Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 5, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

As the dry season draws on the reservoir's water-level stands about 15 feet lower than when I arrived here. Certain spots that earlier lay submerged beneath shallow water now provide broad, grassy lawns for picnickers and campers, the grass kept short by burros and goats. In less frequented spots grass often is replaced by ankle-high tangles of the herbs shown below:

PHYLA LANCEOLATA, Frogfruit or Fogfruit

The flower heads in that picture are pea-sized, so the flowers themselves are tiny things. If you could look at an individual blossom with a good handlens you'd see that it's shaped like a little dog-head, like a verbena flower. In fact, the plant is a member of the Verbena Family. It belongs to the genus PHYLA, and probably is PHYLA FRUTICOSA. In English, members of the genus Phyla are often referred to as Fogfruits or Frogfruits. Phylas are common throughout the US, except in the northwestern states. Of course in Australia our Phylas are invasive.

I'll bet there's an interesting story behind the plant's two names, fogfruit and frogfrut. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them came into being because of a typo committed long ago by someone preparing a flora manuscript. When I Google "fogfruit" I get 815 page-returns but when I look up "frogfruit" 2040 pages turn up, so "frogfruit" seems to be winning out.

I'm glad that "frogfruit" is winning if only because nowadays many of our frogfruit tangles shelter myriad tiny, immature toads. In places you can hardly take a step without smashing one. When you walk, sometimes the ground around your feet seems to ripple with hopping- away baby toads. Maybe "toadfruit" would be an even better name.