Dune Food

Common Names:
Scaly-Stemmed Sand Plant, Dune Food
Scientific name:
Pholisma arenarium
Subspecies | Variants:
Pholisma sonorae
Elevation range:
<6,000 ft.
Flowering Months:
April, May, June, July, October
Height | Length:
4 - 8 in.
State Occurrences:
Desert region:
Mojave, Sonoran

Dune Food is a very interesting and beautiful parasitic plant that is also known as Desert Christmas Tree and Scaly-Stemmed Sand Plant. It is a perennial plant in the Borage family. It often uses host plants such as California Croton, Rabbitbrush, Burrobush, and Yerba Santa. As with many other parasites and hemiparasites, it lacks clorophyll giving it a brown or white color base color. Dune food has tiny purple flowers with white margins that often cover the entire stem. 

Dune Food 2

Dune Food in the desert

The bizarre-looking Pholisma arenarium with leaves just beginning to open. Flowers are pink and bell-shaped. It is in the Boraginaceae (Borage) family and is parasitic. Pipes Canyon, CA | March 2016

Dune Food 1

Dune Food in the desert

Pholisma arenarium reminds one of an alien creature popping up out of the sand. Joshua Tree National Park | March 2015