Abronia and Tripterocalyx are sister genera of ~20 species in the family Nyctaginaceae. They are mostly confined to coastal beaches and dunes, desert sands, or weird high mountain areas (e.g. limestone). The majority are sticky and entrap sand, which defends them against most herbivores. I have all species except A. neallyi growing in the lab and have a number of outstanding projects with a number of outstanding collaborators!
Caroline Edwards and Michael Moore (Oberlin) are assembling a phylogeny of the genus, which will allow us to ask, and hopefully answer, cool evolutionary questions.
Using the common Abronia-feeding caterpillars Hyles lineata (Sphingidae) and a leaf miner Lithariapteryx abroniaeella (Heliodinidae), Patrick Grof-Tisza, Rick Karban, Marj Weber, and I will be able to study defensive trade-offs and evolution of defensive traits in this clade. Micah Freedman, Dena Grossenbacher, Maureen Page, Marj Weber and I are also looking at the evolution of selfing, pollination, and floral traits in the clade. I am also interested in the evolution of limited dispersal, hybridization, and production of parthenocarpic fruit in the genus.
The labs of Karen Samis (PEI) and Chris Eckert (Queen's) are studying the coastal species and have done a lot of cool work, but there is a lot of interesting ecology going on in the desert and intermontane west as well that deserves more attention!
If any other labs are interested in growing these plants, I am happy to provide seeds and cuttings.
Sand verbenas are rather hard to grow. HERE is my protocol, but I'd love any feedback from folks who grow them.
LoPresti, EF and R. Karban. (2016) Chewing sandpaper: grit, plant apparency and plant defense in sand-entrapping plants. Ecology. 97: 826-833
LoPresti, EF; Grof-Tisza, P.; Robinson, M.; Godfrey, J. & R. Karban. 2018. Ingestion of sand by a caterpillar: quantification and consequences. in press, Ecological Entomology