Eriogonum inflatum Torr. & Frém.
Desert Trumpet, Indian Pipeweed, Bottle Stopper
Desert trumpet is native to portions of western North America. I grew up in the northeast and have seen very little of the southwestern desert. When I first glimpsed this plant from the car window in Nevada (photo 3), I was deeply impressed. ”Susie! Stop the car!” I walked back a quarter mile to find my ”exotic” plant, and returned, very pleased with myself. Okay, so it isn’t really exotic, but it looked to me like something from another planet.
This table compares desert trumpet to a close relative, kidney-leaf buckwheat.
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|Plant||2’ high.||Less than 2’ high.|
|Flowers||Yellow, about 1/4” across, with greenish or reddish midribs; inconspicuous.||Very small, yellow, turning reddish later.|
|Stem||Some stems have inflated regions.||Stems are not inflated.|
|Habitats||Creosote Bush Scrub, Joshua Tree Woodland, Sagebrush Scrub, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, between -50 and 6500’||Creosote Bush Scrub, Joshua Tree Woodland, less than 5000’|
Identification: This plant grows to about 24" (60 cm) in height. It’s distinguishing characteristic is the inflated stems, which I assumed were for storage of water. Real botanists assumed these expanded regions were galls. Some insects secrete hormones that cause a plant to grow abnormally, producing a house on demand for raising baby bugs. These abnormal growths are called galls. But this isn’t the case either. If the Wikipedia article is right, the expanded areas house carbon dioxide gas, which plays an as-yet unknown role in the plant’s life cycle.
Desert trumpet frequently drops its leaves entirely when it is dry, but the green stems are also capable of photosynthesis, sustaining the plant. The inflation is less likely to occur later in the season. Area natives sometimes made makeshift pipes from the hollow stems, hence the common name indian pipeweed.
Tiny yellow flowers, with greenish or reddish midribs, are easy to miss.
Eriogonum inflatum on Wildflowers, Ferns & Trees of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah
Eriogonum inflatum on Wikipedia
Eriogonum inflatum at George and Audrey DeLange's Arizona wildflower site
Eriogonum inflatum on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Eriogonum inflatum on CalPhotos
Eriogonum inflatum on jan.ucc.nau.edu
Eriogonum inflatum at the Mindbird Maps and Books unofficial Mojave National Preserve site
Eriogonum inflatum on eFloras
Eriogonum inflatum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.