Wildflower Crescendo at High Elevations

On Thursday, August 22, a friend and I took the JH Mountain Resort tram up to 10,400’ elevation for a hike down through Cody Bowl along the Rock Springs Loop trail*.

While at first glance the slopes appear barren,Rendv_top_vwN_8.22.19_1_5x3_180

we were delighted to find so many wildflowers – from early summer favorites to late season popups – blooming together. 

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This spring snows were deep and melted late on slopes and basins in the irregular and spectacular topography of the mountains.  Consequently, there was an unexpected crescendo of bloom  at the end of a summer-long symphony of flowers. 

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While we took the tram up and hiked only a few miles, others of you may be able to hike farther and higher to find additional locations still colorful with wildflowers.

Below is a showcase of flowers on Rendezvous Mountain with habitat and ID tidbits.  Avid or novice wildflower watcher, please enjoy!

The very top of the ridge in loose rocks and drying winds

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A few Old-Man-of-the-MountainHymenoxys grandiflora – still bloom among the gravelly soils. They indeed look like wizened sages of the alpine.

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Mountain Dryad – Dryas octopetala – a member of the Rose Family which can fix its own nitrogen, inhabits these lean, exposed soils, growing in very low mats.  After its saucer-like yellow flowers are pollinated, they produce twisted clusters of fruits

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which will fly off individually to find a place to germinate in time.

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Gordon IvesiaIvesia gordonii – has tight heads of several yellow flowers that are beginning to fade.  The “pinnately-divided” leaves are at the base: the tiny, hairy leaflets branch off from the center of the leaf. This is also in the rose family.

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D—! Yellow Composites:

Two spreading yellow composites can form large patches of yellow:

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Shrubby Goldenweed – Haplopappus suffructicosus – is finishing bloom along the mountain shoulder. The whole plant is glandular and fragrant.  Wide-spreading flowers are at the tips of 1-2’ woody stems. The oblong 1-2” leaves alternate up the stem.  

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Longleaf ArnicaArnica longifolia – is just beginning to flower near the summit.  The largest of of our arnicas, these 2-2.5’ tall stems have 5-10 pairs of long opposite leaves, and several relatively small yellow flower heads at the top.

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Largeleaf Arnicas form extensive colonies in rocky seeps and wet talus visible from the tram.

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Two-leaf GroundselPackera/Senecio dimorphophylla – is a high-elevation species with succulent leaves, including at least one relatively large, slightly lobed leaf clasping the stem.  The “two-leaf” of the name indicates the great variety in leaf shapes that adds to ID woes.

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It can be mistaken for another mostly lower-elevation Twisted-leaf groundselPackera/Senecio streptanthifolia. It has thinner leaves, longer stems to the flowers, and is generally less compact.  But they are confusing!

Several species familiar from lower elevations:

 

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Common YarrowAchilea millefolium – is one of the most adaptable and widespread species growing not only within a full range of elevations, but also it spreads around the Northern Hemisphere.

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False or Mountain DandelionAgoseris glauca var. dasyphyllum – grows to about 6-8” with large heads of ray flowers. This native is commonly seen in the sageflats in May.

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Rocky Mountain GoldenrodSolidago multiflora – grows from 4” to 18” high depending on elevation and associated conditions. The tiny flowerheads have about 10-20 ray flowers and the lower leaves have “ciliate” hairs on the petioles.

Three Fleabane Daisies and Asters look very similar. They tend to grow 1-2.5’ high with many oval leaves alternating the stem. They have blue flowers.  Turn over the flower-heads and look at the “bracts” that form the green protective structure around the base.  They are different!

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Fleabane DaisiesErigeron sp. – have narrow, equal-length bracts. 

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Peregrine DaisyE. peregrinus has wider ray flowers (they look like petals)

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than Oregon DaisyErigeron speciosus (above).

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Leafybracted AsterSymphiotrichum foliaceum – has wide ray flowers (like Peregrine Daisy) but has broad leaf-like bracts. The low growing alpine variety is “apricus” if you are into the details.

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This slope is covered with phlox-like Nuttall’s LeptosiphonLeptosiphon/Linanthus nuttalii – with dashes of common Lewis’ FlaxLinum lewisii – which are also found at lower elevations.

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On the same slope is a mix of blue flowers: flax and penstemon.

