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Xerophyllum tenax

Higher Taxonomy
Family: MelanthiaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Perennial herb, from rhizome or bulb, or rhizomes ending in weakly developed bulbs, scapose or not. Leaf: alternate, whorled, or mostly basal and spirally arranged, deciduous after 1 year or not. Inflorescence: raceme, panicle, or flowers 1. Flower: perianth parts 6, in 2 petal-like whorls or of sepals and petals, free or fused below, +- spreading; stamens 6, from perianth, anthers attached at base or near middle; ovary superior or partly inferior, chambers 3, styles 3, persistent. Fruit: capsule, loculicidal or septicidal.
Genera In Family: 10 genera, 130 species: northern hemisphere. Note: W North America Zigadenus moved to Toxicoscordion.
eFlora Treatment Author: Dale W. McNeal, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Dale W. McNeal, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: XerophyllumView Description 

Habit: Plant non-flowering for several years, stalk dying after fruiting; rhizome woody, tuber-like. Stem: stout, simple, leafy. Leaf: persistent, wiry, tough, grass-like, strongly scabrous. Inflorescence: raceme, dense, +- club-shaped, longer (to 50 cm) in fruit. Flower: perianth parts free, oblong to ovate, persistent, +- white to cream, 5--7-veined; filaments wider at base, anthers attached near middle; style short, stigmas thread-like. Fruit: 3-angled, loculicidal. Seed: 9--18, oblong, 3-angled, black.
Species In Genus: 2 species: North America. Etymology: (Greek: dry leaf, from tough, persistent leaves)

Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.
Stem: 15--150 cm. Leaf: basal in dense clump, 30--100 cm, 2--6 mm wide; cauline many, reduced upward. Inflorescence: pedicels 2--5 cm, spreading to +- erect. Flower: 5--10 mm; perianth parts +- oblong; style +- 1 mm, stigma branches 2--4 mm. Fruit: 5--7 mm. Chromosomes: n=15.
Ecology: Dry open slopes, ridges, montane conifer forest; Elevation: < 2300 m. Bioregional Distribution: KR, NCoRO, CaRH, n SNH, CCo, SnFrB; Distribution Outside California: to British Columbia, Montana, Wyoming. Flowering Time: May--Aug
eFlora Treatment Author: Dale W. McNeal
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botanical illustration including Xerophyllum tenax


Citation for this treatment: Dale W. McNeal 2017. Xerophyllum tenax, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on October 17, 2017.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2017. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on October 17, 2017.

Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2011 Steve Matson
Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2008 Keir Morse
Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2006 George W. Hartwell
Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2017 Barry Rice
Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2009 Barry Breckling
Xerophyllum tenax
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© 2011 Steve Matson

More photos of Xerophyllum tenax in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Xerophyllum tenax:
KR, NCoRO, CaRH, n SNH, CCo, SnFrB;
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).

View elevation by latitude chart
Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records

CCH collections by month

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