Death Valley’s wildflower bloom last year was the best in a decade. In addition to the visual spectacle, the sweet fragrance of Abronia villosa var. villosa was another memorable highlight for me.
There are other memories from the past year and a half that are not so pleasant, from the global to the personal. I think, perhaps, the return of Botany Photo of the Day will help in some small way. Please note that the bulk of old entries need to be repaired to work properly with the new system and look, so your continued patience will be appreciated.
Abronia villosa var. villosa, or desert sand-verbena, is native to southwest USA and northwest Mexico. It is the more common of two varieties recognized within the species. The other, Abronia villosa var. aurita, is of conservation concern and occurs only in southern California, Arizona and Baja California. Notable differences between the two are observable in the flowers and fruits. In Abronia villosa var. aurita, the perianth (floral) tubes are longer, resulting in a larger and more open inflorescence. As well, the fruits are smoother and lack the prominent veining of Abronia villosa var. villosa. CalPhotos, as always, has additional images.
The floral fragrance of desert sand-verbena is reportedly strongest at night. I didn’t overnight near the plants, though (because of the crowds in the park) I started my days before sunrise so I had several opportunities to enjoy the scent either wafting along early morning breezes or simply hanging in the air. Descriptions elsewhere on the web noting the fragrance as “vanilla-like” are apt enough; sweet and pleasant, it was never cloying. By mid-morning, the scent in the air would disappear. The release of fragrance at night and the presence of floral tubes suggests phalaenophily, or pollination by moths.