Plant Checklist - Text Only Version

                      PLANTS OF THE WHITE SANDS

                           A Discussion of
                         Dunes Ecology With
                          Revised Checklist

                    White Sands National Monument
                            New Mexico


White Sands National Monument preserves a sea of graceful white
gypsum sand dunes--a landscape of stark natural beauty.  Life is
difficult in the dune field, even for plants adapted to desert
conditions.  The dune field environment is unusually harsh:
plants must endure burial by moving dunes, nutrient-poor gypsum
soil, and extreme fluctuations of temperature.  Only about 60
species of plants, one quarter of those growing in the adjacent
Tularosa Basin, have found a way to survive in the dunes.

This guide combines previously compiled, revised checklists of
plants of the White Sands.  The following discussion of the
ecological aspects of the dunes should help the observer to
locate and identify individual species of plants.  By placing the
checklists in ecological context, it is hoped that the observer
will come to think of each plant as a member of a life community
interrelating with the dune movement.


Ecology is the study of the interrelationships between plants and
animals and their physical surroundings.  It is literally a study
of the home or household of living things.  In understanding the
ecology of the White Sands, several rather distinct homes, or
habitats, must be considered. Most of these habitats are named in
terms of the physical surroundings because, as in most arid
lands, the inorganic part of the environment is the most
prominent and has the greatest influence on the organic parts.

Interdune flats.  As the gypsum sand dunes move northwestward
across the Tularosa Basin, pieces of the underlying desert floor
are exposed between the individual dunes.  Most of the plant
species inside the dune field grow only in these interdune flats,
where conditions are less hostile.  Better soil and protection
from wind and blowing sand allows plants to survive for a while--
until the next dune buries them.

The most showy wildflowers in the interdune flats include
Centaury, a gentian with bright pink flowers; Sand Verbena, with
its fragrant lilac-like smell; Stick-leaf, with yellow, star-like
flowers; Woolly Paperflower, which stands out against the white
dunes in bright yellow clumps in the fall; and Yellow Evening

Marginal Dunes.  These extend into the dune field two or three
miles from its southern and eastern boundary.  Most of the dunes
in this habitat are slow-moving, scattered and separated by large
grassy, interdune areas.  Although the dunes are still the
prominent feature here, the effects of vegetation in slowing the
rate of dune movement is very evident.

The marginal dunes themselves have become relatively heavily
populated with flora able to withstand such physical conditions.
There are eight species of plants that routinely grow on the
marginal dunes.  The Soaptree Yucca is found scattered throughout
this part of the dune field.  Yuccas that can be seen on the tops
of dunes actually germinate in interdune areas.  As a dune begins
to bury them, the yuccas elongate their stems, growing upward as
much as a foot per year, to keep their leaves above the sand.

Two large shrubs, Skunkbush Sumac and Hoary Rosemarymint, can
also extend their stems and outgrow slow-moving marginal dunes.
Their stems and roots can then anchor the dunes, further slowing
dune movement and allowing other plants to take root on the
relatively stable soil.

This developing plant community attracted animal life from the
adjacent desert, which became fit to live on the dunes through
evolutionary adaptation.  Thus, the marginal dunes are now an
ecological complex of unexpected variety and diversity.

Transverse and Barchan Dunes.  In the center of the dune field,
the physical forces of nature reign supreme.  The paucity of
plant life in the interior of the dune field is indicative of the
harsh environmental conditions that prevail.  Large transverse
and barchan dunes creep forward many feet per year, overwhelming
all plant life in their paths.  Even the fast-growing yucca and
rosemarymint cannot outgrow these dunes.  No plants grow on the
tops of the dunes, and only a few hardy species are able to live
in the interdune flats until they are covered by sand.  This
interdune environment, known as the Abronia (Sand Verbena)
association, is characterized by openings invaded first by
Evening Primrose.  These pioneers occupy the lee slope of the
migrating dunes, the most recently created portion of the
interdune flat.  Moving out toward the center (older portion) of
the flat, the Primrose is replaced by Indian Ricegrass and,
later, Groundsel.  The last plants to invade are Sand Verbena,
Ephedra, Greenthread, and, finally, Alkali Sacaton.

