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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Siberian Elm - Ulums pumila

 Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) is a relatively common tree around Great Basin towns, as it is easy to grow and doesn't need much water. Sometimes they find their way outside of towns, like this specimen. In other areas they can become a nuisance. In the spring they make little seed pods that attract a lot of birds. Siberian elm is our only species in the Elm Family (Ulmaceae) found in Snake Valley.

Trees generally don't get very large. For more info, see the Invasive Plant Atlas.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Narrowleaf Willow - Salix exigua

This shrub or small tree can create quite a thicket along a creek. It's one of several willows in the area. The narrow, long leaves are a defining feature for Narrowleaf Willow (Salix exigua), sometimes called Coyote Willow. It's in the Willow Family (Salicaceae). 

The catkins appear in spring. Willows have been used extensively by native peoples for a variety of reasons, including medicinal.
For more info on narrowleaf willow, see this USU Extension webpage.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany - Cercocarpus ledifolius

Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a small tree or shrub in the Rose Family (Rosaceae). It has dense wood and waxy green leaves. 

Generally the plant looks like the photo below, mainly green with grey stems. The trees can live for over a thousand years in some places.

However, in the spring, small yellow flowers emerge.

The flowers eventually develop into seeds that are nicknamed hellfeathers, because if they spiral down inside your shirt, you might be saying a few expletives. 
For more info on Curl-leaf mountain mahogany, see this Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Skunkbush Sumac - Rhus trilobata

Woohoo, after a many-year break, this blog is going again. With the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, it's time to #ExploreYourBackyard. So instead of the far-flung trips I had planned, I'm learning my backyard and nearby areas super well. 

That includes documenting what plants are flowering. (Check out the Snake Valley Trails Partnership Facebook Page for some recent finds.)

The yellow on this bush called my attention on a recent walk on the Sagebrush Discovery Trail. I went over and took a look. All I saw were tiny flowers in clusters at the ends of the twigs. No leaves. But I remembered something about where these bushes were. This had to be Skunkbush Sumac (Rhus trilobata), the bush that has bright red berries and the leaves turn beautiful colors in the fall! 

It's in the Sumac or Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae), the same family as poison ivy. Fortunately, the bush doesn't (usually) lead to a rash. You can see the lobed, compound leaves (in threes, just like poison ivy).

The leaves are gorgeous in the fall.
For more info on skunkbush sumac, check out this cool Utah State University Extension publication.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Winding Mariposa Lily - Calochortus flexuosus

 I was taken aback to see this delicate flower from the Lily Family (Liliaceae) gracing a dry, gravelly slope above a road cut. This is winding mariposa lily (Calochortus flexuosus), found in the southwestern U.S. Flower petals range from white to pink and have a band of yellow low on them.

Although I only found a few of these flowers scattered, they can grow in large numbers, as seen on the Southwest Colorado wildflowers page.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Toano Milkvetch - Astragalus toanus

I saw a pink flowering bush along the side of the road in southern Snake Valley and stopped to take a closer look. Imagine my surprise when I found little pea-like flowers on it! What kind of plant in the Pea Family (Fabaceae) grows in a bush? Turns out it's Toano milkvetch (Astragalus toanus). It only grows in a few western states, prefers the valley floors, and blooms in May and June.

To see the USDA Plants database entry on Toano milkvetch, click here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

American Yellowrocket - Barbarea orthoceras

 This member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) with its four-petaled yellow flowers is American yellowrocket (Barbarea orthoceras). It grows in much of western and northern North America.

For more information on American Yellowrocket, click here.