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Pholisma is yet another amazing genus of parasitic plants. Endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico, these peculiar members of the borage family tap into the roots of a variety of plant species. They do not photosynthesize and therefore obtain all the nutrients they need from their hosts. Oddly enough, researchers have found that most of their water needs are met by absorbing dew through the stomata on their highly reduced, scale-like leaves. Throughout their limited range, Pholisma are critically imperiled. Development and agriculture have already eliminated many populations. To add insult to injury, the dunes in which most extant populations are found are owned by the BLM and are open to heavy off-road ATV traffic, which will likely push them to the brink of extinction if nothing is done to limit such recreational use. 

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Photo Credits: USFW, Mojave Wildflowers (, and vijay_SRV (

Further Reading:

wild-flowers: coolthingoftheday: Pholisma sonorae, also known...
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Pholisma sonorae, also known as sandfood, are a bizarre species of plant found mainly in the arid desert regions of Arizona, California, and Colorado. Because it lacks chlorophyll (meaning that it doesn’t have the ability to produce its own food), sandfood plants are actually parasites, attaching themselves to various desert shrubs in order to gain nutrients. Remarkably, the host plants do not seem to be harmed by this process. 

Sandfood are extremely rare due to increasing habitat loss.


i would love to see these in person one day!

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