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Thin-stem PenstemonPenstemon attenuatus – seems to be one of the most common of the confusing beard-tongues.  I look for the glandular hairs on the flowers, acute sepals, and inside the smooth anthers spreading at 180 degree angle to help with ID.   In any case penstemons have opposite leaves, blue “irregular” flowers with curled up stamens along with a “beard’s-tongue” inside.

These subalpine species grow in patches with sufficient moisture and nutrients :

 

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Death CamusZigadenus elegans – has beautiful whitish green flowers with heart-shaped yellow pools of nectar on the the 6 petals (technically here called tepals).

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It has 6 stamens that stand around the center pistil which has 3 stigmas.  Flower parts in multiples of 3 is a good indication that it is in the Lily Family.  Compare it to your Easter Lily.

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Coil-Beak LousewortPedicularis contorta – has 1-foot+ stalks arrayed with white flowers that twist around their bee pollinators to position them for prescise fertilization. The lower leaves are pinnately divided, helping to differentiate it from the similar Curled Lousewort – P. racemosa – whose leaves are only toothed. 

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Here Coil-beak Lousewort grows with Sulphur Paintbrush – Castilleja sulphurea

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Bog/Explorer’s GentianGentiana calycosa – greets you with blue goblets of flowers.

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The interior lines and spots draw pollinators deep inside searching for nectar which is at the very bottom.  As a consequence, the pollinator rubs against the male anthers or female stigma (they are receptive at different times) effecting fertilization for new seeds to come.

 

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Parry’s CatchflySilene parryi – has a swollen calyx decorated with elegant lines: They glow like Chinese lanterns. This alpine native is related to the common, weedy bladder campion – Silene latifolia – that pops up in our gardens.

Tucked into talus rock of Cody Bowl:

 

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Moss CampionSilene acaulis – is often the first alpine to bloom. This tightly growing, mounded “cushion plant” is still blooming and is also forming fruits. Plants a few inches across and an inch high can be dozens of years old. This is related to the much larger Parry’s Catchfly (see above).  Both are related to carnations!

Two miniature 2-4”-tall aster-like plants are readily confused (by me anyway!). They have single blue flowerheads at the top of short stems. The leaves are mostly clustered at the base:

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Alpine AsterOreostema alpigenus – has deep-blue flowers and long leaves. Note the long tap root that has been unearthed.  These are very old plants.

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Alpine TownsendiaTownsendia montana – has much shorter, spoon-shaped leaves.

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American ThorowaxBupleurum americanum  – is a member of the Parsley Family with an umbrella-like arrangement of flowers and fruits.

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This species is unusual in having undivided leaves. It is common among the rocks here.

 

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Tweedy’s ThistleCirsium tweedyi/eatonii – sprawls out of the rocks attracting a variety of pollinators. It is definitely one of the “good” thistles and is a native found only at high elevations.

 

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Fringed Grass-of-ParnassiaParnassia fimbriata – is worthy of a close look at the frilled petals, lobed yellow nectaries, sculpted pistil.  The oval leaves are also elegant.  These plants like moisture.

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Netveined WillowSalix reticulata – Willows are common and confusing in the alpine zones (and elsewhere!) This very low-growing species has small rounded leaves with distinctive veins (reticulate) making it is pretty easy to ID, I think…

Truly on the rocks:

 

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Miraculously, several plants cling onto rock faces such as found along the Rock Springs Loop trail below Cody Bowl.

 

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Brewer’s Cliffbrake FernPellea breweri – was a new one for me.  Black wiry petioles (stipes) hold out leathery evergreen leaflets.

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The black sori are protected by the folded leaf edges. Sori produce the spores that are key to reproduction in ferns.

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The pale lavender flowers of Mountain PenstemonPenstemon montanus – are fading, but are still a treat to see.  The plants are slightly woody and have toothed leaves (unusual for our WY species). The anthers are woolly.

 

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Common AlumrootHeurchera parvifolia – is a true rock lover! It is in the Saxifrage Family.  Saxi = rock

 

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Telsonix/Boykenia – Telesonix heucheraformis thrives in a rock crevice of a large glacial erratic on the way down to Cody Bowl. You may be able to see some family resemblance with Alumroot.

 

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Tufted RockmatPetrophyton caespitosum – forms a dense carpet draped over a ledge.

