Snowball Sand Verbena
Abronia fragrans, sweet sand-verbena, is an herbaceous perennial with an upright or sprawling growth habit, reaching 8–40 inches (about 20–102 cm). It grows from a taproot with sticky, hairy stems growing from 7.1 inches to 3.3 feet (18–100 cm) long.
The flowers consist of 4 to 5 petaloid sepals and sepaloid bracts with a tubular corolla borne in clusters of 25 to 80 at the ends of stems. The blossoms are usually white but may be green-, lavender-, or pink-tinged. The sticky leaves are simple and opposite, up to 3.5" (8.89 cm) long and 1.2" (3 cm) wide, and elliptical or linear. The fruits are egg-shaped achenes about 0.1" (.25 cm) long, lustrous, and black or brown. The achene is enclosed within a leathery top-shaped calyx base which may or may not be winged.
There is dispute as to the classification of Abronia fragrans, with some recognizing Abronia elliptica as a separate species (Kartesz, Weber) and others believing that the two are the same plant (Welsh). The separation of the two species is based on variances of several characteristics including the shape of the fruit, the hairiness of various parts of the plants, and rhizomatous spreading.
This species was collected by Thomas Nuttall in 1834 near the Platte River and was named by him in Hookers 1853 description. The species name, fragrans, means 'fragrant' and refers to the sweet smell of the blossoms, while the genus name is from the Greek "abros" meaning delicate.
Distribution and habitat
The native range of sweet sand-verbena extends from Northern Arizona to western Texas and Oklahoma north through the Rocky Mountain and western plains regions of the United States and south to Chihuahua, Mexico. Sweet sand-verbena occurs in prairies, plains, and savannas where it can be found growing in loose, dry, sandy soils.
The Indigenous peoples of the Southwest use the plant as a wash for sores and insect bites, to treat stomachache, and as an appetite booster. Among the Navajo, it is used medicinally for boils and taken internally when a spider was swallowed. The Kayenta Navajo use it as a cathartic, for insect bites, as a sudorific, as an emetic, for stomach cramps, and as a general panacea. The Ramah Navajo use it as a lotion for sores or sore mouth and to bathe perspiring feet.
The Keres mix ground roots of the plant with corn flour, and eat to gain weight. They also use this mixture to keep from becoming greedy, and they make ceremonial necklaces from the plant.
The Ute use as a roots and flowers for stomach and bowel troubles, whereas the Zuni use the fresh flowers alone for stomachaches. The Acoma and the Laguna mix the ground roots with cornmeal and eat the mixture as food.
- USDA PLANTS profile: Abronia Fragrans Retrieved March 05, 2010
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plants Database Retrieved March 05, 2010
- Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses Retrieved 2010-03-07
- Flora of North America Vol. 4 Page 62, 63, 64 Retrieved March 06, 2010
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- Hocking, George M. 1956 Some Plant Materials Used Medicinally and Otherwise by the Navaho Indians in the Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. El Palacio 56:146–165 (p. 158)
- Elmore, Francis H. 1944 Ethnobotany of the Navajo. Santa Fe, NM. School of American Research (p. 46)
- Wyman, Leland C. and Stuart K. Harris 1951 The Ethnobotany of the Kayenta Navaho. Albuquerque. The University of New Mexico Press (p. 21)
- Vestal, Paul A. 1952 The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology 40(4):1–94 (p. 26)
- Swank, George R. 1932 The Ethnobotany of the Acoma and Laguna Indians. University of New Mexico, M.A. Thesis (p. 24)
- Chamberlin, Ralph V. 1909 Some Plant Names of the Ute Indians. American Anthropologist 11:27–40 (p. 32)
- Camazine, Scott and Robert A. Bye 1980 A Study Of The Medical Ethnobotany Of The Zuni Indians of New Mexico. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:365–388 (p. 377)
- Castetter, Edward F. 1935 Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest I. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food. University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(1):1–44 (p. 39)
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