Shrubs, subshrubs, or herbs, rarely scapose, (1-)1.5-10 × 1-15(-18) dm or, if matted, 0.1-2.5(-3) × 0.5-3(-5) dm, , lanate to thinly tomentose, or glabrous, grayish to greenish or reddish. Stems spreading to erect, with or without persistent leaf bases, up to 2 or more height of plant; caudex stems absent or spreading, occasionally matted; aerial flowering stems erect to spreading, stout to slender, solid, not fistulose, (0.1-)0.5-4(-6) dm, tomentose, floccose, or glabrous. Leaves basal and fasciculate in terminal tufts, or cauline and fasciculate, occasionally 1 per node; petiole 0.02-0.5(-1) cm, tomentose to floccose; blade oblanceolate to broadly elliptic, 0.1-3 × 0.1-1 cm, tomentose to floccose, sometimes subglabrous or glabrous and green adaxially, margins plane, sometimes revolute. Inflorescences virgate or cymose with involucres disposed at tips racemosely arranged involucres, rarely capitate, (1-)5-20 × (1-)10-40 cm; branches dichotomous, tomentose, floccose, or glabrous; bracts 3, triangular, scalelike, 0.5-3.5 mm. Peduncles absent. Involucres 1 per node, turbinate to narrowly campanulate, (0.7-)1-4 × 1-2.5 mm, tomentose, floccose, or glabrous; teeth 5, erect, 0.3-1 mm. Flowers 1-4 mm; perianth white to pink or rose, glabrous; tepals connate proximal 1/4, monomorphic, obovate; stamens exserted, 1.5-4 mm; filaments glabrous or sparsely pilose proximally. Achenes light brown to brown, (1-)1.5-3 mm, glabrous. Eriogonum wrightii is subdivided into several varieties most of which are distinct, although a few have rather indistinct boundaries. Some of the variation has yet to be fully resolved, especially in the var. nodosum complex where, at least in Mexico, one additional expression remains to be named. A clear distinction between var. subscaposum and E. kennedyi is not possible in southern California (see discussion below). Nearly all of the varieties of E. wrightii are in cultivation, although the most elegant (var. olanchense) has yet to be so honored.
Few ethnobotanical uses of bastard-sage are reported in the literature. L. C. Wyman and S. K. Harris (1951) noted that the Kayenta Navajo use it (var. wrightii) as an emetic, while M. L. Zigmond (1981) stated that the Kawaiisu used the pounded seeds (probably of var. subscaposum) in a beverage or as a dry meal. Members of the species are food plants for the rare Rita dotted-blue butterfly (Euphilotes rita), the Pacific dotted-blue (E. enoptes), the veined blue (Plebeius neurona), and the Mormon metalmark (Apodemia mormo mormo).
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Perennial subshrub, to shrub, rarely scapose, 15-100 cm by 10-150 cm, sometimes matted 1-25 cm by 5-30 cm; lanate to thinly tomentose, or glabrous, grayish to greenish or reddish; stems spreading to erect, with or without peristent leaf bases, stems stout to slender. Leaves: Basal and clustered in terminal tufts, or cauline and clustered, occasionally with one per node, on petiole 0.02-0.5 cm, tomentose to floccose, blade oblanceolate to broadly elliptic, 0.1-3 cm by 0.1-1 cm, tomentose to floccose, sometimes subglabrous or glabrous and green above, plane margins, sometimes revolute. Flowers: Virgate inflorescence to cymose with involucres disposed at tips in racemosely arranged involucres, rarely capitate, 5-20 cm by 10-40 cm, dichotomous branches, tomentose, floccose, or glabrous, 3 bracts, trangular, scalelike, 0.5-3.5 mm; one involucre per node, turbinate to narrowly campanulate, 1-4 mm by 1-2.5 mm, with 5 teeth, erect, 0.3-1 mm; flowers 1-4 mm, perianth white to pink or rose, glabrous; tepals connate on the lower quarter, obovate, with exserted stamens 1.5-4 mm; filaments glabrous or sparsely pilose below. Fruits: Achenes light brown to brown 1.5-3 mm, glabrous. Ecology: Found in dry, rocky soils on flats and slopes; 3,000-7,000 ft (914-2134 m); flowers June-October. Distribution: CA, NV, AZ, s UT, NM, s TX; south to n MEX. Notes: A common, low-growing shrub that doesnt resemble many other species. It has thick, dark-brown woody branches at the base and smaller stems with white, matted hairs ascending, spreading, often forming dense growth; gray-green foliage; leaves also with dense mats of white hairs and in small bunches at nodes (fascicles) the white flowers arranged along semi-constricted inflorescences, these often erect or tucked in to the rest of the foliage There are two varieties in Arizona: var. nodosum and var. wrightii. Var. nodosum is mostly found in the southwestern portion of the state and relegated to the low deserts, and can be told apart by its grayish flowering stems and branches, which are lanate to densely tomentose. Var. wrightii has more whitish, reddish or greenish stems, which are more tomentose to floccose; this variety is also more widespread throughout the state. Ethnobotany: Used as an emetic, the seeds were pounded into a meal and drunk as a beverage, or even eaten dry. Etymology: Eriogonum is from Greek erion, wool and phyllon, leaf, while wrightii is named for William Greenwood Wright (1831-1912) a California lepidopterist. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015