Alkali Flat and Lake Lucero.  The transverse-barchan dunes grade
to the west into a narrow zone of embryonic dunes.  The latter
mark the eastern boundary of an ancient lake bed called the
Alkali Flat.  Here alkaline conditions prevent the growth of
plant life except for a few scattered grasses and a scaly pseudo-
evergreen known as Pickleweed.  Lake Lucero, at the southern end
of the Alkali Flat, occasionally contains standing water.  There
is little plant growth in the bed of Lake Lucero due to extreme
alkaline conditions and infrequent flooding.  However, alkaline-
tolerant grasses sparsely fringe the shore of the lake.

Alluvial Fans.  The alluvial fans at the base of the San Andres
Mountains have coalesced to form a broad slope known as a bajada.
The lowermost slopes of this extend into the monument and border
the Alkali Flat on the west.  The bajada is cut at frequent
intervals by deep washes or arroyos that empty onto the Alkali
Flat and Lake Lucero.  Large Honey Mesquite hummocks are the
dominant vegetative feature.  The mesquite community soon gives
way to Creosote Bush higher up on the slopes, near the monument

Saltbush Flats.  The center of this high desert basin, the
Tularosa, is vegetated mainly by Four Wing Saltbush and salt-
tolerant bunch grasses.  As grazing land, it is now very poor
but, in the 1800's before the introduction of range cattle, it
supposedly was predominately grassland having more of the
appearance of plains than desert.  A combination of drought and
overgrazing may have allowed the hardy saltbush to take over.
The eastern and southern edges of the marginal dunes are bordered
by these saltbush flats.  This grey-green monotony is broken by
an occasional splash of bright red blossoms of the Claret Cup
Hedgehog Cactus in the spring and stands of Golden Crownbeard in
the fall.

Exotic plants.  Tamarisk, or salt cedar, is a Mediterranean shrub
introduced into North America.  The aggressive tamarisk has
spread throughout the southwest, growing thickly along streams,
ponds and other seasonally-wet areas.  At White Sands, tamarisk
has invaded many interdune areas, where water is close to the
surface.  To protect native plants, the National Park Service is
actively trying to control the spread of tamarisk within the
monument.  Other exotic plants now found in the park include
Russian Thistle, or tumbleweed, and African Rue.
                        CLIMATIC FACTORS

This high desert basin, averaging 4,000 feet in elevation, is
subject to harsh and sometimes rapidly changing climatic
conditions.  Summers are hot, averaging 95ø highs in July and
August, with occasional readings over 100øF.  Winter days are
relatively mild, but nighttime temperatures routinely drop below
freezing.  Cold spells can send the mercury to below zero.  The
lowest temperature on record is a -25øF.  Snowfall is infrequent,
but heavy snows have occurred on occasion.  Precipitation
averages about eight inches per year, with most of this occurring
during summer thunderstorms, often accompanied by hail.

Wind is the dominant climatic factor here, especially from
February through May.  The prevailing southwesterly winds blow
unimpeded across the desert and at times reach gale proportions.
Storms sometimes last for several days in the spring.  This is
the time of greatest dune movement, when living conditions for
dune plant and animal communities become extremely harsh.

                         PLANT CHECKLIST

The following checklist has been compiled by various qualified
individuals over the years since White Sands was established as a
National Monument in 1933.  Much of the work has been done by
National Park Service personnel and volunteers.  The latest
revision was prepared by park volunteers Paul Shaw and Jeanine
Derby.  A Flora of New Mexico by W.C. Martin and C.R. Hutchins is
the source for scientific names used in this checklist.

Separate checklists of birds and other animals of the white sands
are available at the monument bookstore.
                      CHECKLIST FOR PLANTS


    Oscillatoria sp.


    Chlamydomonas sp.
    Microcoleus paludosus
    Microcoleus vaginatus
    Nostoc spp.
    Palmogloea protuberans
    Pleconema nostocorum
    Schizothrix californica
    Schizothrix lamyi
    Scytonema hofmannii


    Nitella sp.


