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     Phlox canescens (formerly Phlox hoodii) and Phlox austromontana are so similar that despite the supposed distinguishing characteristics listed immediately below, I find it very difficult to separate the two species.

     P. canescens is generally a smaller plant in all regards.  It has flowers about 1/3 smaller than those of P. austromontana and its leaves are smaller and more densely clustered along the stem.

     Several other distinguishing factors require a hand lens to note:

     The calyx of  P. canescens is not keeled between the main lobes; the calyx of P. austromontana is keeled in the area between the calyx lobes. 

     The calyx of P. canescens is hairy and the calyx of P. austromontana usually lacks hairs. (But notice that the calyces shown in the first photograph below are hairy.)

     Stanley Welsh, Utah flora expert, separates the two species in his key on the basis of hairiness: P. canescens is "more or less softly woolly-tomentose, the tomentum white". P. austromontana is "variously hairy to glabrous, but not woolly or tomentose".

    William Weber separates the two species in his key on the basis of their growth pattern:   P. canescens is "cushion-like or densely caespitose; leaves crowded.... Leaves only slightly cobwebby".   P. austromontana is "loosely branched or matted; leaves not crowded". But the terms "cushion-like", "caespitose", and "matted" are used interchangeably by other floras and I can see no difference in this growth habit in these two species.

    Click for Bill Jennings' key to Phlox. See if it helps you identify the various species of this beautiful genera. Do note that Bill indicates, "separation of Phlox hoodii [i.e. Phlox canescens] from Phlox austromontana is difficult in Montezuma County".

     "Phlox" is Greek for "flame"; some members of the Phlox genus are hot pinks and reds.  Linnaeus named this genus in 1753.

Phlox austromontana

Phlox austromontana

Phlox austromontana

Phlox austromontana
Phlox austromontana (Southern Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, shrublands. Spring.
Above: Pyramid Trail, Red Rock Park, Gallup, New Mexico, May 2, 2015
Left: Mud Springs Trail west of Cortez, April 15, 2010.

Phlox austromontana, from two to four inches tall, spreads in dense, low mats.  It is common to find dozens of patches of Phlox austromontana brightening a sandy, barren area.  Phlox austromontana has tiny, stiff, and sharp leaves which are a lighter green than those of its close cousin, P. canescens.  The two plants are very similar and, in fact, detailed botanical descriptions in various floras attribute opposite characteristics to the two species. For a comparison of the characteristics of the two plants, see the top of this page.

Flowers are almost always entirely or primarily white, but tinges of pink are fairly common. The white and the pink specimens at the top of this page are within a few feet of each other.

Coville named this species in 1893 from a specimen collected by Marcus Jones in 1880.  "Austro" is Latin for "southern" and thus the species name means "of the southern mountains".

Phlox austromontana
Phlox austromontana (Southern Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, shrublands. Spring.
Mud Springs Trail west of Cortez, April 15, 2010.

Phlox austromontana

Phlox hoodii

Phlox austromontana and Phlox canescens  (Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, shrublands. Spring.
Mud Springs Trail west of Cortez, April 15, 2010 and
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 19, 2007.

Leaves of P. austromontana (upper photograph) are often lighter green, a bit longer, and more abruptly pointed than those of P. canescens (lower photograph).  Leaves of both plants are stiff and prickly.

 

Phlox canescens

Phlox hoodii

Phlox hoodii

Phlox hoodii

 

 

 

 

Phlox canescens. Synonym: Phlox hoodii subspecies canescens (Gray Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, shrublands. Spring.
Above: Carpenter Natural Area, April 25, 2016.
Left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 19, 2007 and April 9, 2012.

See the discussion about this species at the top of the page.

Phlox hoodii
Phlox canescens. Synonym: Phlox hoodii subspecies canescens (Gray Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, shrublands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 19, 2007.

Phlox canescens was named by Torrey and Gray in 1857 from a collection made by E. G. Beckwith in 1853 on the Pacific Railroad Survey. This species has often been termed Phlox hoodii variety canescens, but now, as the maps below indicate, P. hoodii is considered the species ranging northward into Canada from central Colorado. Only P. canescens is in the Four Corners region.

"Canescens" is from the Latin for "becoming gray", usually referring to a coating of hairs.

John Richardson collected Phlox hoodii in Saskatchewan on the 1819-1822 Franklin Arctic Expedition, and he named it in 1823 for an Expedition companion, Robert Hood, map maker and artist. (Click for more biographical information about Hood.)  

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

Range map for Phlox austromontana

Phlox canescens

Range map for Phlox canescens  

Phlox hoodii

Range map for Phlox hoodii