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Pholisma sonorae, commonly known as sand food, is one of the most bizarre wildflowers of North America. Growing out of sand dunes, the flower has a fleshy stem that extends two meters below the surface and emerging above as a small rounded or ovate form. If enough sand is blown away, the top of the stem may get exposed and the flower appears somewhat like a mushroom. During early spring, the round head bears small centimeter-wide flowers which are pink to purple in color with white margins.

Pholisma sonorae lacks chlorophyll. To survive it attaches to the roots of various desert shrubs to obtain nutrients. Incredibly, the host plants do not appear to be depleted by Pholisma infestation, and some Pholisma plants weigh more than their host plants.

pholisma-sonorae-5

Photo credit: plants.usda.gov

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