    Euglena sp.


    Dermatocarpon lachneum
    Fulgensia sp.
    Physia aipolia
    Psora sp.
    Psora decipiens


GYMNOSPERMAE (Non-flowering Plants)

                  EPHEDRACEAE (Ephedra Family)

    Ephedra torreyana                     Mormon Tea or Jointfir
    Ephedra trifurca                      Canatilla


                    CYPERACEAE (Sedge Family)

    Scirpus paludosus                     Salt-Marsh Bulrush
    Scirpus microcarpus                   Bulrush

                     JUNCACEAE (Rush Family)

    Juncus balticus var. montanus         Rush
    Juncus mexicanus                      Rush

                     LILIACEAE (Lily Family)

    Yucca elata                           Soaptree Yucca
    Yucca torreyi                         Torrey Yucca

                     POACEAE (Grass Family)


    Arundo donax                          Giant Reed


    Oryzopsis hymenoides                  Indian Ricegrass


    Muhlenbergia arenacea                 Ear Muhly
    Muhlenbergia porteri                  Bush Muhly
    Muhlenbergia pungens                  Sandhill Muhly
    Scleropogon brevifolius               Burrgrass
    Sporobolus airoides                   Alkali Sacaton
    Sporobolus contractus                 Spike Dropseed
    Sporobolus cryptandrus                Sand Dropseed
    Sporobolus flexuosis                  Mesa Dropseed
    Sporobolus giganteus                  Giant Dropseed
    Sporobolus nealleyi                   Gypgrass or
                                            Nealley Dropseed
    Tridens pulchellus                    Fluff Grass


    Bouteloua barbata                     Six-weeks Grama
    Bouteloua breviseta                   Gyp Grama or Short-
                                            bristled Grama
    Bouteloua gracilis                    Blue Grama
    Chloris virgata                       Feather Fingergrass
    Hilaria mutica                        Tobosa Grass


    Distichlis stricta                    Desert Saltgrass


    Aristida adscensionis                 Six-weeks Three-awn


    Setaria macrcostachya                 Plains Bristlegrass


    Andropogon scoparius                  Little Bluestem
                 RUPPIACEAE (Ditch-grass Family)

    Ruppia maritima                       Widgeongrass

                   TYPHACEAE (Cattail Family)

    Typha angustifolia                    Narrow-leaved Cattail
    Typha latifolia                       Common Cattail


                 AIZOACEAE (Carpet-weed Family)

    Trianthema portulacastrum             Horse Purslane

                 AMARANTHACEAE (Amaranth Family)

    Amaranthus retroflexus                Pigweed
    Tidestromia lanuginosa                Woolly Tidestromia

                  ANACARDIACEAE (Cashew Family)

    Rhus trilobata                        Skunkbush Sumac
    Rhus microphylla                      Little-leaf Sumac

                  APOCYNACEAE (Dogbane Family)

    Amsonia arenaria                      Blue-Star
    Amsonia hirtella                      Blue-Star

                ASCLEPIADACEAE (Milkweed Family)
    Asclepias arenaria                    Sand Milkweed
    Asclepias subverticillata             Poison Milkweed

                  ASTERACEAE (Composite Family)


    Hymenoclea monogyra                   Singlewhirl Burro-bush


    Baccharis bigelovii                   Bigelow Baccharis
    Baccharis glutinosa                   Seepwillow Baccharis
    Baccharis salicina                    Willow Baccharis
    Chrysothamnus nauseosus               Rubber Rabbitbrush
    Chrysothamnus pulchellus ssp. baileyi Southwest Rabbitbrush
    Erigeron bellidastrum                 Fleabane
    Gutierrezia microcephala              Three Leaf Snakeweed
    Gutierrezia sarothrae                 Broom Snakeweed
    Haplopappus heterophyllus             Jimmy-weed
    Haplopappus spinulosus ssp. australis Goldenweed
    Machaeranthera linearis               Sand Goldenweed
    Machaeranthera parviflora             Wild Aster
    Machaeranthera scabrella
    Machaeranthera tanacetifolia          Tohoka Daisy


