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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cusick's Draba-Draba pedicellata ssp. wheelerensis

The genus Draba, part of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) is one tough genus to puzzle out. Fortunately for this one I had the help of a botanist. It's Cusick's draba (Draba pedicellata ssp. wheerensis), only found on the Snake Range in Nevada. There are no leaves above the basal cluster. Another identifying mark are the yellow flowers, but all the specimens we saw were past flowering.

It's a tiny plant that likes growing in crevices.

For more information about Cusick's draba, click here or here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brittle Bladderfern-Cystopteris fragilis

There aren't many ferns in the Great Basin desert, but they do exist, usually in moister sites. This is brittle bladderfern (Cystopteris fragilis), also known as fragile fern. It's part of the Cliff Fern Family (Woodsiaceae), which has three genera represented in this area.

There's more info about brittle bladderfern here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sandberg Bluegrass-Poa secunda

Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda) is found at a variety of elevations and habitats, including the alpine. It is one of the very few alpine grasses in this area, and the most common alpine one. It grows throughout much of western and northern North America. Another common name is western bluegrass.

For more info about Sandberg bluegrass, click here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slender Hawksbeard-Crepis atribarba

This dandelion-looking plant is slender hawksbeard (Crepis atribarba), part of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). It grows from 6,000 to 10,500 feet in this area, and is native to western North America. It has very narrow, pointed leaves.
For more information about slender hawksbeard, click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rocky Mountain Pussytoes-Antennaria media

This high elevation member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) is Rocky Mountain pussytoes (Antennaria media). It grows throughout western North America.
It can be distinguished from other pussytoes by the dark distal portions of the phyllaries.
For more info about Rocky Mountain pussytoes, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mountain Deathcamas-Zigadenus elegans

This attractive flower growing from an erect stem with mostly basal leaves is mountain deathcamas (Zigadenus elegans). It's part of the Lily Family (Liliaceae) and is found throughout most of North America except the southeast. It grows at higher elevations and flowers from late June to August.
All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested. They contain the alkaloid zygadenine.

For more information about mountain deathcamas, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alpine Lewisia-Lewisia pygmaea

This high elevation plant in the Purslane Family (Portulacaceae) is alpine lewisia (Lewisia pygmaea). It grows throughout much of western North America. Other common names are pygmy bitterroot, alpine bitterroot, and pursh. The leaves are narrow and about four inches long.
The flowers are white with pink veins.
For more information about alpine lewisia, click here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Utah Columbine-Aquilegia scopulorum

This high elevation columbine is so beautiful I had to take a lot of photos of it! It's Utah columbine (Aquilegia scopulorum), part of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae). As you might guess, it grows in Utah, along with Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming.

It has long spurs that protrude behind the flower, and the leaves have a bluish tinge and are in tight mats.

Bees and butterflies pollinate these columbine, and you can find an interesting natural history about how Aquilegia crossed the Bering land bridge 10,000 to 40,000 years ago here.

For more info about Utah columbine, click here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spreading Wheatgrass-Elymus scribneri

This common alpine rye grass, found over 10,000 feet, is spreading wheatgrass (Elymus scribneri), also called Scribner's wheatgrass. It is found throughout western North America, and often lies prostrate on the ground.
For more information about spreading wheatgrass, click here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cushion Phlox-Phlox pulvinata

This is an easy alpine plant to identify, cushion phlox (Phlox pulvinata), part of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae). It's sometimes called alpine phlox, and both common names are apt, as it grows in alpine areas in cushions. It flowers early, and in the photo below you can see what the flowers look like after their peak. Then the plant isn't nearly as easy to identify, but it's still not one of the harder ones.
For more information about cushion phlox, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brittle Sandwort-Minuartia nuttallii ssp. fragilis

This pretty alpine plant growing over 10,000 feet is Brittle sandwort (Minuartia nuttallii ssp. fragilis). Another common name is Nuttall's sandwort. It's part of the Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae), and found only in Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada.

