CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Abronia macrocarpa

Greg Wieland

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Abronia macrocarpa

Common Name: 
large-fruited sand verbena
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


Profile Links
 Fish & WildLife

Abronia macrocarpaenlarge
Photographer: Greg Wieland
Image Owner: Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Abronia macrocarpaenlarge
Photographer: Dr. Paula Williamson

Abronia macrocarpa is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Dave Berkshire contributed to this Plant Profile.

Abronia macrocarpa

The large-fruited sand verbena is a graceful perennial member of the four o'clock family and is native to sandy areas of East Texas. The stems are ascending to erect, to 50 cm tall. The sand verbena produces among the region's most attractive inflorescences. In spring, head-like clusters of 20-75 fuchsia to magenta flowers 18-30 mm long are borne above light green, hairy, sticky leaves. Intensely scented flowers open at dusk and attract moths throughout the evening hours until dawn. Plants are self-infertile with viable fruit occurring only as result of plant-to-plant crosses (Williamson and Bazeer 1997). The fruits 8-15 mm long, heart-shaped in side view and have 5 papery wings. Wind-blown fruits travel across the plant's habitat thus dispersing the fruit's seeds. After flowering the plant goes dormant for the summer, surviving as a taproot.

Abronia macrocarpa is adapted to the harsh and fragile sandy openings and dunes in savannah-like woodlands. These regions are characterized by deep, sandy infertile soils, disturbed areas with low and unreliable precipitation levels and extreme daily and yearly temperature fluctuations. First collected in 1968 but not formally described until 1972, the plant has been federally listed as endangered since 1988 (Reed 2001; Tiller 2001; Williamson 2001).

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Abronia macrocarpa
  A. macrocarpa is found on sandy substrates, including blowouts, aeolian sand deposits, and sandy dunes in post oak and grassland mosaic vegetation types. Soil type of one site in Freestone County, which contains thousands of individuals, is characterized as the Pickton loamy fine sands in the southern portion and Wolfpen loamy fine sand at the northern extent (Williamson 2001).

  Occurs in the sand dune habitats of post oak savannas of east-central Texas counties of Freestone, Leon and Robertson. Abronia macrocarpa occurs on sandy substrates, including blowouts, aeolian sand deposits and sandy dunes occurring in post oak and grassland mosaic vegetation types.

Number Left
  9 sites with a total of many 1000 plants (Texas State University - San Marcos)
Report from 2006 for 9 populations:
Population 1 Freestone County, TX ~28K on 20 acres
Population 2 Leon County, TX ~6,200 on 5.5 acres
Population 3 Leon County, TX ~12K on over 90 acres
Population 4 Leon County, TX ~8K on 8.5 acres
Population 5 Robertson County, TX ~5K on 2.7 acres
Population 6 Robertson County, TX 750 on 10.6 acres
Population 7 Robertson County, TX 4,500 on12 acres
Population 8 Leon County, TX ~30K on 30 acres
Population 9 Leon County, TX area and number not determined (discovered in 2006)

Therefore, a total nearly 100,000 plants in all size classes have been observed by Dr. Paula Williamson of Texas State University at San Marcos, TX and Gena K. Janssen of Janssen Biological of Austin, TX for 6 of the populations.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Texas S2 E 11/3/1988  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  • Pollinators include moths attracted to the sweet-smelling blooms. Yaupon and grape plants serve as hosts plants for these moths (Williamson et al. 1994).
• Abronia macrocarpa is self-incompatible (Williamson et al. 1997).

  Residential development, oil field development, exotics (South African lovegrass, weeping lovegrass), trail bikes, off-road vehicles, deer grazing, grass encroachment, low numbers, limited distribution, hikers, fire suppression, over collection (USFWS 1992).

Current Research Summary
  • Extensive research on pollination biology, genetics , phenology etc., by Dr. Paula Williamson and students at SW Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.
• Germination protocols continue to be standardized by staff at Mercer Arboretum.
• In January of 2002 Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens received seed collected during the 2001 growing season from the six wild populations studied by Dr. Paula Williamson in 2001. Subsets of these seeds were banked at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, TX and the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) in Ft. Collins, CO (formerly called the National Seed Storage Laboratories). Mercer maintains wild collected seeds for this species dating to 1989. Both Williamson and Janssen maintain strong partnerships with private landowners where Abronia macrocarpa grows.
• Dr. Williamson presented the 2002 field growing season reports and current research in her seminar “ Status of the Large-fruited Sand Verbena (Abronia macrocarpa) “ on Sept. 5, 2002 at the TX Plant Conservation Conference 2002 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.
• Plants produced for educational display gardens or for specific restoration and reintroduction projects are produced within Mercer’s nursery greenhouses and within our Conservation Area. The Conservation Area provides secure, raised beds for mass propagation of plants/seeds. Each bed is provided with independently controlled irrigation and substrates that meet the unique requirements for each species.
• Mercer has maintained an experimental population of Abronia macrocarpa for ~9 years at our Conservation area. Seeds gathered from these plants are used for educational garden displays and propagation experiments. In November 2001, several young plants were transplanted from the Conservation area to Mercer’s Endangered Species Garden. These Abronia macrocarpa transplants provided a beautiful display of blooms for the public during the Spring of 2002 and should provide a permanent exhibit for years to come. The Endangered Species Garden, established in 1994 with support from Star Enterprises, displays rare native plants for the public to view year-round. In Spring 2002, the River Oaks Garden Club of Houston, TX provided a generous gift to be used for the initiation of the expansion and renovation of Mercer’s Endangered Species Garden. (Tiller 2001b)

Current Management Summary
  Surveys for new populations and of existing populations

Research Management Needs
  • Monitor and protect existing populations from present and future threats. Continue additional survey work to locate new populations.
• Studies of demographic and genetic viability are needed. Continue habitat characterization.

