Eriogonum codium

Common Names:
basalt desert buckwheat, Umtanum desert buckwheat
Reveal, J.L., F. Caplow, K. Beck
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank & Plant Conservation Programs
University Of Washington Botanic Gardens

The conservation of Eriogonum codium is fully sponsored.
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D. contributed to this Plant Profile.


An ironic legacy of the Cold War is that some of the best remaining habitats for many native and endangered species are on military bases or other government properties. Artillery ranges, training grounds, and secure land surrounding bases, ammunition depots and other top-secret or dangerous areas have been closed to the public, and thus closed to development and grazing. The Hanford Nuclear Reactor in south-central Washington was built during World War II to produce and prepare the plutonium for the United States' first atomic bomb. The land surrounding the reactor was set aside as a security and safety buffer. Although the nuclear reactor has been decommissioned, the land surrounding the reactor has remained closed to the development and grazing.

The site that was once dedicated to producing plutonium, one of the most toxic substances known, has proved to be a blessing for native flora and fauna. Now, the Department of Energy's Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which straddles the Columbia River, contains some of the largest remnant areas of ungrazed and undeveloped shrub steppe in the Pacific Northwest. In 1994, The Nature Conservancy of Washington and the U.S. Department of Energy began the Hanford Biodiversity Project. The property was searched by scientists and a full inventory of plants, animals, and insects was compiled. Searches of this land revealed 30 rare plant taxa, three of which were new to science, including Eriogonum codium and Lesquerella tuplashensis (see profile on this web-site).

The only known population of Eriogonum codium occupies a narrow band that is 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long by less than 100 ft (30 m) wide. The plants occur on exposed basalt above steep cliffs and slopes, and are subjected to strong winds and a harsh environment (Reveal et al. 1995).

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research