Johnston's Frankenia (Frankenia johnstonii)

Photograph of the Johnston's Frankenia


Other Names
Johnston's Seaheath
Texas Status
U.S. Status
Endangered, Listed 8/07/1984
Protection Status Notes
Proposed for delisting on May 22, 2003
Johnston's frankenia is a grayish-green, or sometimes bluish-green, spineless, salt-loving shrub. It measures about one foot tall and one to two feet wide, and is round in shape. It has very small, oblong leaves (1/4 to 1/2 inch long) with margins that curl under. The underside of the leaf is lighter in color due to small, dense, grayish-white hairs that are barely visible with the naked eye. Salt crystals are often visible and tasteable on the underside of the leaves. From November through February, Johnston's frankenia turns from grayish-green to its autumn color, crimson red. During this red phase, when many other south Texas shrubs have lost their leaves, these endangered plants are easy to detect.
Life History
Johnston's frankenia is capable of blooming throughout the year (flowering follows rainfall events).The flowers are smaller than a dime, have 5 petals, and are white with a distinct yellow center. Populations of Johnston's frankenia are clumped, and tend to occur within openings in the blackbrush dominated brushlands on pockets of highly saline soils. Saladillo (Varilla texana), another salt-loving plant, is frequently found growing in association with Johnston's frankenia. Limited distribution (restricted to specific soil types) and mechanical alteration of the habitat by root-plowing and bulldozing threatens Johnston's frankenia in the wild.
This plant thrives in highly saline soils, often rocky or eroding and reddish in color, associated with the Maverick soil series.
It is found in Webb, Zapata, and Starr Counties of south Texas; also in northern Mexico.

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