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    The genus Eremogone was named in 1833 by Eduard Fenzl (1808-1879).  A Utah Flora and Intermountain Flora now call the genus "Arenaria".  William Weber's Colorado Flora: Western Slope, the Flora of North America,  and the Synthesis of the North American Flora, accept Eremogone not Arenaria.

     "Erem" is Greek for "a lonely place" or "desert", and "gon" is Greek for "seed"; the allusion is of unknown meaning.  "Arenaria" is from the Latin "aren", meaning "sand", thus the common name of "Sandwort", meaning "Sand Plant".  Many such plants are also known as "Chickweeds". 

      A number of Chickweeds are common in the Four Corners area, and although it is usually fairly easy to identify them as "Chickweeds", it requires time, patience, field guides, and a magnifying glass to identify their exact genus and species.

     The Chickweeds shown on this web site share characteristics: small, bright, white flowers and narrow, long, opposite leaves.  Chickweeds generally are matted quite low to the ground, but several do grow to a slender 20 inches.  They also, according to Weber, share a high degree of structural variability in petal length and showiness and in "size and development of the stamens and carpels".   Further, "Plants with small petals... will tend to have abortive and nonfunctional anthers and well-developed ovaries, while plants with showy petals often have well-developed anthers and poorly developed ovaries".   In other words, some plants, even some flower clusters on the same plant, will have developed male sexual parts and aborted female parts and some will have just the opposite.  This phenomenon is common in the Chickweed and Parsley Families.

    The 2005 Flora of North America, the Synthesis of the North American Flora, the on-line USDA Plant Database, the Intermountain Flora, and A Utah Flora all place the following plants in Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family).  Weber places the plants in Alsinaceae, not Caryophyllaceae, because they "differ obviously in having... flowers constructed differently, with separate instead of united sepals, and petals without narrow basal claws".

     "Alsinaceae" is the ancient Greek name for similar plants.  "Caryophyllaceae" is from the Greek "karya" ("walnut") and "phyllon" ("leaf") which, according to botanical Latin expert William Sterns, "refer to the aromatic smell of walnut leaves, which led to the use of the name for the [aromatic] clove and thence to the [aromatic] clove pink (Dianthus microphyllus)".   The latter is a member of Caryophyllaceae, the Pink Family.

Weber places the plants shown on this page
in Alsinaceae, not Caryophyllaceae
.

Eremogone congesta
Eremogone congesta.    Synonym: Arenaria congesta(Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Foothills to subalpine. Woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Mesa Verde National Park, Prater Ridge Trail, June 3, 2004.

The flowers of this common Sandwort sit atop  slender, leaning, swaying, almost leafless stalks above grass-like tufts of basal leaves.  Clumps of stalks and flowers arise from spreading underground thick roots.   "Eremogone congesta is highly polymorphic" according to the Flora of North America which recognizes nine varieties.

Thomas Nuttall named this species Arenaria congesta in 1838 and S. S. Ikonnikov renamed it Eremogone congesta in 1973.  "Congesta" refers to the crowded flower head.

Eremogone congesta
Eremogone congesta.    Synonym: Arenaria congesta. (Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)
  (Chickweed Family)

Foothills to subalpine. Woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Mesa Verde National Park, Farview, May 31, 2004.

Eremogone fendleri
Eremogone fendleri.   Synonym: Arenaria fendleri(Sandwort)
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005.

We find this Eremogone most often on soils that have accumulated at the base of rocks and scree in the high subalpine and alpine forests, but it is also found at much lower altitudes on various soil types.  Tight tufts of several inch long, very narrow and upright leaves in mats of a foot in diameter are topped by numerous long stalks of white flowers.  Eremogone fendleri might be confused with Saxafraga austromontana.  

Augustus Fendleri was a superb plant collector but unfortunately collected in the Southwest for only a few years in the mid-1840s.  (More biographical information about Fendler.)

Eremogone fendleri
Eremogone fendleri.    Synonym: Arenaria fendleri (Sandwort)
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005.

Eremogone fendleri
Eremogone fendleri. Synonym: Arenaria fendleri(Sandwort)  
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, tundra. Summer.
Lone Mesa State Park, July 2,  2008.

Bulbous-tipped, sticky, glandular hairs abound.

Eremogone kingii
Eremogone kingii variety glabrescens.   Synonym: Arenaria kingii. (Sandwort)
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 27, 2005.

Petals are white but floral parts impart a yellow hue to the flowers.  Eremogone kingii has an open spray of flowers rather than the close-packed flower clusters of Eremogone congesta; both species have long grass-like leaves; congesta grows at higher altitudes. 

Clarence King was a geologist, mining engineer, and first Director of the United States Geological Survey.   (More biographical information about King.)

Eremogone kingii
Eremogone kingii variety glabrescens. Synonym: Arenaria kingii(Sandwort) 
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 27, 2005.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Eremogone congesta  

Range map for Eremogone fendleri

Range map for Eremogone kingii