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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

American licorice-Glycyrrhiza lepidota

A plant sprouting at elevations below 6,700 feet in this area in shrublands, and along streams and ditch banks is American licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), a member of the Pea Family (Fabaceae). It is also called wild licorice, and has a licorice-smell to it and the stems are often sticky. 

The entire plant has been used for medicinal uses (click the link to learn more). The root of American licorice contains 6% glycyrrhizin, a substance 50 times sweeter than sugar. 

For more information about American licorice, click here

Monday, June 29, 2009

Spiny Sow-Thistle-Sonchus asper

A plant with prickly large, clasping leaves and a small yellow family is spiny sow-thistle (Sonchus asper), a member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). It is native to Europe but has spread across North America.

It has only ray flowers, no disk flowers.
For more information about spiny sow-thistle, click here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wild Mint-Mentha arvensis

The only native species of mint to the U.S. is Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis), in the Mint Family (Lamiaceae). The mint family is relatively easily distinguished by opposite leaves that alternate directions up the stem. These leaves are quite fragrant and can be used in teas and desserts.

The flowers appear at the apex of the stems (where the leaves connect to the stems). They aren't very large.

For more information about wild mint, click here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fiddleleaf Hawksbeard-Crepis runcinata

This yellow flower in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) is fiddleleaf hawksbeard (Crepis runcinata). Other names are meadow hawksbeard, naked-stem hawksbeard, and dandelion hawksbeard. It grows in alkaline meadows below 6500 feet. The stems are tall and almost naked.

The leaves are  long and lobed.

Often each plant supports multiple flowers.
For more information about fiddleleaf hawksbeard, click here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Narrowleaf Plantain-Plantago lanceolata

A common non-native weedy plant is the Narrowleaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), a member of the Plantago Family (Plantaginaceae). 

Both the leaves and the flowers have been used for medicinal properties.

When in bloom, the flower is quite interesting, rising above the leaves on a slender stalk.

Photos taken 5-21-09.
For more information about narrowleaf plantain, click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woods' Rose-Rosa woodsii

The only native rose in this area is Woods' Rose (Rosa woodsii), also called wild rose. It is often found along lower elevation streams and moist sites. The pretty pink flowers become red rose hips later in the summer, a good source of vitamin C.

For more information about Woods' rose, click here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Showy Milkweed-Asclepias speciosa

This rather large plant with the broad green leaves and balls of pink flowers is showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), a member of the Dogbane Family (Apocyaceae).

The flowers attract hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. Late in the year big, brown seed pods develop.

For more information about showy milkweed, click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Black Medick-Medicago lupulina

This plant with the three leaves and clover-like yellow flower is in the Pea Family (Fabaceae) and is called Black Medick (Medicago lupulina). It's in the same genus as alfalfa, and also non-native. It is from Eurasia and Africa.

Photo taken 5-21-09.
For more information about black medick, click here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

King's Sandwort-Arenaria kingii

The dainty white flowers growing on top of long stalks almost appear like they're floating. These are King's Sandwort (Arenaria kingii), a member of the Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae).

You may remember from the post about Longstalk Starwort that members in this family have five petals, but they can be deeply cleft. In the case of King's Sandwort, it's easier to tell that there are just five petals. The sepals are shorter than the petals, and there are ten reddish anthers on the protruding filaments.

For more information about King's Sandwort, click here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jacob's Ladder-Polemonium pulcherrimum

This showy little plant with the pinnate leaves and small light-blue flowers growing near a creek under some conifers is Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium pulcherrimum). It's a member of the Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae).

The plant can be found up to about 11,000 feet in this area. As the season progresses, it smells more skunk-like, but I didn't notice any odor this early in the season.

For more information about Jacob's Ladder, click here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bastard Toadflax-Comandra umbellata

Here's a plant that is the only member of its family in this area. It's Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata), in the Sandalwood Family (Santalaceae). This is a large family, but more present in tropical areas.

What makes bastard toadflax interesting is that it is a hemi-parasitic plant, relying on nearby plants for some water and nutrients. It does have green leaves and can photosynthesize.