    Dicranocarpus parvilflorus            Pitchfork
    Engelmannia pinnatifida               Engelmann Daisy
    Flourensia cernua                     American Tarbush
    Helianthus annuus                     Common Sunflower
    Helianthus petiolaris                 Prairie Sunflower
    Thelesperma megapotamicum             Greenthread
    Verbesina encelioides                 Golden Crownbeard
    Zinnia grandiflora                    Rocky Mountain Zinnia


    Bahia absinthifolia                   Bahia
     Gaillardia pinnatifida               Firewheel
     Gaillardia pulchella                 Firewheel
     Hymenopappus filifolius var. cinereus Yellow Cutleaf
    Pectis angustifolia                   Lemonweed
    Pseudoclappia arenaria                False Clappia
     Psilostrophe sparsiflora             Paperdaisy
     Psilostrophe tagetina                Woolly Paperflower
    Sartwellia flaveriae                  Threadleaf Sartwell


    Senecio douglasii var.longilobus      Threadleaf Groundsel
    Senecio riddellii                     Riddell Groundsel
    Senecio spartiodes                    Broom Groundsel


    Centaurea melitensis                  Napa Star Thistle
    Centaurea repens                      Russian Knapweed
    Cirsium wheeleri                      Wheeler Thistle


    Perezia nana                          Desert Holly

                  BIGNONIACEA (Bignonia Family)

    Chilopsis linearis                    Desert Willow

                  BORAGINACEAE (Borage Family)

    Coldenia hispidissima                 Purple Borage
    Cryptantha fulvocanescens             Yellow Cryptantha
    Heliotropium greggii                  Heliotrope
    Lappula texana                        Stickseed

                  BRASSICACEAE (Mustard Family)

    Descurainia pinnata                   Tansy-mustard
    Dithyrea wislizenii                   Spectacle-Pod
    Diplotaxus tenuifolia                 Slimleaf Wallrocket
    Greggia camporum                      Velvety Greggia
    Greggia camporam var. linearifolium   White Sands Mustard
    Lepidium densiflorum                  Peppergrass
    Lepidium montanum var. alyssoides     Pepperweed
    Lesquerella fendleri                  Bladderpod
    Sisymbrium irio                       London Rocket
    Streptanthus validus                  Jewel Flower

                     CACTACEAE (Cactus Family)

    Cereus greggii                        Night-blooming Cereus
    Coryphantha macromeris                Nipple Beehive Cactus
    Coryphantha sheeri                    Needle Beehive Cactus
    Coryphantha vivipara var. vivipara    Biscuit Cactus
    Echinocactus horizonthalonius         Blue Barrel Cactus
    var. horizonthalonius
    Echinocereus fendleri var. fendleri   Fendler's Hedgehog
    Echinocereus fendleri                 Fendler Needle-Spine
                                            var. rectispinus
    Echinocereus ennaecanthus             Straw-colored Hedgehog
                                            var. stramineus
    Echinocereus triglochidiatus          Claret Cup Hedgehog
      var. gonacanthus
    Opuntia clavata                       Club Cholla
    Opuntia imbricata                     Cane Cholla or Tree Cholla
    Opuntia kleiniae var. kleiniae        Klein Pencil Cholla
    Opuntia leptocaulis                   Desert Christmas Cactus
    Opuntia macrorhiza var.               Tuberous-Rooted Prickly 
    macrorhiza                            Pear
    Opuntia macrorhiza var. pottsii       Plains Prickly Pear
    Opuntia phaeacantha var. discata      Desert Prickly Pear
    Opuntia polyacantha var. rufispina    Red-Spined Prickly Pear
    Opuntia violacea var. macrocentra     Long-Spine Prickly Pear
    Pediocactus papyracanthus             Paper-Spine Plains Cactus

                CHENOPODIACEAE (Goosefoot Family)

    Allenrolfea occidentalis              Pickle-weed
    Atriplex canescens                    Four-wing Saltbush
    Salsola kali var. tenuifolia          Russian Thistle
    Suaeda depressa                       Seepweed
    Suaeda suffrutescens                  Desert Seepweed
    Suaeda torreyana                      Torrey Seepweed