Monitoring Efforts
  Not Available

Ex Situ Needs
  • Further investigate cultivation requirements.
• Expand reserve seed bank and cultivated populations.


Books (Single Authors)

Cheatum, S.; Johnston, M.C.; Marshall, L. 1995. The useful wild plants of Texas, the southeastern & southwestrn United States, the southern olains and northern Mexico. Vol. 2, Abronia-Arundo. Austin, Texas. Useful Wild Plants.

Lowe, D.W.; Matthews, J.R.; Moseley, C.J. 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund guide to endangered species of North America. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C. Beachham Publishing.

Ogorzaly, M.D. 1986. Color illustrations of rare plants. In Natural Heritage of Texas map, compiled by General Land Office & Texas Natural Heritage Program. Austin, Texas. Continental Map.

Poole, J.M.; Carr, W.R.; Price, D.M.; Singhurst, J.R. 2007. Rare Plants of Texas. College Station. Texas A&M University Press. 640p.

Poole, J.M.; Riskind, D.H. 1987. Endangered, threatened, or protected native plants of Texas. Austin, TX: Texas Parks Wildlife Department.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Conference Proceedings

Williamson, P.S.; Bazeer, S.K.; Janssen, G.K. Self incompatibility in Abronia macrocarpa (Nyctaginaceae), an endangered Texas endemic: Comparison of self and outcross pollen tube growth . Southwestern rare and endangered plants: Proceedings of the second conference; September 11-14, 1995; Flagstaff, Arizona. In: J. Maschinski, H.D. Hammond & L. Holter, editor. unknown. US Dept. Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mtn Forest & Range Expt Sta. p 171-177.

Electronic Sources

(2002). Texas Threatened and Endangered Plants--Profiles. Texas Parks and Wildlife. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/endang/plants/index.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Tiller, A.A. (2001). The large-fruited sand verbena. Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens. http://www.cp4.hctx.net/mercer/mpsandverbena.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Galloway, L.A. 1972. Abronia macrocarpa (Nyctaginaceae): A new species from Texas. Brittonia. 24: 148-149.

Galloway, L.A. 1975. Systematics of the North American desert species of Abronia and Tripterocalyx (Nyctaginaceae). Brittonia. 27: 328-347.

Rees, M.D. 1988. Final listing rules approved for 25 species. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 13, 9-10: 3-5.

USFWS. 1986. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 13, 9-10: 1-16.

USFWS. 1987. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 12, 7: 1-8.

USFWS. 1987. Proposed Endangered Status for Abronia macrocarpa (Large-Fruited Sand-Verbena). Federal Register. 52, 115: 22944-22946.

USFWS. 1988. Determination of Endangered Status for Abronia macrocarpa (Large-fruited Sand-verbena). Federal Register. 53, 188: 37975-37978.

Williamson, P.S.; Bazeer, S.K. 1997. Self-incompatibility in Abronia macrocarpa (Nyctaginaceae). Southwestern Naturalist. 42: 409-415.

Williamson, P.S.; Muliana, L.; Janssen, G.K. 1994. Pollination biology of Abronia macrocarpa (Nyctaginaceae), an endangered Texas species. Southwestern Naturalist. 39: 336-341.

Williamson, P.S.; Werth, C.R. 1999. Levels and patterns of genetic variation in the endangered species Abronia macrocarpa Galloway (Nyctaginaceae). American Journal of Botany. 86, 2: 293-301.

Newspaper Articles

Anonymous. 1983 August 23. Tread lightly; The flower matters. New York Times;


Kennedy, K.; Poole, J.M.; Orzell, S. 1990. Revised status report on Abronia macrocarpa. Albuquerque, New Mexico: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. p.5.

Tiller, A.A. 2001. The large-fruited sand verbena. 1731 Hugh Road Houston, Texas: Parkscape. Harris County Precinct 4. Public Affairs Department. p.3.

Turner, B.L. 1983. Abronia macrocarpa Status Report. p.9.

USFWS. 1992. Large-fruited sand-verbena (Abronia macrocarpa) Recovery Plan. Albuquerque, New Mexico: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.37. Final.

Williamson, P.S. 2002. Large-fruited sand verbena landowner technical assistance. Section 6 final report. Austin, Texas. Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.


Conner, M.D. 1979. The endangered plants of Texas. [Master's]: University of Texas at Austin. Austin, TX. unknown.

Corlies, G.K. 1991. Reproductive biology and leaf structure of Abronia macrocarpa Galloway (Nyctaginaceae), and endangered east Texas endemic. [M.A. Thesis]: Southwest Texas State University. San Marcos.

Couch, K.I. 1996. Seedling recruitment and recolonization of a disturbed population of Abronia macrocarpa Galloway (Nyctaginaceae). [Masters]: Southwest Texas State University. San Marcos. unknown.

  This profile was updated on 9/27/2010
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