It serves as an alternate host of the common comandra blister rust, a disease destructive to pine trees. 

For more information about bastard toadflax, click here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Winged Four O'clock-Mirabilis alipes

A plant that looks a bit out of place in the desert foothills with its large leaves and big, pink flowers is Winged Four O'clock (Mirabilis alipes). This is a member of the Four O'clock Family (Nyctaginaceae). This is a night bloomer, hence the name, although the flowers start opening late in the afternoon and sometimes stay open on cloudy days. 

The flowers are funnel shaped, with yellow stamen emerging. During the day the flowers crumple up and look wilted.

For more information about winged four o'clock and other Mirabilis species, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nevada Onion-Allium nevadense

This diminutive plant arising from gravelly or sandy ground is Nevada Onion (Allium nevadense), a member of the Onion Family (Alliaceae).

Each flower has six petals, and the flowers are arranged in a ball. About five inches underground is an onion-like bulb.

For more information about Nevada onion, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seep Monkeyflower-Mimulus guttatus

Appearing as bright spots of color in wet areas, Seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) is the most common monkeyflower in the area, hence another common name: common monkeyflower. It's listed in the Plants Database as a member of the Figwort/Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae), but I understand this is under some contention.

It has five petals, with little red spots on the lower petals. The leaves are broad, oval, and serrated. They are opposite and often fuse around the stem.

For more information about seep monkeyflower, click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Mexico Thistle-Cirsium neomexicanum

We saw numerous white thistles in late May next to the road, and they turned out to be New Mexico thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum), also called desert thistle. 

The flowers can be white or purple and are up to 3 inches across. The bracts are tipped with spines.

The leaves are spiny.

For more information about New Mexico thistle, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Palmer's Penstemon-Penstemon palmeri

We are lucky to have numerous penstemon species in this area. This one, with its large fleshy leaves and big, pink flowers is Palmer's Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri). It's also called scented penstemon, balloon flower or pink snap dragon.

The stems can grow up to five feet tall, with numerous stems per plant and up to 20 flowers per stem.

The upper two petals provide shade for the flower structures below, including the large staminode with its pompom of projecting hairs. The lower three petals curve downwards, with a lighter pink surrounding the dark pink middle.

This penstemon grows in a variety of habitats and is an excellent choice for a garden.

For more information about Palmer's Penstemon, click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fragrant White Sand Verbena-Abronia elliptica

A small plant with a ball of flowers emerging from the stem looks different from many of the families we've looked at. This is Fragrant White Sand Verbena (Abronia elliptica), and it's in Four O'clock Family (Nyctaginaceae).

The plant grows in sandy soils, and the flowers will open even more.

For more information about fragrant white sand verbena and some excellent photos, click here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Plains Pricklypear-Opuntia polyacantha

Plains pricklypear (Opuntia polyacantha) is especially striking when it's flowering. This jointed cactus typically has numerous flower buds that bloom in May-June.

The flowers are usually yellow and pink or red (see below), spreading about 3 inches across. The green part in the middle is a globular stigma, and it is surrounded by yellow stamens. The petals are nearly translucent.

Many of the cactus flowers we looked at had insects on them. This species grows up to about 10,000 feet in this area and is able to withstand freezing temperatures.

The spines are in clusters of 5 to 11, and the cactus is considered to be clump-forming.

For more information about plains pricklypear, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Douglas' Dustymaiden-Chaenactis douglasii

While walking across sagebrush country, marshmallow-sized white flowers caught my attention. They rise up about a foot off the ground and upon closer inspection are clearly members of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). A little research shows they are Douglas' Dustymaiden (Chaenactis douglasii), also called dusty maiden, pincushion flower, chaenactis, and hoary chaenactis.

There are several different varieties that vary with elevation, but the ones with sagebrush have full, beautiful flowers. The 1/2 inch wide flower heads have many tubular disk flowers and reproductive parts emerging from them, making the flower look somewhat like a pin cushion.

For more information about Douglas' dustymaiden, click here.