Shrubs     White     Pink/Red     Blue/Purple    Yellow   Nonnative

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smoothleaf Beardtongue-Penstemon leiophyllus v. francisci-pennellii

Here's another penstemon, this one clearly different from yesterday's in the way the flowers line up and down the petiole. This smoothleaf beardtongue (Penstemon leiophyllus variety francisci-pennelli). This variety is found only in Nevada and above 8,000 feet. The species is only found in Utah and Nevada. The stem is glabrous (smooth) and the corolla slightly hairy.

There isn't much info out there about smoothleaf beardtongue, but you can see the USDA Plants profile if you click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Low Beardtongue-Penstemon humilis

We have a lot of penstemons in the area, and I believe this one is low beardtongue (Penstemon humilis). The flowers are dark blue with a white interior, the stems are slightly hairy as is the corolla, and the calyx is shorter than the corolla tube, and the staminode is hairy at the apex. My only problem is that the photos I see on the internet show taller plants with more flowers per petiole, so if anyone has a different i.d., please let me know.

It's found from about 6,000 to 11,000 feet and blooms mid-summer. For more info about low beardtongue, click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Western Wallflower-Erysimum capitatum

This fairly common yellow flower with four petals and four sepals is western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), a member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). It grows at a wide variety of elevations.

It can grow from 6 to 36 inches high, and flowers throughout the summer depending on the elevation.

For more information about western wallflower, click here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Antelope Bitterbrush-Purshia tridentata

This attractive flowering shrub is antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). It can look very similar to cliff rose (Purshia stansburiana), but antelope bitterbrush has three-lobed leaves while cliff rose has five-lobed leaves.
This bush is an excellent food source for deer and other wildlife.
For more information about antelope bitterbrush, click here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Field Horsetail-Equisetum arvense

This feathery-looking plant found in riparian and wetland areas is field horsetail (Equisetum arvense), in the Horsetail Family (Equisetaceae). It's a perennial with a rhizomatous stem. It has a number of medicinal properties, but care must be taken to identify it properly because other Equisetums are toxic.

For more information about field horsetail, click here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spinystar-Escobaria vivipara

This stunning, low-growing cactus is called Spinystar by the USDA Plants database (Escobaria vivipara), formerly Coryphantha vivipara. Other common names include foxtail cactus, viviparous foxtail cactus, common pincushion cactus and beehive cactus.

Flowers appear in May and June. The bright pink flowers have many yellow anthers and stamens that extend far out of the flower. Later purplish fruits will develop on the barrel-like cacti. This cactus is found throughout western North America.

For more information about spinystar, click here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pink Alumroot-Heuchera rubescens

This attractive plant that grows on limestone soils from 6,500 to 11,500 feet is pink alumroot (Heuchera rubescens), a member of the Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae). It is found in the Intermountain West.

The pink flowers are small, with white at the tips and are found branching off long petioles.

For more information about pink alumroot, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nuttall's Horsebrush-Tetradymia nuttallii

Decorating the lower foothills are bushes with bright yellow flowers. It's too early for rabbitbrush; these bushes are horsebrush (Tetradymia), also in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). We have four species in this area, and from what I can figure out, this one is Nuttall's horsebrush (Tetradymia nuttalli).

There are short thorns on the plant and it grows below 6,400 feet. It is found in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado.

For more information about Nuttall's Horsebrush--there really isn't much on the Internet, click here to visit the USDA fire effects information website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Squirreltail-Elymus elymoides

This common, perennial, native bunch grass is squirreltail (Elymus elymoides). It is often found in sagebrush habitats up to alpine areas. This species of wild rye grows to about a foot or two tall and is found throughout western North America.

The inflorescence somewhat resembles a bottlebrush. It is good forage for wildlife and livestock.

The old awns are very spiky and not palatable at all.
For more information about squirreltail, click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Western Poison Ivy-Toxicodendron rydbergii

Just seeing this plant makes me itch. It's western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii), just as toxic as eastern poison ivy which I've had the misfortune of coming in close contact with several times. Toxicodendron is Greek for poison tree. I always learned the saying "Leaves of Three, Let them Be" to warn me away from poison ivy. It grows in moist places, yep, those kind of places that you want to take a rest break in after hiking in the hot desert.

The flowers are small and white. Later white berries appear. The western poison ivy doesn't grow as a vine like the eastern species, but stays as a shrub or subshrub. It's often only a foot or two high, but can grow up to ten feet high. In addition to growing in western North America, it's also found in the Midwest and eastern states and in several Canadian provinces.

This is one plant worth knowing. Of course, once you come in contact with it, you might not forget it for awhile, as the oils can cause itchy rashes that last a week or more.

For more information about western poison ivy, click here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Common Reed-Phragmites australis

A rather large member of the Grass Family (Poaceae) is the common reed (Phragmites australis), often called Phragmites. It can grow up to about fifteen feet tall and often grows in dense stands in wet areas. There is some debate over whether the species is native or not, but it appears that the more aggressive, invasive variety is from Europe.

