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Thursday, April 30, 2009

American vetch-Vicia americana

When I saw this flower, I knew immediately the plant was in the Pea Family (Fabaceae), and I guessed it might be an Astragalus. But I had to look closer.

What I saw was that at the end each leaf, there wasn't a leaflet, but rather these tendrils, making this instead a Vicia, in particular American milkvetch, also called common milkvetch,or wild pea  (Vicia americana). 

After flowering, the plant will produce pods that contain a couple of pea-like seeds.

This widespread plant can be variable in size and shape of flowers and leaves. The leaves on these specimens were broader than some of the other photos I've seen on the Internet.

The Vicia was growing in patches on a rocky hillside. To learn more about milkvetch, click here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Common Tansymustard-Descurainia sophia

This common weed found in fields and along disturbed areas is Common Tansymustard, also called flixweed and herb sophia (Descurainia sophia), a member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae).

The yellow flowers have four petals and four sepals. A long narrow, fruit called a silique will form. The entire plant can grow to be up to 3 feet tall, and is found across most of the U.S., despite being native to Europe.

To learn more about common tansymustard, click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spreading Fleabane-Erigeron divergens

I was excited when I found this flower on 4/24/09 at about 5,300 feet, because it was on my jogging route and hadn't been there a few days previously. I recognized it immediately as a member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae), and in particular as a fleabane (Erigeron). Figuring it out after that wasn't nearly so easy, but I believe it is a Spreading Fleabane, also called diffuse daisy, diffuse fleabane, fleabane daisy, and more (Erigeron divergens).

The Erigerons have yellow disk flowers and white, pink, or purple ray flowers. 

The green leaves are fairly hairy.

The calyx is also hairy and supports many ray flowers.

A close-up of the hairy leaves.

For more information about spreading fleabane, click here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

James' Cryptantha-Cryptantha cinerea

Poking up from the gravel in a sagebrush/pinyon/juniper area are these compact little flowers in the Borage Family (Boraginaceae). They appear to be James' cyrptantha (Cryptantha cinerea var. abortiva). Often there are multiple common names for a family, but this one also has multiple genus names: Cryptantha and  Oreocarya. The general difference observed by some botanists is as follows:

Oreocarya: "Biennial or perennial from rosettes of basal leaves; flowers more than 5 mm in diameter, often distinctly long-tubular with prominent yellow eye."

Cryptantha: "Annual without rosettes of basal leaves; flowers minute, less than 5 mm diameter, short-tubed with inconspicuous eye."

"Oreos" is Greek for "mountain" and "caryum" is Greek for "nut".

"Cryptantha" is Greek for "hidden flower" and probably refers to the very small size of the flower.

I've chosen to use Cryptantha because that's what the USDA Plants database uses. 

There are many species of cryptantha, generally low growing, fairly inconspicuous flowers. 

It's always interesting to see what insects are using the plants.

For more information about James' Cryptantha, click here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shepherd's Purse-Capsella bursa-pastoris

While walking in a field, I found a pretty white flower in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) that turned out to be Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). This plant is found throughout North America but is actually native to Europe and Asia Minor.

The plant is still in its early stages in this photo, but as it ages it makes little purse-like seed pods, hence its name.

It's possible that the mucilage found in the seeds traps insects when wet, making this plant protocarnivorous. 

Yum, yum, come hither little fly.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

For more information on Shepherd's purse, click here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chambers' Twinpod-Physaria chambersii

This colorful flower nestled at the base of a pinyon pine is in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae), with its flower parts in fours. It's a Chambers' Twinpod, also called Double Twinpod (Physaria chambersii). 

There are a couple ants down in the flower. I'm guessing they are looking for food and perhaps helping to pollinate it.

To learn more about Chambers' Twinpod, click here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plantainleaf Buttercup-Ranunculus alismifolius

It was a delightful surprise to walk around a sagebrush/meadow area about 7,500 feet and find the bright yellow flowers of buttercups emerging. This appears to be the plantainleaf buttercup, also called meadow buttercup and water-plantain buttercup (Ranunculus alismifolius), in the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae).

The snow just melted within the last week, so the ground is still very wet, providing the moisture this flower needs. Because many buttercup flowers look very similar, the leaves are often a key to identification.

