by Amanda M. Kuenzi, Native Plants Class 2003
Common names: Apache plume, ponil (1-9)
Etymology: The common name refers to the resemblance
of the reddish tail clusters to the war headdress of the Apache Indians.
The genus comes from Fallugius, a botanist churchman of the late 17th
century. (9) The species name ‘paradoxa’ translates to ‘unusual.’
Growth form: Shrub reaching 2-8 feet in height (4,7)
Roots: minimum of 10 inches deep (7)
Stem: Slender, straggly, and clump-forming. The bark
is white and hairy when young, becoming dark and shreddy with age.(6,8)
Leaves: Simple, alternate, in sessile fascicles or clustered
on short, lateral branches. 7-20 mm long and pinnately lobed. Leaf margins
revolute, or rolled toward the underside. Dark green above, yellowish,or
rust colored below, and covered with soft, woolly hairs. Midvein prominent
below. Small, triangular stipules persist. Leaves are evergreen. (1,6)
Inflorescence/flowers: 1 to 3 flowers in a flat-topped
inflorescence on a leafless or nearly leafless, elongated stalk. Flowers
are white, 25-35 mm in diameter with 5 rounded petals and about 100 stamens.
Fruit: Numerous achenes tipped with long styles appear as a feathery ball,
which often turn reddish-purple with age.(6)
Similar species: Although Fallugia is considered to be
a monotypic genus, Apache plume may be easily confused with cliffrose
(Purshia stansburiana). Cliffrose has leaves that are similar
to those of Apache plume, but differ in that they are glandular and sticky.
The two are also distinguishable by the bark. Apache plume has whitish,
hairy bark on the young branches, growing darker and shreddy with age.
Cliffrose has reddish-brown bark on the young glandular twigs, becoming
much shreddier and flakier than Apache plume’s as it matures. (8)
The cliffrose also has smaller flowers that are cream-colored to yellow,
in contrast to Apache plume’s white petals. Cliffrose has 5-10 pistils
which mature into dry, hard achenes, the styles become long feathery tails.
While Apach plume’s fruits are also achenes with feathery tails;
it has many more than 10, and the tails are much longer and more delicately
Life history: Perrenial shrub (4,7)
Native/introduced: Native (4, 7)
Phenology: Active growth is in spring and summer, blooming occurs
May to October (6,7)
Distribution: Arizona, southern California, Colorado,
Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, western Texas, southern and central Utah,
and northern New Mexico. Apache plume has been planted with great success
in Idaho and Oregon (6,7). Its habitat is arroyos, foothills, plains,
and mesas in deserts and chaparral; most abundant in rocky or gravelly
slopes and alluvial plains. (6)
Snares, brooms, arrow shafts, The straight branches were used by ancestral
Puebloans for arrow shafts and yard brooms because they do not break easily.
However, inhabitants of Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico keep a broom of Apache
plume behind the oven because it exerts positive spirits over the house.
Tea can be made from the leaves, which is then used as a hair rinse. Petals
of the flowers are eaten to prevent gas. The roots are long and wiry,
so used as cord to tie fencing. (2,9) The shrub provides natural erosion
control, and is also planted for decorative purposes. The evergreen leaves
provide good winter forage for grazing and browsing animals.(6,8)
1. Cronquist, A, N.H.,
Holmgren, and P.K. Holmgren, 1997. Intermountain Flora. New York Botanical
Garden, Bronx, New York, USA.
2. Dunmire, W.W. and G.D. Tierney. 1995. Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province.
Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
3. Hyam, R. and R. Pankhurst. 1995. Plants and their Names, A Concise
Dictionary. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.
4. McWilliams, Jack. (2000, June). Fallugia paradoxa In: USDA, Forest
Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (2003,
October). Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis.
5. Mozingo, H.N. 1987 Shrubs of the Great Basin. University of Nevada
Press, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
6. Stubbendieck, J., Hatch, S.L., and C.H. Butterfield. 1997. North American
Range Plants. 5th edition. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska,
7. USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service Plants Profile. 2002, The
PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov).
National Plant Database Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
8. USDA Forest Service. 1988. Range Plant Handbook. Dover Publications,
Inc., New York, USA.
9. Van Dyke Leake, D., Leake, J.B. and M.L. Roeder. 1993. Desert and Mountain
Plants of the Southwest. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma,