Wally’s World and Aspen Groves – late June 2017

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Wally’s World and Poison Creek Trails which loop around the shoulder of Munger Mountain encourage explorations into dry meadows and aspen groves.  Wally’s World Trail runs along an open ridge overwhelmed by mulesears – Wyethia amplexifolia – and abundant fragrant Antelopebrush.  This trail has many of the same sagebrush habitat plants noted in the recent 6.23.17 post (please see).

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AntelopebrushPurshia tridentata – mingles with sagebrush, snowberry, and mulesears along the ridge of Wally’s World, Bridger-Teton National Forest, off Fall Creek Road, Wilson.

Mixed among the sagebrush with Sulphur Buckwheat, Scarlet Gilia, Ballhead Sandwort, and Hawksbeards, are two different red paintbrushes.  PaintbrushesCastilleja spp. – are tricky plants to identify because of their modified flower parts and also because they hybridize and vary in color, leaf shape, and growth habit even within a given species. Interestingly, they also are hemiparasites.

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Paintbrush flowers are hard to identify in part because they have complicated flowers.  A colorful bract (shown to right) is under each flower. Each flower has a colorful calyx tube which is lobed. It surrounds the usually greenish galea = tube of fused petals. The stigma and anthers are protected inside. Here the stigma sticks out from the green and red galea.  If you are not in the national park and have plenty around, pick apart — dissect — a single flower and see what is what.

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One of the red paintbrushes Northwestern PaintbrushCastilleja angustifolia (C. Chromosa) – and Big SagebrushArtemesia tridentata var. vaseyana – mix together.  There is more to this view than meets the eye….

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Many paintbrushes are hemiparasites on a variety of hosts: grasses, legumes, and also sagebrush.  Northwestern PaintbrushCastilleja angustifolia  (C. chromosa) – attach “houstonia” to the roots of sagebrush and draw upon its water, nutrients, and some carbon to help the paintbrush grow more robustly.  This hemiparisite doesn’t depend entirely on the host: the chlorophyll in the leaves enables the plant to photosynthesize sugars (which include carbon).

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The state flower Wyoming PaintbrushCastilleja linariifolia – is a hemiparasite on sagebrush as well. In this paintbrush, the bracts are divided into linear lobes, the calyx is orange, toothed, with a long slit down the front where the elongate green galea leans out. This reddish tubular flower is pollinated by hummingbirds.

 

Aspen Forests are rich places to botanize.  BTNF_Mung_Aspen_6.22.17_6_Q2_5x3_200With light shade, greater moister, and more nutrients recycled from the deciduous aspen leaves, wildflowers are able to flourish at this time of year.

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The 3- to 4-foot Fernleaf LovageLigusticum filicinum – is beginning to flower. Note the large delicate leaves and umbels of tiny white flowers.

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In the same family – the Parsely or Apiaceae Family, SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentale – has tiny greenish yellow flowers in umbels and also large divided leaves.

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Sweetroot is just beginning to form its tangy fruit.  It is in the same family as many herbs we use: parsely, caraway, dill, fennel, etc.  While most are safe to taste, a few species in this family are highly toxic, such as poison hemlock.

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Also in the light shade of aspen groves or in open moist hillsides, are the yellow spires of Bracted LousewortPedicularis bracteosa.  These plants are also hemiparasites, operating like the paintbrushes, obtaining nutrients from surrounding plants.

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But perhaps equally interesting is its pollination.  Louseworts have very specific pollinators: bees that can just fit into the flower opening.  As they push inside for nectar, bees get a dusting of pollen on their bodies.  One pair of bee legs is designed for combing off pollen and stashing pollen grains in “buckets” on the hind pair of legs.  However, bee’s can’t reach the pollen lodged between their head and thorax.  When a bee visits the next flower, a perfectly shaped protruding stigma taps into that crevice and bingo the pollen gets stuck to the sticky stigma. The plant wins and seeds can now form!

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A much more unusual species, Tall LousewortPedicularis procera – can be seen on Munger Mountain.  The flowers are bigger and reddish, and the fern-like leaves are more frilly than the more common Bracted Lousewart.

Different species of lupines, paintbrushes, and even geranium are found in shadier woodland vs. open sage-covered habitats.

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Silvery LupineLupinus argenteus – is found most frequently in forests–aspen or pines.

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Silvery Lupine differs from the Silkly lupine, which is found in sageflats, by having many fewer silky hairs.  The banner–the top petal which folds backwards–is smooth, not hairy.  The flowers are slightly smaller and the leaves greener.   

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One-foot or more tall Scarlet PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – has bright red, unlobed bracts beneath the red flowers.  Also, the leaves are  usually not deeply lobed as are the two red paintbrushes observed in sunny, dry locations. 