              CONVOLVULACEAE (Morning Glory Family)

    Cressa truxillensis                   Silky Cressa

                  CUCURBITACEAE (Gourd Family)

    Cucurbita foetidissima                Buffalo Gourd

                  EUPHORBIACEAE (Spurge Family)

    Croton dioicus                        Croton
    Euphorbia albomarginata               Whitemargin Spurge
    Euphorbia lata                        Hoary Euphorbia
    Euphorbia serrula                     Sawtooth Spurge

                      FABACEAE (Pea Family)

    Astragalus allorchrous                Halfmoon Loco
    Cassia bauhinioides                   Senna
     Cassia lindheimeriana                Senna
    Dalea scoparia                        Broom Pea
    Hoffmanseggia densiflora              Hog-Potato
    Melilotus officinalis                 Yellow Sweet Clover
    Prosopis glandulosa                   Honey Mesquite

                FOUQUIERIACEAE (Ocotillo Family)

    Fouquieria splendens                  Ocotillo

                FRANKENIACEAE (Frankenia Family)

    Frankenia jamesii                     Frankenia

                  GENTIANACEAE (Gentian Family)

    Centaurium calycosum                  Centaury or Rosita
    Centaurium texense                    Lady Bird's Centaury
    Eustoma exaltatum                     Catch-Fly Gentian
    Eustoma grandiflorum                  Bluebell

               HYDROPHYLLACEAE (Waterleaf Family)

    Nama carnosum                         Gyp Nama
    Nama hispidum                         Hispid Nama
    Phacelia corrugata                    Blue-Curls
    Phacelia integrifolia                 Scalloped Phacelia

                 KOEBERLINIACEAE (Junco Family)

    Koeberlinia spinosa                   Spiny All-thorn

                     LAMIACEAE (Mint Family)

    Poliomintha incana                    Hoary Rosemarymint

                  LOASACEAE (Stick-leaf Family)

    Cevallia sinuata                      Cevellia
    Mentzelia pumila var. integra         Blazingstar
    Mentzelia pumila var. multiflora      Desert Mentzelia
    Mentzelia pumila var. pumila          Stick-leaf

                    MALVACEAE (Mallow Family)

    Sida leprosa var. depauperata         Scrufy Sida
    Sphaeralcea angustifolia              Narrow-leaf Globemallow
    Sphaeralcea incana                    Soft Globemallow
    Sphaeralcea subhastata                Globemallow

               NYCTAGINACEAE (Four O'clock Family)

    Abronia angustifolia                  Sand Verbena
    Allionia choisyi                      Smooth Trailing Four
    Allionia incarnata                    Trailing Four O'clock
    Ammocodon chenopodioides              Goosefoot Moonpod
    Mirabilis multiflora                  Colorado Four O'clock
    Selinocarpus diffusus                 Spreading Moonpod
    Selinocarpus lanceolatus              Gyp Moonpod

              ONAGRACEAE (Evening Primrose Family)

    Calylophus hartwegii                  Yellow Evening Primrose
    Gaura coccinea                        Scarlet Gaura
    Gaura parviflora                      Lizard Tail
    Oenothera albicaulis                  Prairie Evening Primrose
    Oenothera pallida runcinata           White Evening Primrose
    Oenothera pallida latifolia           White Evening Primrose

                   PAPAVERACEAE (Poppy Family)

    Argemone polyanthemos                 Prickly Poppy

                PLUMBAGINACEAE (Leadwort Family)

    Limonium limbatum                     Sea-lavender

                  POLEMONIACEAE (Phlox Family)

     Eriastrum diffusum                   Wooly Star
    Ipomopsis pumila                      Low Gilia
    Ipomopsis longiflora                  Pale Trumpets

                 POLYGONACEAE (Buckwheat Family)

    Eriogonum rotundifolium               Round Leaf Wild Buckwheat

                 RHAMNACEAE (Buck-thorn Family)

    Condalia spathulata                   Knifeleaf Condalia

                   SALICACEAE (Willow Family)

