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Plant Life of a Desert Archipelago

Flora of the Sonoran Islands in the Gulf of California

By Richard Stephen Felger and Benjamin Theodore Wilder, in collaboration with Humberto Romero-Morales; Foreword by Exequiel Ezcurra

Publication Year: 2013

The desert islands of the Gulf of California are among the world's best-preserved archipelagos. The diverse and unique flora, from the cardón forests of Cholludo to the agave-dominated slopes of San Esteban remain much as they were centuries ago, when the Comcaac (Seri people) were the only human presence in the region. Almost 400 plant species exist here, with each island manifesting a unique composition of vegetation and flora. For thousands of years, climatic and biological forces have sculpted a set of unparalleled desert worlds.

Plant Life of a Desert Archipelago is the first in-depth coverage of the plants on islands in the Gulf of California found in between the coasts of Baja California and Sonora. The work is the culmination of decades of study by botanist Richard Felger and recent investigations by Benjamin Wilder, in collaboration with Sr. Humberto Romero-Morales, one of the most knowledgeable Seris concerning the region's flora. Their collective effort weaves together careful and accurate botanical science with the rich cultural and stunning physical setting of this island realm.

The researchers surveyed, collected, and studied thousands of plants--seen here in meticulous illustrations and stunning color photographs--providing the most precise species accounts of the islands ever made. To access remote parts of the islands the authors worked directly with the Comcaac, an indigenous community who have lived off marine and terrestrial life in this coastal desert region for centuries. Invaluable information regarding indigenous names and distributions are an intrinsic part of this work.

The flora descriptions are extraordinarily detailed and painstakingly crafted for field biologists. Conservationists, students, and others who are interested in learning about the natural wealth of the Gulf of California, desert regions, or islands in general are sure to be captivated by this rich and fascinating volume.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. 10-11

Cactus scrub, Isla Cholludo. Cardón (Pachycereus pringlei) and ...

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pp. 12-15

The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ...

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pp. 16-17

There is something about this region that captures the imagination, curi-osity, and sense of wonder of many, and certainly this is the case for us.Richard’s perspective: I was about eight years old when I started growing cactus and succulents, and because we lived by the sea it was sea life that first caught my imagination. So when I was a freshman at the University of Arizona and first encountered the cactus-rich islands in the Gulf of California, there ...

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pp. 18-19

Our work has been made possible by the wonderful community of family, friends, and colleagues we are fortunate to have in our lives. Our efforts were enhanced by funding provided by several institutions, but principally that of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO). Additional generous support was received by Ben from Dora and Barry Bursey; the University of ...


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pp. 20-23

Part IThe Islands andTheir Vegetation

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pp. 26-47

Like rocks, from large boulders to small pebbles, lying in the middle of a flowing stream, the Midriff Islands of the Gulf of California stand as a partial bridge between the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora mainland (fig. 1.1A,B). These desert islands, in the central part of the Gulf of Califor-nia, between latitudes 28°20' and 29°40', display a continuum of adaptation by life to a harshly arid environment in an isolated setting. The high level ...

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Island Diversity

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pp. 48-79

The flora of all the islands under consideration includes 388 taxa (spe-cies, subspecies, and varieties) in 251 genera and 78 families (appendix A). The majority of these are found on Isla Tiburón. A statistical breakdown of the island flora is presented in table 1.1, in the order that the islands are described in this chapter. Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Poaceae are the larg-est families on the islands. It is also of note that Cactaceae is the fifth most ...

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Part IIBotanical Explorationson the Sonoran Islands

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pp. 80-131

Botanical explorations focusing on the flora and vegetation of the lands and islands associated with the Gulf of California began with Edward Palmer’s collections in 1887 and 1890 (Vasey & Rose 1890; Watson 1889). The most exhaustive works on the plants of the Gulf Islands are Johnston’s classic work, produced from three months of “collections, field observations, and subsequent herbarium studies” (1924:951); Gentry’s (1949) evaluation and ...

Part IIIThe Flora

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Species Accounts

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pp. 134-519

...the species accounts are organized as pteridophytes (ferns), then the one gymnosperm (Ephedra), and then the angiosperms (flowering plants; the dicots, including magnoliads and eudicots, and monocots are not separated). Within these major groups, all entries are listed alphabetically by Plant family designations follow the APG III (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group; Stevens 2008) classifications, reflecting current knowledge of evolutionary ...

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Part IVGazetteer

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pp. 520-549

Place names listed here are those mentioned in the text and localities for specimens cited. The coordinates are from our GPS readings and from Google Earth (2009), both based on WGS 84. The most prominent place We are fortunate to have satellite-based global mapping systems that provide accurate and user-friendly mapping. Earlier maps were often in-accurate, and determining coordinates was often a difficult task. Detailed, ...

Appendix AChecklist of the Flora of the Sonoran Islands

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pp. 550-561

Appendix BSpecies Mutually Absent fromIsla Tiburón and Mainland Sonora

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pp. 562-571

Appendix CBotanical Name Changes

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pp. 572-577

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Literature Cited

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pp. 578-587

Beaty, J. J. 1964. Plants in His Pack: A Life of Edward Palmer, Betancourt, J. L., T. R. Van Devender, & P. S. Martin, editors. Bowen, T. 1976. Seri Prehistory: The Archaeology of the Central Ezcurra, E., L. Bourillón, A. Cantú, M. Elena Martínez, & A. ———. 1976. The island and coastal vegetation and flora of ...

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About the Authors

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pp. 588-589

Richard Felger received his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 1966. His dissertation analyzed the vegetation and flora of the islands and Gulf Coast of Sonora, Mexico. Subsequently he was on the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and then senior curator of botany at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Returning to Tucson, he continued his research and conservation activities in arid lands, concentrating on the Gulf ...

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pp. 590-621

Page numbers in boldface indicate the location of accepted scientific names in the species accounts (Part III). Scientific names for genera, species, and infra-specific taxa are italicized. Plant names in Cmiique Iitom (the language of the Comcaac, or the Seri people) are in Roman font. Spanish-language (Mexican) common name are italicized and English-language (American) common names ...

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The Southwest Center Series

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pp. 622-623

Gary Paul Nabhan, editor, Counting Sheep: Twenty Ways of Seeing Desert Eileen Oktavec, Answered Prayers: Miracles and Milagros along the BorderCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, editors, Frank Hamilton Cushing and the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition, 1886–1889, vol. 1: The Southwest in the American Imagination: The Writings of Syl-...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599417
E-ISBN-10: 0816599416
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816502431
Print-ISBN-10: 0816502439

Page Count: 622
Illustrations: 216 photos, 452 line art, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2013