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Cistanthe ambigua

Higher Taxonomy
Family: MontiaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Annual to perennial herb; generally fleshy. Stem: 1--many, generally glabrous. Leaf: simple, alternate or opposite. Inflorescence: axillary or terminal; cyme, raceme, panicle, umbel, or flower 1. Flower: bisexual, radial; sepals generally 2(9), free; petals (1)2--19, free or +- fused; stamens 1--many, epipetalous or not, anthers pink, rose, or yellow; ovary superior, chamber 1, ovules 1--many, placenta basal or free-central; styles (0)1--8, generally fused at base, branched. Fruit: capsule, circumscissile or 2--3-valved. Seed: 1--many, shiny or +- pebbly or sculptured, black or gray, generally with oil-filled appendage as food for ants.
Genera In Family: +- 22 genera, +- 230 species: generally temperate America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Kerguelen Is, New Zealand, southern Africa, poorly represented in Europe; some cultivated (Lewisia, Calandrinia). Note: All CA genera previously included in Portulacaceae; details of flowers, seeds require 20× magnification.
Unabridged Note: May include Hectorellaceae.
eFlora Treatment Author: John M. Miller, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: CistantheView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Annual [perennial herb], +- fleshy, from taproot or fibrous roots, generally glabrous. Stem: generally several, generally spreading to ascending. Leaf: cauline [basal and cauline], simple, linear to spoon-shaped, fleshy; basal rosetted. Inflorescence: scapose, raceme, panicle, or umbel, bracts leaf-like or not; bracts generally < sepals, scarious; flowers generally on 1 side of axis, deciduous or not in fruit. Flower: sepals 2, ovate, green, scarious-margined or not, persistent in fruit; petals 5, > sepals; stamens 5--10, anthers yellow; style 1, stigmas 3. Fruit: 3-valved, ovoid. Seed: 6--many, dull to shiny, black.
Species In Genus: 25--35 species: America. Etymology: (Greek: rockrose-flower)
eFlora Treatment Author: John M. Miller & C. Matt Guilliams

Cistanthe ambigua (S. Watson) Carolin ex Hershk.
Stem: spreading to erect. Leaf: 1.5--6 cm, linear to +- spoon-shaped, +- cylindric. Inflorescence: panicle of umbel-like clusters, compact; bracts scarious; pedicel 1--3 mm, straight in fruit. Flower: sepals 2--5 mm, glabrous, margins white-scarious; petals 3--5, 2--5 mm; stamens 5--7(10). Fruit: < calyx. Seed: 6--15, 1--2 mm wide, +- elliptic to ovate, smooth, shiny, black.
Ecology: Desert scrub, sandy to silty soil, often alkaline; Elevation: < 1000 m. Bioregional Distribution: D; Distribution Outside California: southwestern Arizona, northwestern Mexico. Flowering Time: Feb--May
Synonyms: Calandrinia ambigua (S. Watson) Howell
Unabridged Note: Belongs in neither Calandrinia nor Cistanthe, and might better be treated as a separate, monotypic genus, according to Hershovitz (pers. comm.).
eFlora Treatment Author: John M. Miller & C. Matt Guilliams
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botanical illustration including Cistanthe ambigua


Citation for this treatment: John M. Miller & C. Matt Guilliams 2017. Cistanthe ambigua, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 24, 2017.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2017. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 24, 2017.

Geographic subdivisions for Cistanthe ambigua:
Markers link to CCH specimen records. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues. Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.