[Sandworts: The Genus Eremogone East of the Cascade Mts. of Oregon and Washington]

Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort

Eremogone congesta var. congesta

Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta

Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

Ballhead sandwort as seen at the western base of East Point at the east end of the Mount Pisgah ridgeline, Ochco National Forest.........July 14, 2017.

Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)The photo at right shows ballhead sandwort as seen along Forest Service Service Road #44 about a mile north of Cook Springs, Umatilla National Forest........June 25, 2007. Plants look somewhat grasslike, especially when they are not in flower because the narrow green stems with linear leaves.


Characteristics:

Also known as dense-flowered sandwort, ballhead sandwort is a tufted perennial forming mats from 5-15 cm wide and with one to several erect flower stems from 15-40 cm high. The stems and leaves are typically glabrous, although they may occasionally bear some glandular hairs. The ascending leaves are linear, 1-nerved, and measure from 0.5-8 cm long. They are glabrous to glaucous but may sometimes have ciliate margins and tipped with a sharp, rigid point. The basal leaves may have secondary leaves in their axils, while the 1-4 pairs of stem leaves are opposite and much reduced in length.

The inflorescence is most often tightly congested in a terminal head, although some varieties will have somewhat open cymes. The sepals are 1-nerved and measure from 3-6 mm long. They range from lanceolate to ovate in shape with blunt to pointed tips and with wide, white membranous margins. The white petals are up to 9 mm long, or about 50% longer than the sepals. They are linear-oblong in shape.


Varieties of ballhead sandwort in the Pacific Northwest:

Sharptip sandwort: var. cephaloidea - Inflorescence a dense, tight cyme. Bracts closely enveloping the sepals. Sepals acute. Found from central and eastern Washington into Idaho. Rare in Oregon.

Ballhead sandwort: var. congesta - Leaves 3-8 cm long, 0.5-1 mm wide, leafy and thread-like. Inflorescence a dense, tight cyme. Bracts closely enveloping sepals. Sepals obtuse, 3.5-4 mm long. Gravelly to sandy soil in the open. 1300-2000 m. Found from central Washington south to California and east to Montana, Utah and Colorado.

Ballhead sandwort: var. crassula - Leaves 2-3 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, fleshy and needle-like. Inflorescence a dense, tight cyme. Bracts closely enveloping sepals. Sepals obtuse, 3.5-4 mm long. Dry ridges and rock crevices from 2200-2500 m. Found from southwest OR to the Klamath Region south to the high North Coast Range and Modoc Plateau of northern California.

Gland sandwort: var. glandulifera - Plants glandular-hairy. Inflorescence open, umbel-like. Bracts confined to base of inflorescence. Sepals acute. Found in Douglas Co, WN and Valley & Washington counties in Idaho.

Loosehead sandwort: var. lithophila - Absent from Oregon and Washington. Found from Idaho to Montana and south to Utah and Colorado.

Ballhead sandwort: var. prolifera - Plants glabrous. Inflorescence open, umbel-like. Bracts confined to base of inflorescence. Found along east side of the Cascade Mts. from Okanogan CO, Wn to northern Oregon.

Subcongesta sandwort: var. subcongesta - Absent from Oregon and Washington. Found from Idaho south to the southwestern US.

Suffrutescent sandwort: var. suffrutescens - Leaves 1.5-8 cm long, 0.5-1.5 mm wide, leafy and needle-like. Inflorescence open, umbel-like. Bracts confined to base of inflorescence. Sepals obtuse, 3-4 mm long. Rocky slopes and outcrops, 1200-3300 m. Found from southwestern OR to the Klamath Region and south into the High Sierra Nevada Mts.


Habitat:

Ballhead sandwort may be found on dry slopes from the lowlands to alpine slopes in the mountains.


Range:

Ballhead sandwort may be found to the east of the Cascade Mts. from Okanogan County in north-central Washington south to south-central Oregon and westward to the Siskiyous of southwestern Oregon and the Sierra Nevada of California. It may be found eastward to the Rocky Mts. from the Yukon south to Wyoming and Colorado.


Inflorescence of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

A close-up of the inflorescence of ballhead sandwort as seen along Forest Road 3915 south of Rogger Meadow, Fremont-Winema National Forest.......June 30, 2019.

Inflorescence of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta) - Inflorescence of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

Close-up of a flower of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta) - Close-up of a flower of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

These 4 photos show close-ups of the inflorescence of ballhead sandwort (var. congesta) as seen on west-facing slopes below the Ray Ridge Viewpoint in the Umatilla N.F. of southeastern Washington........July 6, 2008. The sepals are ovate in outline (more slender than fat) with a broad central stripe and wide white margins. They mostly appear to lack the narrow projection beyond the blunt tip of the sepal that var. cephaloidea has.

Inflorescence of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta) - Capitate inflorescence of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

A close-up of the inflorescence of ballhead sandwort (var. congesta) as seen at left on rock outcrops along the South Loop Road about one mile west of the East Rim Viewpoint, Steens Mountain, Harney County, Oregon..........September 2, 2011. The photo at right shows a close-up of the flower head of ballhead sandwort as seen along Forest Service Service Road #44 about a mile north of Cook Springs, Umatilla National Forest.........June 25, 2007. The sepals are ovate with moderately wide, scarious margins. Plants are glabrous.

Basal leaves of Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

The photo above shows the long, linear basal leaves of ballhead sandwort as seen along a small creek along the South Steens Mt. Loop Road.......June 24, 1999.

Ballhead Sandwort, Capitate Sandwort: Eremogone congesta var. congesta (Synonyms: Arenaria congesta var. congesta, Eremogone congesta)

The congested flower head of ballhead sandwort as seen along a small creek along the South Steens Mt. Loop Road.......June 24, 1999.

Paul Slichter