Old seed heads look fluffy and bend over. New ones are produced in July and are brownish in color.
New growth emerges from the old growth, creating a thick mat of vegetation that is difficult to penetrate.
For more information about common reed, click here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saltcedar-Tamarix ramosissima

This shrub/tree with the pretty pink flowers is actually a big pain in the butt throughout many of the southern states in the U.S. This is saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), also called tamarisk. It is the only member in its family, the Tamarisk Family (Tamaricaceae) found here. It is native to Eurasia.

Saltcedar can be deciduous or evergreen and grow up to 20 feet tall. The bark is redddish brown and the leaves are small and scale-like. The flowers are tiny and pink and 5-petalled. Saltcedar was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental, but escaped and became naturalized along streams, canals, and reservoirs. It likes salty soils and can actually increase the salt content in the soil it's growing in, thus not allowing other plants to grow there. It has been successfully removed in many areas by a small beetle that eats it.
For more information about salt cedar, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Indianhemp-Apocynum cannabinum

This distinctive-looking plant is Indianhemp (Apocynum cannabinum), also called common dogbane or hemp dogbane. It's a member of the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae), which only has three species in this area. Indianhemp is a perennial herb and can grow up to 6 feet tall. Leaves are opposite and the stems are often red and have a milky sap.
The flowers are white ans small and in clusters. This is a native species to most of North America, but it can become weedy. The name Indianhemp is derived from Native Americans using the high-quality fiber it produces. The name dogbane refers to its previous use as a dog poison. The plant is also poisonous to livestock.

For more information about Indianhemp, click here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yellow Spiderflower-Cleome lutea

This pretty yellow flower is yellow spiderflower (Cleome lutea), also known as yellow beeplant. Leaflets are in fives, and the plant often grows in groups. It's a member of the Caper Family (Capparaceae).

The seed pods look like capers, hence the family name. A similar plant has purple flowers, Rocky Mountain beeplant, Cleome serrulata.

For more information about yellow spiderflower, click here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Russian Olive-Elaegnus angustifolia

A tree that can often grow in the desert where no other tree can grow might seem good at first, but it's turned out to be quite a nuisance. This is Russian olive (Elaegnus angustifolia), in the Oleaster Family (Elaeagnaceae). It was brought to the U.S. as a windbreak and has gone on to break many people as they try to remove it. It is thorny, grows rapaciously in wet areas, and can quickly out compete native vegetation.
The flowers are yellow, and later in the summer it will have dark-colored fruit that can float down streams and propagate this invasive species in other locations. The flowers have a strong smell. For lots more about Russian olive, click here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stickywilly-Galium aparine

This is also a new family for this blog, the Madder Family (Rubiaceae). We have six species of bedstraw (Galium) in this family in this area. The common name recognized by the Plants Database for this plant is Stickywilly (Galium aparine). Other names are cleavers, goose grass, and common bedstraw.

This species has leaves in wholrs of 5 to 8 and is an annual. The stems and leaves will cling to cloth. It is often found in riparian areas below 7,500 feet.

The tiny white flowers have four petals.
For more information about stickywilly (I really can't say that name with a straight face!), click here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yellow Evening Primrose-Oenothera flava

This bright member of the Evening Primrose Family (Onagraceae) can be distinguished by its yellow flowers and dandelion-like leaves. It sports the common names yellow evening primrose and dandelion-like evening primrose (Oenothera flava). Easy names to remember. And flava is Latin for yellow.
This species likes to grow in wet areas, and I found it in a place that is periodially flooded. It grows throughout the western U.S.

For more information about yellow evening primrose, click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Smooth horsetail-Equisetum laevigatum

Today we're going to introduce a plant from a new family, the Horsetail Family (Equisetaceae). There are three species in this area, and all grow near riparian or wetland areas. This one is smooth horsetail (Equisetum laevigatum), also known as smooth scouring rush. It's perennial and found throughout much of North America.

For more information about smooth horsetail, click here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Starry False Lily of the Valley-Maianthemum stellatum

This is one of my favorite plants, it just looks so elegant and is easy to identify! However, its name keeps changing. I used to know this as False Solomon's Seal, but now the name is Starry False Lily of the Valley. Likewise, the scientific name has changed from Smilacina stellata to Maianthemum stellatum. Keeping up with plants can be hard work!

It's in the Lily Family (Liliaceae), so is a monocot. In this area I only see this plant in moister areas, but in other parts of the U.S. it also grows in forests.

For more information about Starry false lily of the valley (wow, what a mouthful), click here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Needle and Thread Grass-Hesperostipa comata

A common grass with distinctive long seedheads is needle and thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), previously known as Stipa comata. It is a perennial bunch grass that is commonly eaten by wildlife and livestock. It is most palatable in early spring or late summer. When the seed is ripe, it is sharp and can cause injury to animals eating it.

For more information about needle and thread grass, click here.