The flower often grows in large mats of plants, but is less than half-inch across, so you have to be looking for it.
For more information about brittle sandwort, click here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Greenleaf Manzanita-Arctostaphylos patula

A common shrub from about 8,000 to 10,000 feet is greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), our only member of the Heath Family (Ericaceae) in this area. It is found throughout the western U.S.The shrub has brownish bark, and the thick leaves are simple and oval, about two inches long.
Small urn-shaped pink flowers give way to little green berries that turn redder/browner with age.
For more information about greenleaf manzanita, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chamisso Arnica-Arnica chamissonis

These bright members of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) are Chamisso arnica (Arnica chamissonis), also known as leafy arnica. It's found throughout much of western and northern North America.

Leaves are opposite and the yellow flowerheads have 10-16 rays.

For more information about Chamisso arnica, click here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Longstalk Clover-Trifolium longipes

I found this clover under some mixed conifer near a spring when I went hiking the other day. It's longstalk clover (Trifolium longipes), a member of the Pea Family (Fabaceae). It's found throughout the western U.S.
For more information about longstalk clover, click here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

American Speedwell-Veronica americana

This is another riparian plant, in fact you might have glimpsed in it the last post. With thick stems and small purple flowers, this is American speedwell (Veronica americana), part of the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae). Another common name is American brooklime. It's native to parts of North America and Asia.

Flowers have four petals.
For more information about American speedwell, click here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Water Minerslettuce-Montia chamissoi

This small white flower with abundant succulent green leaves surrounding it on moist soil is water minerslettuce (Montia chamissoi), a member of the Purslane Family (Portulacaceae). The flowers are only about 1/2 inch wide. The plant is also known as toad lily and spring beauty. What an interesting array of names!

The leaves are abundant, with stems running along the ground and rooting and sprouting occasionally. They reminded me of another member of the Purslane family, a weed found in my garden: common purslane (Portulaca oleracea), to be featured at a later date.
The flower blooms from June to August and from about 6000 to 10,000 feet.
For more information about water minerslettuce, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stinging Nettle-Urtica dioica

This is a plant that you remember if you ever come in contact with it. It's stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), the only member of the Urtica Family (Urticaceae) in the area. Most people feel a stinging after brushing against the plant. The plant is more potent in the summer and fall than in the spring (based on my experience). It grows in moist areas generally below 8,500 feet.
Leaves are opposite and serrated, and the flowers are green. I often hold a stem still to take a photo and had to keep reminding myself not to do that for this plant! To learn more about stinging nettle, including medicinal and culinary uses, click here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alkali Sacaton-Sporobolus airoides

This native bunch grass with a lacy look is alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), also called alkali dropseed. It has a pink look to it as it waves among the other grasses in meadows and desert shrub. It is quite drought tolerant.
It's native to much of the western U.S. The seeds are savored by birds and other wildlife.
For more information about alkali sacaton, click here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

White Sweet Clover-Melilotus albus

This tall spreading plant in the pea family (Fabaceae) growing along roadsides is white sweet clover (Melilotus albus). It is native to Europe and Asia but was brought to North America in the 1600s and has become invasive. It is sometimes included with Melilotus officinalis, the yellow-flowered similar looking plant.

The flowers are white and grow in tall, narrow clusters.
For more information about white sweet clover, click here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Povertyweed-Iva axillaris

This fairly drab looking perennial plant that is common in disturbed areas is povertyweed (Iva axillaris), part of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). It grows from a network of creeping rootstocks and is generally about a foot high. The leaves are narrow and elliptical and about an inch long. The plant is native to western North America.

The flowers are green and found close to the stem at the axils of the upper leaves. Although only 1/4 inch wide, each flowerhead has 4-8 female flowers and 8-20 male flowers. The Native Americans used the plant for various ailments such as stomachaches.
For more information about povertyweed, click here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flat-top Broomrape-Orobanche corymbosa

This inconspicuous little flower is Flat-top Broomrape (Orobanche corymbosa), part of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). We have four species in this family in this area.

One of the most unusual aspects of this flower is that the leaves aren't green. The plant doesn't have leaves and chlorophyll because it is a parasite on nearby sagebrush, receiving necessary nutrients from the host plant.
It's easy to miss the flower, which is tubular with wooly anthers.

Although the plant is native to most of the western U.S., it is considered a noxious weed in some areas.