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Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscosissimum – is abundant right now both on sageflats and in woodlands.  Note the nectar guides — the deep pink lines leading into the center of the flowers.  If you look closely with a handlens you can also see (and feel) the many sticky hairs on most parts of the plants.  The hairs happen to be clear.

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Richardson’s GeraniumGeranium richardsonii – is white and grows in moist sites.  Its hairs are different!

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The sticky hairs of Richardson’s Geranium are purple-tipped. Think of a gooey forest of defense against tiny invaders.

Several members of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae) do well in the shade.  Many look very different and have very singular pollination behaviors from one another. Families are like that.

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Colorado ColumbineAquilegia coerulea – is very showy and a favorite to find. Elegant flowers have 5 flaring white petal-like sepals, 5 tubular petals that form 2”-long spurs trailing out the back, and many yellow anthers. Leaves are delicately dissected into 9 parts. These 6-24” plants are pollinated by moths and hummingbirds which have mouth parts that can reach the nectar way back in the flower “spurs”.

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In contrast to columbine, the flowers of MeadowrueThalictrum occidentale – are very inconspicuous.  It has male and female plants. Wind blows the pollen from the male anthers to the female stigmas on a nearby plant. This is a male plant. 

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Female flowers of Western MeadowrueThalictrum occidentale. The pink stigmas stretch to catch pollen grains.  As the wind cannot “see” there is no need for showy petals and such to attract pollinating birds or insects. Also, petals would get in the way of the wind.

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Fruits of Western Meadowrue are already forming.  There are actually two possible meadowrue species T. fenderi and T. occidentale.  The size and shape of the fruits help to distinguish the two species.  This observer does not swear to the species ID as T. occidentale.

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Yet another buttercup relative literally hangs out in the bushes.  Western ClematisClematis occidentalis – is a vine which curls its tendrils around branches to support itself.  The flowers nod downwards.  Often it is hard for us to see more than the back of the blue flowers; however, low flying pollinators look up into the blue to see hundreds of gleaming white stamens – a treasure trove of pollen. Heaven. 

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This cousin has many small white flowers whose numerous stamens (not petals) form a starry effect.  Placed together, the flowers create an appealing show to small pollinators.  

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While delicate in appearance, the flowers will produce ruby red berries that are poisonous–they were  used to make poison arrows.  Hence the name Red BaneberryActea rubra. Bane in a plant’s name indicates poisonous.  “Bane” means misery, misfortune, pain in the English language. 

After looking at the photos, can you see any family resemeblance among the buttecup relatives?  Hint: Look at leaves, look at stamens….(answer below)

Three additional flowers to look for in the forest at this time.

One is pretty obvious–reddish stems and spotted flowers:

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Spotted CoralrootCorallorhiza maculata – is growing along trail edges in aspen groves.  Coralroots do not have chlorophyll for photosynthesis and instead are connected to mychorrizal fungi which transport water, nutrients, and carbon from host trees.  There are several species of coralroot in Teton County.  This reddish species has white flowers spotted with red. Each flower has two tiny lobes on either side of the lowest petal (lip) and a bump (spur) under the throat . 

Two are tiny, easily overlooked or even stepped upon!

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These merry flowers are barely 1/4″ wide and decorate slender 12″ stems.  With the light behind them, Small-flowered Mitreworts – Mitella stauropetala – look like magical fairy wands.  

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Northwestern Twayblade – formerly Listera caurina, now Neottia  banksiana – is a 4-12″ orchid found in conifer forests (vs. aspen groves).  We came upon a few hidden clusters today.  It is found in Wyoming only in the Teton County.

There is no information on the pollination of Northwestern Twayblades–Listera caurina. However, one of its close relatives Listera cordata, which is also found in Teton County, has an amazing pollination mechanism that may be similar to this species. It is detailed below to encourge us to look for both species and do a close comparision,

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  Pictured is Northwestern Twayblade. The story below is about its relative Heart-leaved Twayblade.  First it is important to know that in orchids, the miniscule pollen grains are held in wads called pollinia…. Also the the anthers and pistil are fused into a single column or rostellum….  Attracted by the fetid odor and a bit of nectar, a small pollinator, such as  fungus gnat, comes to the flower. Rooting around the lower lip for nectar, it triggers one of three pressure-sensitive hairs on the arching upper part of the flower–the rostellum–above it.  At this point, the rostellum “releases a droplet of glue and the pollinia are instantly released to fall on the glue.”  Off the gnat goes with the pollinia stuck to its body.  Quickly, the tip of the rostellum unfolds to shield the underlying stigma to prevent self-fertilization in case the gnat returns. The next day, the wide stigma is uncovered and it arches up, receptive to the next gnat carrying pollinia from a different plant.  As the gnat crawls under the rostellum for nectar, the pollinia sticks to the stigma and hundreds of pollen grains germinate to form hundreds of dust like seeds. Thus begins the opportunity for new generations.  (Based on research of pollination of Listera cordata in California – Ackerman and Mesler, Am. Journal of Botanty, 1979)

Observing any twayblades in Jackson Hole, very carefully try to determine 1. odor, 2. presence of trigger hairs, 3. is the stigma exposed or covered? This could help determine if the pollination mechanisms within these two species are at all similar.