For more information about the plantainleaf buttercup, click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blue-eyed Mary-Collinsia parviflora

It was just by chance that I saw a tiny bit of blue on the needle-carpeted ground and bent to find this diminutive plant, Maiden Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora). It's a member of the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae), and as such, the blue and white dainty flower is bilaterally symmetrical.

The bottomsides of the leaves and the stems are reddish, and that can be a way to find these annual plants. The species name parviflora is Latin for small flower, and their are 19 species of Collinsia.

To learn more about blue-eyed Mary, click here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Low Pussytoes-Antennaria dimorpha

Today we're venturing into the absolutely huge Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) with a small, fairly plain flower called low pussytoes (Antennaria dimorpha). 

Pussytoes are fairly common plants but easily overlooked because they grow so close to the ground. Low pussytoes is especially short, with the flowers barely rising above the gray-green leaves.

Apparently the genus name Antennaria is due to the stamens appearing like insect antennae. 

For more information about low pussytoes and other pussytoes, click here

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Valdivia Duckweed-Lemna valdiviana

Ready for a tiny plant? What you're seeing in the above photo are three separate duckweed plants resting in the palm of my hand. Duckweeds are free-floating aquatic plants, and the kind found in this area is the Valdivia Duckweed (Lemna valdiviana). It has traditionally been put into the Duckweed Family (Lemnaceae), but the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group places it in the Arum Family (Araceae).

Duckweed is a perennial monocot and has a flower, but the flower is usually so tiny that it's not noticeable. Duckweeds can also grow by daughter plants budding off from an adult plant, and in this manner can cover a waterway quickly.

Duckweed doesn't look too impressive from a distance, and in fact is often overlooked by most people. It's a good indicator of perennial water and is used for numerous studies and in aquaculture. To learn more about duckweed in general, click here, and about Valdivia Duckweed in particular, click here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Desert Madwort-Alyssum desertorum

This inconspicuous yellow flower is in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae), with its flower parts in fours. Growing alongside a road, I figured it had a good chance to be nonnative, and sure enough, it's been introduced from Europe. The common name is desert madwort, desert alyssum, or dwarf alyssum (Alyssum desertorum). 

I found virtually no additional information about desert madwort on the internet, but I did come across this handy guide from Montana identifying some of the more common Mustard Family members. If you click back to the home page, you can see that this website is an excellent guide for flowers of the western U.S.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Long-leaf Phlox-Phlox longifolia

Hidden down among the filaree I saw a larger flower, a phlox. This is a flower common to gardens, but this particular one appears to be a native version, long-leaf flox (Phlox longifolia), in the aptly named Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae). (There is a slight possibility this is Phlox stansburyi. If you know, please leave a comment.)

Many moss species grow close to the ground with short leaves, but this one is taller and longer-leaved. It falls over, though, so it does seem to be close to the ground. Although I just saw it flowering 4/17/09, I also found one specimen where the flower petals are already curling up and past their prime. 

I found it growing in gravel/cobble about 5300 ft.

For more information about this phlox, click here

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Newberry's Milkvetch-Astragalus newberryi

When a patch of purple caught my eye among the sagebrushes, I couldn't help but run over to it, my heart pounding fast. Sure enough, it was a new plant for the year, my first sighting of it. I recognized it as a milkvetch and took out my key. Then I groaned. There are 26 milkvetches in this area. I did my best to key it out and match it with photos, and I'm fairly certain this is Newberry's Milkvetch (Astragalus newberryi), in the Pea Family, Fabaceae. 

It was growing near a sagebrush on gravelly soil.

The leaves and calyx are hairy. 

Some Astragalus species are used for medicinal purposes. Others are called locoweed--so before you try any, you should be an expert at identifying them.

To learn a little more (not much), click here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Golden Currant-Ribes aureum

This yellow flower is a delight to see because it is a precursor to a tasty treat--the golden currant (Ribes aureum). This member of the Gooseberry Family (Grossulariaceae) is common along wet areas. 

In a few weeks, the flowers will fall off and a small fruit will grow. It is bright red when it is ripe.

Golden currant often grows in close association with Woods' rose (Rosa woodsii), another plant that likes moist areas or a shallow water table.

For more information, click here.