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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spanish Bayonet-Yucca harrimaniae

This distinctive plant is the only yucca found in the area. A member of the Agave Family (Agavaceae), it is Spanish bayonet (Yucca harrimaniae). It is sometimes called Harriman's yucca or narrow leaf yucca.

The large, whitish flowers are waxy-feeling and open towards the ground. They have a fascinating relationship with their pollinator, the Pronuba moth (Tegeticula yuccasella). The moth drills a hole into the ovary of the flower, lays its eggs, and manages to pollinate the flower in the process. The flower provides food for the newly hatched larvae. If you look closely at the flowers, you can find the tiny drill hole. 

For more information about Spanish bayonet and the Pronuba moth, click here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thickleaf Beardtongue-Penstemon pachyphyllus

This striking bright-blue penstemon with the thick leaves is called thickleaf beardtongue (Penstemon pachyphyllus). It grows about two feet tall from basal rosettes that include last year's stems.

The stem is smooth (glabrous), but the staminode is hairy and sticks out of the corolla slightly.

Here's a view of that hairy staminode straight on. The plant is native to the southwest U.S. and Wyoming.

For more information about thickleaf beardtongue, click here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Basin Yellow Cryptantha-Cryptantha confertiflora

Most of the Cryptantha species are hard to distinguish, but the basin yellow cryptantha (Cryptantha confertiflora) is the exception. With its all yellow corolla, it stands out from the bunch. It has some beautiful common names: Basin yellow catseye, Mojave popcorn flower, and golden-flowered cryptantha.

It's native to the southwestern U.S. and grows in gravelly locations from 4,000 to 9,000 feet.

For more information about basin yellow cryptantha, click here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hollyleaf Clover-Trifolium gymnocarpon

This little flower is hard to see, nearly covered by the three-leaved clovers providing shade. This is a member of the Pea Family (Fabaceae), and is hollyleaf clover (Trifolium gymnocarpon). 

The flowers are white with just a touch of pink. They grow at a wide variety of elevations, including sub-alpine.

As the genus name Trifolium suggests, many of the leaves are in groups of three.

This plant can spread and become a mat on the soil. It is easy to miss.
For more information about hollyleaf clover, click here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tufted Evening Primrose-Oenothera caespitosa

This lovely flower is often in the middle of a two-track road. It might look like the one above, but it's not squished, it's just resting during the day. The Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) comes alive late in the day and during the night. 

The flowers have large petals that start out white but turn pink as they age. The flowers are generally open widest at night and twilight hours.
For more information about tufted evening primrose, click here

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Owens Valley Beardstongue-Penstemon confusus

This beautiful penstemon is called Owens Valley Beardstongue, puzzling penstemon, or mistaken penstemon (Penstemon confusus). 

It has a smooth stem and staminode. The inner part of the flower petals is striped. This species grows in California, Nevada, and Utah.

For more information about Owens Valley beardstongue, click here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lambstongue Ragwort-Senecio integerrimus

You may see a resemblence in this Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) flower to the lobeleaf groundsel (Packera multilobata) I featured recently. This is closely related and is called lambstongue ragwort (Senecio integerrimus). Personally I think this is a stinky common name. Better ones are mountain butterweed or single-stem butterweed.

Multiple flowers rise from a single stem.

The leaves are entire and hairy.

Photos taken 5-19-09 on Snake Creek, about 7,500 feet elevation. This species ranges up to 10,000 feet in this area in a variety of habitats and blooms from May to July.

For more information about lambstongue ragwort, click here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thickstem Wild Cabbage-Caulanthus crassicaulis

If this wildflower looks slightly similar to one I featured about a week ago, heartleaf twistflower (Steptanthus cordatus), then you're in the right mindset. This is another member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae), called thickstem wild cabbage (Caulanthus crassicaulis). Quite frankly, I think this is not a good common name--it doesn't look at all like cabbage to me. Other names are thick-stemmed caulanthus, and the much preferred jewelflower. "Caulanthus" means "stem flower" and "crassicaulis" means "thick-stemmed."

The thick green stem, which can grow to three feet tall, is certainly notable, as are the inflated flowers. There are a couple varieties, one hairy, and this one, variety glaber--hairless.

Note the assymetrical flowers. The four sepals form a vase-like projection that hold the four emerging petals. It grows in sagebrush country on rocky soils. Photo taken 5-19-09.

For more information about thickstem wild cabbage, click here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stemless Mock Goldenweed-Stenotus acaulis

Members of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) are starting to show up all over. I photographed this one on 5-19-09, and it is the Stemless Mock Goldenweed (Stenotus acaulis).  Other common names are short-stemmed stenotus and cushion stenotus. Characteristics include basal leaves that are small and long, one flower per short stem,  and mat growth. Notice last year's dead leaves in the photo above.