In any case, there are many more flowers to see!  Keep on botanizing!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 28, 2017

P.S. Many Buttercup Family relatives typically have deeply divided to compound leaves; highly modified sepals and petals or sometimes none; and many, many anthers. Delphinium/larkspur, monkshood, and sugar bowls are all related, as well.

 

 

 

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Mid-June Blooms in Sage 2017

TNP17_vw_Tetons_Antflt_frTSSrd_6.19.17_1c_sm5x3_180Many of us have been out frantically trying to keep up with the blooming flowers.  The warm weather–in the 70s+–has keep flowers going and coming in the sagebrush habitat in Jackson Hole.  Late spring favorites of Nuttall’s Larkspur, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, and Western Groundsel are fading in the southern end of Grand Teton National Park, but new favorites are unfurling fast.

Not only are we plant lovers looking for wildflowers, but so are pollinators–bees, flies, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  They appear more numerous this week than even a week ago.  Their increased presence is important as most (but not all–such as dandelions and some pussytoes) flowers need to be pollinated to set seeds for the next generation.

Below are some photos to inspire botanical forays.  Flowers are easily seen throughout Antelope Flats east Highwat 89, and Bradley-Taggart Lake, Lupine Meadows, and soon String Lake Trails along the inner park poad.  Similar flowers are also blooming in open areas along Cache and Fall Creeks and the beginning of the Ski Lake Trail.

Two shrubs are blooming throughout much of the valley:

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AntelopebrushPurshia tridentata – has fragrant pale yellow flowers and three-pointed leaves.

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SnowberrySymphiocarpus oreophilus – a 2-3 foot shrub with opposite oval leaves, is blooming in both shade and sun.  The pink flowers will produce white berries.

Wildflowers that are particularly showy include Sulphur Buckwheat, two species  — yes two — of lupine, and tall wands of Scarlet Gilia.

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Sulphur BuckwheatEriogonum umbellatum – grows mats of small oval leaves which are overshadowed by clouds of creamy yellow flowers, often tinged with pink.  The flower clusters have a collar or whorl of leaves under the umbrella-like flower stalks.

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Silky LupineLupinus sericeous – is the typical lupine of sage flats.  It is related to our garden peas. The familiar looking flowers have a very hairy “banner”–back of upper petal–and hairy stems and leaves.  Later they will have very hairy pods–but don’t eat the seeds: they are poisonous. 

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Silky LupineLupinus sericeus – has fine silvery hairs covering most of the 2’-2.5’ plants.  All lupine leaves are “palmately divided”: several leaflets are connected in the center and then attached to the petiole –“palmate” like fingers off the palm of your hand. The hairs help keep the plants from drying out in the hot flats. They reflecting the light and maintain humidity close to the leaf surface to prevent too much transpiration of water from the leaves during the hot days.

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Compared to silkly Lupine, meadow lupineLupinus polyphyllus – has larger flowers and the banner (the upper petal) is smooth on the back and reflexed at a wider angle to the lower two petals. This species tends to grow in moister open areas, such as along the cobbled creeks and river edges, but sometimes it is found in pockets of sage clad flats or hillside.

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Hummingbirds are attracted to the red tubular flowers of Scarlet GiliaIpomopsis aggregata.  Seeing red (many insects can’t), the bird can hover, insert its long beak, and extend its tongue to lap (not suck) up nectar deep inside the tough tube of petals.  In the process, the bird’s head gets dusted with pollen grains which it carries onto the next flower.  There, its forehead gets bonked by the extended stigma of the ready flower.  Thus the flower is pollinated! Of course this happens at the lightning speed of the flying hummingbird.

Tucked in between the larger plants are a few others such as very fragant Long-leaved Phlox and the confusing False Dandelions and Hawksbeards are out now.  They each have their ways of accomodating pollinators.

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Long-leaved phlox – Phlox longifolia – seems to peer up from the trail.  Unlike its cushiony early-spring relatives, this species has 10-12″-long stems and 2-3″ long narrow opposite leaves.  

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The beguiling fragrance of Long-leaved PhloxPhlox longifolia – attracts small flies, bee flies, and butterflies to the bluish to pink 5-petaled flowers. Only the insects with just the right length mouthparts can reach down the long tube to the nectar deep within, and in the meantime the flower is pollinated.

