elevated the taxon from variety to specific level, giving it the name of Eriogonum palmerianum. The specific epithet honors Edward Palmer, prolific botanical collector in the Southwest and in Mexico in the 19th century. (Click for more biographical information about Palmer.)

Eriogonum palmerianum

Eriogonum palmerianum

Eriogonum palmerianum

Eriogonum palmerianum (Palmer's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
McElmo Canyon, November 7, 2013.

Groups of 4 or 5 flowers emanate from the tiny, hairy involucre that has 5 teeth (see especially the second photograph at left). Each flower is on a pedicel only ~1 millimeter long, but long enough that the flower arches outward from the involucre.

The third photograph at left shows the flowers face-on and from the side. Look at each tepal in this third photograph and in the second one at left and you can see that outer tepals are somewhat larger than inner and that shapes are generally oblong with very blunt, flattened upper edge. A closer look shows the tepals to be narrowly fan-shaped or obovate.

It does not take a very close look at all to see the loveliness of this delicate plant, but using a hand lens or a microscope brings out this beauty even more vividly.

Eriogonum palmerianum

Eriogonum palmerianum (Palmer's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
McElmo Canyon, November 7, 2013.

I photographed the plants shown on this page late in the growing season and basal leaves were already gone from most plants in the area. The dried leaf blade and petiole at left are just a total of 8 millimeters long and 5 mm wide; fresh leaves have petioles from 10-40 millimeters long and the generally round blades are from 5-15 millimeters long and wide.

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

Eriogonum palmerianum

Range map for Eriogonum palmerianum