Camissonia section Eremothera

Desert suncup Camissonia boothii, copyright Kimberly Reinhart.

Belongs within: Onagraceae.

White by evening in the American Southwest
Published 15 August 2019

Though various species of it may be found around the world, the evening primrose family Onagraceae reaches its highest diversity in the south-west of North America. For this post, I’m looking at a genus endemic to this region, Eremothera.

Eremothera boothii, copyright Kerry Woods.

Eremothera is one of several genera of evening primroses newly recognised by Wagner et al. (2007). The species included in this genus had previously been included in the broader genera Oenothera or Camissonia, but these genera were progressively broken down owing to polyphyly and poor definitions. Eremothera species are annual herbs with more or less erect stems. Leaves are arranged on the stem alternately; those near the base are carried on a long petiole of up to six centimetres. The genus is distinguished from its close relatives by having mostly white flowers that open in the evening (in rare cases they my be pink or red, fading as they age). Pollination is by moths when the flowers first open, with small bees visiting the flowers the following morning. The fruit is a long capsule that arises directly from the main stem without a subtending stalk.

Eremothera refracta with flowers and green fruits, copyright Stan Shebs.

Seven species of Eremothera were recognised by Wagner et al. (2007). Eremothera nevadensis is a specialist of clay soil that occupies a relatively small range in Nevada, around Reno. Eremothera refracta is a widespread species in the south-west United States with fruit that are of an even diameter along their length (Hickman 1993). Eremothera chamaenerioides is a self-pollinating derivative of E. refracta with smaller flowers in which the stigma is surrounded and overtopped by the anthers. Eremothera boothii and E. minor (both also widespread) have fruits that are wider at the base than at the tip. In E. minor the inflorescence is held erect; in E. boothii the flowers nod. Two localised species, E. gouldii and E. pygmaea, are self-pollinating derivatives of E. boothii. Eremothera minor is also self-pollinating, and may in some cases even be cleistogamous with pollen being transferred to the stigma without the flower even opening.

Systematics of Camissonia section Eremothera
<==Camissonia sect. EremotheraH93
    |--C. boothii [=Oenothera boothii]H93
    |    |--C. b. ssp. boothiiH93
    |    |--C. b. ssp. alyssoides [=Oenothera alyssoides]H93
    |    |--C. b. ssp. condensata [=Oenothera boothii ssp. condensata]H93
    |    |--C. b. ssp. decorticans [=Oenothera boothii ssp. decorticans]H93
    |    |--C. b. ssp. desertorum [=Oenothera boothii ssp. desertorum; incl. O. boothii ssp. inyoensis]H93
    |    `--C. b. ssp. intermedia non C. intermedia [=Oenothera boothii ssp. intermedia]H93
    |--C. chamaenerioides [=Oenothera chamaenerioides]H93
    |--C. minor [=Oenothera minor]H93
    `--C. refracta [=Oenothera refracta; incl. O. deserti]H93

*Type species of generic name indicated


[H93] Hickman, J. C. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press: Berkeley (California).

Wagner, W. L., P. C. Hoch & P. H. Raven. 2007. Revised classification of the Onagraceae. Systematic Botany Monographs 83: 1–240.

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