Ethnobotany. According to the book "The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho" (Vestal, Paul A., 1952, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology), Eriogonum abertianum was used - in decoction - as a lotion for skin cuts of horses and human beings.
Diversity. Jim Reveal did not describe the different varieties of this species. Nonetheless, Raymond Fosberg in "Eriogonum and its varieties" (published in Madroño in 1938) described them and the descriptions are posted below the following pictures.
Recent researches. In the Journal of Ecology (September 1993), un article titled "Annual Seed Dormancy Cycles in Two Desert Winter Annuals" describes the annual cycles of dormancy in the seeds of Eriogonum abertianum.
Selon Baskin et al (1993), "Nondormant seeds of the desert winter annual Eriogonum abertianum germinated to 86 and 79% in light at 15/6 and 20/10° C, respectively, but to only 3, I, and 0% at 25/ 15, 30/15, and 35/20 ° C, respectively."
In Oecologia (1997), l’article "Interactions between winter and summer annuals in the Chihuahan Desert", Guo and Brown cites Kemp 1983 and Inouye 1991: "The three biseasonal species (Eriogonum abertianum, Haplopappus gracilis, and Baileya multiradiata), germinated in fall and winter, but unlike the winter annuals, individuals survived through the spring droughts (Fig. 1). Although mortality during this period was often severe (sometimes >95%) and the surviving rosettes lost their outer leaves, the surviving plants grew rapidly in response to the first summer rains. In years when mortality during the spring drought was relatively low, the surviving plants, because of their size advantage and well established root system, were often able to dominate the summer annual plant community in terms of both individual plant size and total species biomass".
Description from Jim Reveal's Manual. Plants herbs, erect or spreading, annual, 0.5–6 (7) dm tall, hirsute, greenish, grayish, tawny, or reddish; stems with caudex absent, the aerial flowering stems prostrate to erect, solid, not fistulose, 0.1–1 dm long, appressed- hirsute; leaves basal and cauline; basal: petiole 0.5–6 cm long, villous to hoary, blade oblong to obovate, 1–4 cm long, 1–3 cm wide, villous to hoary-tomentose and greenish, tawny, or reddish on both surfaces, the margins plane, occasionally crenelated; cauline: sessile, blade linear, lanceolate, or narrowly obovate, 1–4 cm long, 0.3–2 cm wide, similar to basal blade; inflorescences cymose, open to diffuse, 5–40 (60) cm long, 5–50 cm wide, the branches hirsute, the bracts 3–6, semi-foliaceous, 2–10 mm long, 1–3 mm wide; peduncles ascending to erect, mostly straight, slender, 0.5–6 cm long, villous to hoary-tomentose; involucres broadly campanulate, 2–3 mm long and wide, villous-canescent, the teeth 5, lobelike, usually reflexed, 4–6 mm long; flowers 3–4.5 mm long, the perianth white to pale yellow in early anthesis, becoming reddish or rose, glabrous, the tepals dimorphic, those of outer whorl orbiculate-cordate, those of inner whorl lanceolate to spatulate, the stamens mostly exserted, 1.5–3.5 mm long, the filaments mostly pilose proximally; achenes brown to dark brown, lenticular, 0.6–1 mm long, glabrous. 2n = 40.
Flowering year-round. Sandy, gravelly, or clayey flats, washes, and slopes, mixed grassland, saltbush, greasewood, creosote bush, blackbrush, and manzanita communities, oak and conifer woodlands; 400–2500 m.
Dr. John Torrey described Eriogonum abertianum in Major Emory’s “Notes of a Military Reconnoissance” (p. 151, 1848).
The plant is an annual, ordinarily dichotomously or trichotomously branched near or above the base, canescently tomentose to villous, with campanulate involucres bearing many flowers ; the perianth parts are in two series, the outer three expanded, more or less orbicular, membranous-scarious, covering the narrow inner ones. This species is closely related to E. pharnaceoides Torr., differing in the pubescence, the leaf shape, and in the more expanded outer perianth segments which are thinner and more scarious. It is also related to E. ovalifolium Nutt., from which it differs in being an annual, in the pubescence and shape of its leaves, and in the open rather than condensed inflorescence.
A study of material from the Mesilla Valley, New Mexico, indicated that there were two different entities which keyed, in the Flora of New Mexico by Wooton and Standley, to Eriogonum abertianum. In the synonymy was given the name Eriogonum cyclosepalum Greene (Muhlenbergia 6: 1. 1910) the description of which seemed to fit one of the Mesilla Valley plants. The remainder of the material agreed better with E. pinetorum as described by Greene in the same paper than with Eriogonum abertianum Torr. as interpreted by him.
In an effort to settle the problem, Eriogonum abertianum and related species were studied in the herbaria of Pomona College, California Academy of Sciences, Los Angeles Museum, and the University of California, Berkeley. The material examined included isotypes and cotypes of E. pinetorum Greene, E. cyclosepalum Greene, E. arizonicum Gandoger, Eriogonum abertianum var. neomexicanum Gandoger, and Eriogonum abertianum var. ruberrimum Gandoger. Dr. Gleason had photographed for me at the New York Botanical Garden the type of Eriogonum abertianum in the Torrey Herbarium.
As shown by these photographs, Dr. Torrey had at hand only one sheet which bears material collected by Abert. This sheet contains two specimens, one a small fragment of the top of a plant, labelled “July 17, Lt. Abert,” and another marked “Oct. 14th, 1846, Emory.” A careful study of Emory’s Report shows that on July 17 Lieutenant Abert was near the junction of the Pawnee River with the Arkansas River, in Pawnee County, Kan- sas, considerably out of the present range of the species, and on October 14, Emory was along the Rio Grande, apparently in Sierra County, New Mexico. Both of these plants seem to be Eriogonum abertianum var. neomexicanum Gandoger. The other sheet in Torrey’s herbarium bears four specimens. The plant on the left of the sheet, no. 1, collected in August by Dr. Bigelow from “Near San Diego (Vail, of R. Grande)”