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Pink sandverbena (Abronia umbellata var. breviflora)

Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora flowers

Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora plant

Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora habitat
Flowers (left), habit (center), and habitat (right) of pink sandverbena. Photos by ODA staff (left and center) and Thomas Kaye (right). If downloading images from this website, please credit the photographer.


Taxonomic notes
Synonyms:  Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora, Abronia umbellata ssp. acutalata, Abronia umbellata var. acutalata, Abronia breviflora, Abronia acutalata

The number of taxa included within the Abronia umbellata complex has varied with different treatments of the group.  Based on genetic and morphometric studies of A. umbellata populations, we consider A. umbellata var. acutalata to be included within var. breviflora.

Plant description
Pink sandverbena can be either an annual or occasionally a short-lived perennial. It is a tap-rooted glandular-puberulent forb with few to several prostrate branches up to 1 m (-1.5) long. Leaf blades are fleshy, light green, oval to oblong-ovate with somewhat irregular margins, 2-6 cm long, with slender petioles about as long as the blades. Flowers are grouped in ball-like clusters of 8-20 (average 14-15) subtended by 5 (4) lanceolate involucral bracts, with clusters born at the ends of stalks growing out from the stems. Individual plants produce from one to thousands of flower clusters, depending on conditions. The perianth is glandular-puberulent, the perianth tube greenish or yellowish to pink and 0.6-0.8 cm long. The corolla limbs are pinkish-purple to deep reddish-magenta, 0.5-0.8 cm broad. Flowers have a yellowish-white eyespot 0.25-0.3 cm in diameter surrounding the throat. The fruit is a single-seeded anthocarp, usually 1.0-1.2 cm long, with 3-5 broad wings that are usually equal to or wider than the fruit body and often prolonged above the fruit apex.

Distinguishing characteristics
Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora is the only pinkish-purple-flowered coastal Abronia species in Oregon. When flowering, it is easily distinguished from the yellow-flowered A. latifolia with which it co-occurs. Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata, another purple-flowered Abronia, overlaps in range with A. umbellata ssp. breviflora in California, but is distinguished from the latter taxon by its longer perianth tube (usually 0.9-1.3 cm long).

When to survey
Surveys for pink sandverbena should be completed when the species is in flower, from June through September, when it can be readily distinguished from the yellow-flowered Abronia latifolia, which occupies the same habitat and is vegetatively quite similar. Flowering times vary depending on site conditions and have been reported as early as April and as late as November.

The habitat in which pink sandverbena occurs varies across the geographic range of the species. In the northern portion of its range, from Oregon north to Vancouver Island, most populations occur on broad beaches and/or near the mouths of creeks and rivers. The species usually occurs on beaches in fine sand between the high-tide line and the driftwood zone, in areas of active sand movement below the foredune. At the southern end of its range, from the northern California border southward, pink sandverbena is increasingly found in foredunes and more stabilized sand.
Associated plant species that often occur in direct proximity to pink sandverbena on open beaches include Cakile maritima, C. edentula, and Abronia latifolia. Other species that often occur in the vicinity of pink sandverbena, usually on adjacent foredunes, include Ammophila arenaria, Leymus mollis, Lathyrus japonicus, L. littoralis, Honkenya peploides, Convolvulus soldanella, and Ambrosia chamissonis.

Historically known along beaches from Vancouver Island to northern California, pink sandverbena has significantly declined within the past century. The species was thought to be extinct in the northern portion of its range, from Washington northward, until two individuals were found on Vancouver Island in 2000. However, this population has not re-established itself in subsequent years. In 2006, another two individuals were discovered in Willapa Bay in Washington. Over the past three decades, the number of populations of pink sandverbena in Oregon has declined from about 10 to about five, with the most stable of these populations occurring along the southern Oregon coast. California hosts the greatest number of populations, the majority of which occur in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Oregon counties
Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Tillamook

Federal status
Species of Concern

One of the primary threats to pink sandverbena is competition from the invasive European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria), a species that stabilizes foredunes and destroys the low-hummocky, discontinuous nature of the foredune system in which pink sandverbena and other native species once thrived. European beachgrass, a non-native species, was introduced to the coastal dunes of Oregon in the early 1900s and now covers vast expanses of prime pink sandverbena habitat and easily outcompetes this and other native forbs. Habitat disturbance by off road vehicles and heavy trampling by humans also threatens pink sandverbena.

Conservation planning
An interagency Conservation Strategy (pdf document, 425 kB) for pink sandverbena was developed by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Institute for Applied Ecology in 2006.
The Western Snowy Plover, a bird species federally listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, occupies the same habitat as pink sandverbena. Recovery efforts for these and other rare coastal natives should be coordinated to maximize conservation results.

Did you know?
Pink sandverbena was the first North American plant species collected and described from west of the Mississippi River. French gardener Jean-Nicolas Collignon collected pink sandverbena on the California coast in 1786, and French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck described and named the species Abronia umbellata in 1791.

Galloway, L. A. 2003. Abronia. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 4, pp. 61-70. Available at http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=100040. Accessed July 22, 2010.
Hitchcock, C. L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J. W. Thompson. 1964. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 2: Salicaceae to Saxifragaceae. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Kaye, T., N. Brian, D. Segotta, and N. Bacheller. 2006. Conservation Strategy for pink sand-verbena (Abronia umbellata ssp. breviflora). Institute for Applied Ecology, USDA Siuslaw National Forest, and USDI Bureau of Land Management. Corvallis, Oregon. Available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/sfpnw/issssp/documents/planning-docs/cs-va-abronia-umbellata-ssp-breviflora-2006-07.pdf. Accessed July 23, 2010.
ORNHIC (Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center). 2007. Rare, threatened and endangered species of Oregon. Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, Oregon State University, Portland, Oregon.
ORNHIC (Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center). 2010. ORNHIC element occurrence database. Portland, Oregon.
Reveal, J. L. and J. S. Pringle.  1993.  Taxonomic botany and floristics in North America north of Mexico: A review.  In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds.  1993+.  Flora of North America North of Mexico.  16+  vols.  New York and Oxford. Vol. 1, pp. 157-192. Available at http://www.fna.org/Volume/V01/Chapter07. Accessed September 5, 2010.
Thorpe, A. S., D. E. L. Giles-Johnson, R. T. Massatti, and T. N. Kaye. 2009. Abronia umbellata var. breviflora on the Oregon coast: Reintroduction and population monitoring. Institute for Applied Ecology, Corvallis, Oregon, USDA Forest Service, Siuslaw National Forest, USDI Bureau of Land Management, Coos Bay District, and Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation. vii + 52 pp.
Tillett, S. S. 1967. The maritime species of Abronia (Nyctaginaceae). Brittonia 19:229-327.