It is found up to 11,000 feet, usually on dry, open, rocky places.
For more information about Stemless Mock Goldenweed, click here

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spiny Milkwort-Polygala subspinosa

When I first spotted this little purple flower lying close to the ground, I thought, oh no, another Astragalus! (I've been seeing so many different-looking ones that my mind is swimming in Astragalus.) But no, when I got down closer, I saw that although at first glance the flowers might look like they're in the Pea Family, they are a bit different. And there are spines on the plant, something that clued me in that this was definitely different.

This plant is in the Milkwort Family (Polygalaceae), which although large worldwide, is rather restricted in North American deserts. It is Spiny Milkwort (Polygala subspinosa). "Polygala" is Greek for "many (much) milk"--although these plants aren't milky, some similar ones are credited by European farmers for increasing milk production in their cows. "Subspinosa" is latin for "almost spiny."

The flowers have 5 sepals, with the two lower ones looking like wings and being the largest. It has 3 petals that are fused at the base, and the lower petal resembles the keel of a boat. 

My finger is in the lower left of the above photo to give you some scale--you can also see the spines better. I found my first plant on a rocky slope on gravel under pinyon/juniper near Crystal Peak on 5-17-09.

A few days later I found one on a hillside with Artemisia nova.

For more information about spiny milkwort, click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kingcup Cactus-Echinocereus triglochidiatus

The beautiful, bold red of the Kingcup Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) caught my eye from the road. It is also called red-flowered hedgehog cactus, claretcup cactus, strawberry cactus, Mojave mound cactus, and three spine hedgehog cactus. There are about one hundred species in the genus Echinocereus.

This cactus can withstand cold temperatures and is pollinated by hummingbirds. It is generally found up to 6,500 feet elevation.

For more information on the kingcup cactus, click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Granite Prickly Phlox-Linanthus pungens

I was climbing around some boulders at dusk when I ran into this prickly plant covered with small white flowers. The next morning I returned to photograph it and could hardly find any flowers. It turns out that the Granite Prickly Phlox (Linanthus pungens) opens its flowers at night and closes them during the day! Other common names for this plant are graite gilia, prickly phlox, and mountain prickly phlox. It is also known by the scientific name Leptodactylon pungens.

It is fairly common up to 11,000 feet in sandy and rocky places, including sagebrush openings.
For more information about granite prickly phlox, click here

Monday, May 18, 2009

Heartleaf Twistflower-Streptanthus cordatus

These purple flowers may fool you at first glance, but a closer look will reveal the four petals commonly seen in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). Fortunately the clasping heart-shaped leaves and rather large flowers help make this flower relatively simple to identify as Heartleaf Twistflower (Streptanthus cordatus). The genus name is Greek with "Streptos" meaning "twisted" and "anthus" meaning "flower." "Cordatus" is Latin for "heart."

It grows at a range of elevations up to about 11,000 feet on rocky slopes.
For more information about heartleaf twistflower, click here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Slender Woodland-Star--Lithophragma tenellum

This dainty white flower can easily be missed on the forest floor, but I've seen the leaves of the plant for weeks now. It's in the Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae) and is Slender Woodland-Star (Lithophragma tenellum). Other common names include dainty star and slender fringecup. 

The flower is about a foot tall, rising on a stalk from a mat of basal leaves.

For an excellent description of how to tell slender woodland-star apart from two other Lithophragma species, click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spotted Fritillary-Fritillaria atropurpurea

As I was walking through a pinyon-juniper woodland, I spotted an indescript flower next to the prickly pear (Opuntia polycantha) cactus. I got down on my knees to get a better look at this member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae).

From below, the flower became much more colorful, with the yellow background color and purple mottling. This is spotted fritillary (Fritillaria atropurpurea). It has many other common names, including purple fritillary, spotted mountainbells, and spotted missionbells. It is found from the Dakotas to California, and the flower is always nodding, so it is easy to miss.

This is a view from about waist high, with a spotted fritillary on each side of the Opuntia. Not the fly on the one on the right side

For more information about spotted fritillary, click here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hooker's Balsamroot-Balsamorhiza hookeri

This attractive member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) is Hooker's Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri). It has pinnate leaves, whereas the other member of this genus present in this area, arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitta) has heart-shaped leaves.

Single flowers are borne on a stalk rising from the basal leaves.

For more information about Hooker's balsamroot, click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Darkthroat Shootingstar-Dodecatheon pulchellum

The pretty pink flower seen often in wetlands is in the Primrose Family (Primulaceae) and is known as darkthroat shooting star or pretty shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum). 

For more information on the darkthroat shootingstar, click here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Goosefoot Violet-Viola purpurea

Nestled near to the ground are these bright yellow flowers, the Goosefoot Violet (Viola purpurea). Another common name is purplish violet. The name goosefoot is used because some leaves may look like leaves of the Goosefoot family. This violet is a member of the Violet Family (Violaceae).

For more information, click here.