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Mountain DandelionAgoseris glauca – looks very much like a dandelion, but look closely….The green bracts that surround the flower heads are different.  In the dandelion – Taraxacum officionale – the outer bracts bend backward (left below), vs. their standing up on the Mountain Dandelion (right below)

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Also the seeds are different than the weedy dandelion as they do not have rough ribs with nubs on them.  The finely ribbed fruits of False Dandelion are carried off by white parachutes of bristles pappus. (Yes, very like dandelions!)  There are 3 subspecies of mountain dandelions, for those hard-core botanists who wish to pursue the differences.

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HawksbeardsCrepis sp. – are robust plants of the sageflats. The leaves bunch at the base but also grow up the branching 8-16+” stems (unlike mountain or common dandelions). The leaves are often sword-shaped and variably pinnately (branching like a feather), toothed, lobed, or dissected.  The flower heads can have a few to many many individual flowers.  It is easy to see 3-4 species blooming in the same area.

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Unlike some of the complicated flowers shown above, Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscosissimum – is wide open to pollinators.  The five petals have lines directing insects into the center of the flower where the nectar lies hidden (nectar guides).  Geraniums seem to be flowering everywhere now — sage-covered hillsides to aspen woodlands.  Sticky geraniums are obviously adaptable and persistent.  

 

A couple of other flowers may go unseen in the sage-flat habitats either because they appear a bit wispy or are short and pudgy.  They are both remarkably hardy to dry sites.

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In mostly dry locations, delicate Ballhead SandwortEremogone congesta – is abundantly scattered in delicate clumps among more robust plants. Sandwort is in the same family as florist carnations and garden pinks, sporting opposite needle-like leaves joined together in a bit of a bump on the stem. ‘Congesta’ in the botanical name refers to several small white flowers grouped tightly together in a head at the top of each wiry stem.

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The bright yellow, star-shaped flowers on 6″ stems of Lance-leaved Stonecrops are beginning to show up.  If pollinated, flowers will produce seed that can scatter widely from beneath the parent plant.  But what happens if the pollinator doesn’t visit….?

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If knocked off the plant, the small 1/4-1/2″ succulent leaves, bundled at the base of flower stalks, can grow roots and start whole new plants, which is one way stonecrops can move around the neighborhood. Lance-leaved StonecropSedum lanceolatum – is related to hens and chicks, popular garden and house plants. 

Also scattered midway up the inner park road, are two species of the Parsely Family, that you may notice as they can be quite showy in spots.  They were blooming around the Sawmill pond overlook along Moose-Wilson Road about a week or more ago.

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Two members of the Parsley or Apiaceae Family, (previously the Umbelliferae family because of their characteristic arrangement of tiny flower on the tips of umbrella-like petioles) are in bloom.  One is a delicate, white, 2-foot tall relative of the Common Yampah – Boland Yampah – Perideridia bolanderi.  The other is plant growing below is the a sharp-yellow Wyeth BiscuitrootLomatium ambiguum.  This latter is forming tangy seeds.

There are many more flowers out there, but two more species might fascinate botany nerds, who dive into the details.

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The many pussytoes – Antennaria species — are confusing to ID.  Partly this is because they can set seeds without cross pollination, and in the process double the chromosome numbers in their off-spring.  Some species also just plain hybridize with close relatives.  These “complexes” create overlapping, confounding identification features.  Upon close examination, this species was clearly Antennaria luzuloides or Rush Pussytoes.

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Besides the fairly large leaves going up the stem (vs only forming a close mat of tiny leaves at the base), the bracts around the flower heads of Rush Pussytoes — Antennaria luzuloides – are smooth, not fuzzy as is often the case in pussy-toes.  These bracts are also light green to white, with no black.  

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Hiding under the colorful wildflowers of the moment, on 6″ stalks, these 1″ balls reminiscent of dandelions, might catch the eye.  Look closely….

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These are heads of Nodding microserisMicroseris nutans.  Flower heads of yellow, dandelion- like flowers have formed fruits, one per former flower.  The pappus that will carry the fruit away is delicately formed.  The base of each pappus bristle broadens out, catching the sunlight like a drop of water.  Spring is fleeting.

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Mulesears have large, dark yellow flowers, 12-18″ elongate, deep green leaves. It grows in heavier soils than Balsamroot. 

There are many more flowers to see.  The Mulesears on Munger Mountain–Wally’s World Trail, accessed off Fall Creek Road, south of Wilson, is at peak right along with many of the flowers described above and more.

We hope to have the next post show what to see on some of these open ridges and aspen groves around Jackson Hole.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 25

P.S. We always appreciate comments, particularly notice of any errors.  We strive to be accurate in our identification and descriptions.