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Sandfood

Pholisma sonorae, also known as Sandfood, is a rare and unusual species of flowering plant endemic  to the Sonoran Deserts to the west of Yuma, Arizona.

Sand food lacks chlorophyll and is parasitic on roots of desert perennials, usually shrubs. The Sandfood which grows in Imperial Sand Dunes and Algodones Dunes , its fleshy stem extending up to two meters-six feet below the surface and emerging above as a small rounded or ovate form. It may be somewhat mushroom shaped if enough sand blows away to reveal the top of the stem.  It has glandular scale-like leaves along its surface. The plant obtains water not from its host plants, but through stomata in its leaves. The plant blooms in centimeter-wide flowers which are pink to purple in color with white margins.

Seed germination is probably stimulated by chemicals secreted from host roots.  Sandfood seeds are very small and might be moved around in the wind-blown sand or washed into cracks. Based on monitoring in the Algodones Dunes, sandfood abundance is not strongly correlated with rainfall or precipitation, probably because it depends upon the health of its host plants.

 

 

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