    Populus fremontii var. wizlizenii     Rio Grande Cottonwood
    Salix gooddingii                      Goodding Willow

                 SANTALACEAE (Sandlewood Family)

    Comandra pallida                      Bastard-toadflax

                   SOLANACEAE (Potato Family)

    Datura meteloides                     Jimson Weed
    Datura querifolia                     Oak-Leaved Thornapple
    Lycium berlandieri var. parviflorum   Terrac Wolfberry
    Lycium pallidum                       Pale Wolfberry
    Lycium torreyi                        Torrey Wolfberry
    Solanum elaeagnifolium                Silverleaf Nightshade
    Solanum rostratum                     Buffalo Bur

                  TAMARICACEAE (Tamarix Family)

    Tamarix gallica                       Salt Cedar or Tamarisk
                  VERBENACEAE (Verbena Family)

    Phyla incisa                           Texas Frog-fruit
    Verbena bracteata                      Prostrate Vervain

                      VITACEAE (Grape Family)

     Parthenocissus inserta               Woodbine

                 ZYGOPHYLLACEAE (Caltrop Family)

    Kallstroemia hirsutissima             Carpetweed
    Larrea tridentata                     Creosote Bush
     Peganum harmala                      African rue

FOR                                  SEE

Andropus carnosus                    Nama carnosum
Aplopappus spinulosus                Haplopapus spinulosus
Aster cichoriaceus                   Machaeranthera chichoriaceus
Aster linearis                       Machaeranthera linearis
Aster parvulus                       Machaeranthera parviflora
Aster tenacetifolius                 Machaeranthera tenacetifolia
Centaurea picris                     Centaurea repens
Chrysothamnus latisquameus           Chrysothamnus nauseosus
Cladothrix lanigulosa                Tidestroma lanuginosa
Comandra umbellata                   Commandra pallida
Crassina grandiflora                 Zinnia grandiflora
Cressa depressa                      Cressa truxillensis
Datura wrightii                      Datura meteloides
Dicranocarpus dicranocarpus          Dicranocarpus parviflora
Distichlis spicata                   Distichlis stricta
Dimorphocarpa wislizenii             Dithyrea wislizenii
Dondia moquini                       Suaeda torreyana
Dondia suffrutescens                 Suaeda suffrutescens
Erythrea texense                     Centaurium texense
Gilia pumila                         Ipomopsis pumila
Heterospermum dicranocarpum          Dicranocarpus parviflora
Hoffmanseggia glauca                 Hoffmanseggia densiflora
Isocoma wrightii                     Haplopappus heterophyllus
Lepidium alyssoides                  Lepidium montanum
Lippia incisa                        Phyla incisa
Machaeranthera pinnatifida           Haplopappus spinulosus
Nerisyrenia camporum                 Greggia camporum
Nerisyrenia linearifolia             Greggia camporum var.
Nuttallia procera                    Mentzelia pumila var. pumila
Oenothera hartwegii                  Calylophus hartwegii
Oenothera lavandulifolia             Calylophus hartwegii
Oenothera runcinata                  Oenothera pallida runcinata
Opuntia engelmannii                  Opuntia phaeacantha discata
Phacelia corrugata                   Phacelia crenulata
Populus wizlizenii                   Populus fremontii var.wizlezenii
Rhus aromatica                       Rhus trilobata
Schizachyrium scoparium              Andropogon scoparius
Scirpus maritimus                    Scirpus paludosus
Selinocarpus chenopodioides          Ammocodon chenopodioides
Sida lepidota                        Sida leprosa
Sphaeralcea lobata                   Sphaeralcea angustifolia
Sporobolus asperifolia               Muhlenbergia asperifolia
Sporobolus strictus                  Sporobolus contractus
Thelesperma gracile                  Thelesperma megapotamicum
Wootonia parviflora                  Dicranocarpus parviflorus
Xanthocephalum sarothrae             Gutierrezia sarothrae
Yucca baccata var. torreyi           Yucca torreyi

Last Updated: Wednesday, 22-Dec-2004

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