 

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No matter how you look at these plants, one can appreciate their adaptability and tenacity, growing in this challenging terrain—rock, snow, abrasive winds, drought, intense UV light, not to mention a growing season of maybe a couple of months.  And consider the luck of a seed to land in the right spot in the first place and mature and reproduce throughout many years of such trials.

If you don’t get up to admire these floral athletes this year, they will be there next year to enjoy on your alpine adventures.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY,  August 24, 2019

*Note: Check on the trail conditions through the JH Mountain Resort before taking this hike.  At thie time of writing, the summit-access road was closed for construction projects. High elevation and rocky trail can be difficult for some hikers. Saying that we, were able to reach safely a wonderful display of flowers from the trail!

Flowers Blooming Low and High in Jackson Hole – a Sampling

All, it has been a busy wildflower season!  So many places to go and flowers to see.  Here are some observations of flowers around Jackson Hole during these last couple of weeks.  While fading at lower elevations, many of the same species are blooming, often with different companions, at higher altitudes and in different habitats. Others are more specialized to their particular niche.

Sageflats: Dry well drained soils and lots of sun!

TNP_VwTetons_frTSS_flws_7.10.19_1a_Q2_5x3_180A drive along Antelope Flats Road or inner Park Road rewards one with clouds of Sulphur Wild BuckwheatEriogonum umbellatumErioUmbe_fls_AntFlts_7.10.19_2_Q1_crp_5x5_180 Flowers go from white to cream to pink as they age.  The tiny, dried, winged fruits will be relished by rodents and birds.

Silky LupineLupinus sericeus – has been blooming for a week or two. Note the many hairs that cover the leaves and even back of the flowers.  The hairs help prevent water loss.  Bacteria are thriving in root nodules, providing the plants with usable nitrogen while the lofty lupine gives shelter and carbohydrates to the simple, tiny, yet crucial organisms.B_LupiSeri_habfl_AntFl_7513_2smIn some areas such as near Oxbow Bend or up Old Pass Road, Scarlet Gilia  — Ipomopsis aggregata — appears particularly abundant this year. In other areas, it stands more or less among sagebrush. IpomAggr_habfl_mass_OldPsRd_7.2.19_1_5x3_180Look for hummingbirds or sphinx moths visiting the red tubular flowers.  The long tubes are specialized to pollinators that can hover while drawing up the nectar deep inside the flower.  Flowers have no fragrance—most birds don’t smell but they do see red. IpomAggr_FlStCu_OldPsRd_7.2.19_1_Q2_crp_5x5_180These tubular “regular” (petals are all the same shape) red flowers in the phlox family are not to be confused with a more complex “irregular” flowers of the Wyoming Paintbrush — Castilleja liniariifolia, our state flower. Formerly placed in the Snapdragon Family, now Paintbrushes are in the Broomrape Family because they are hemiparasites on other plants, such as sage and lupines.  These plants derive sustenance, even chemical defenses, by attaching their weird roots to the roots of their hosts. CastLini_flst_Mung_6.24.17_1_Q2_crp_3x5_200The green Wyoming Paintbrush flowers lean out beyond the colorful red sepals.  Bracts just below add more color.  The leaves are also lean with narrow lobes. 

Hawksbeards – mostly TapertipCrepis acuminata – are abundant.  Look for the many (up to 100!) yellow flower heads, each with about 5-10 ray flowers, and 5-8 smooth “involucral bracts” below.  CrepAcum_flcuSide_20LkRd_71113_1_25x25Leaves have several deep, sharply toothed lobes and are a bit fuzzy or “tomentose”. CrepAcum_habfl_AntFl_62415_1bModoc HawksbeardC. modocensis – has fewer flower heads (up to 40/plant) but each has more than 10-60 ray flowers and the bracts are stippled with  black stiff hairs.  Leaves and stem are very hairy. See if you can find these two species and discern the differences.  There are other look-alike species as well.2b.CrepModo_fl_AntFl_52814_1crp180Q2_3x3

Another yellow composite with variations – Groundsels – rise about 12-18″ tall.  The bracts are all one size, smooth, often black-tipped, and contain yellow “ray” and “disk” flowers. This one is Rocky Mountain Groundsel –Packera. streptanthifolia. The leaves of three look-alike species are used for ID—leaves are variable in size and shape as they alternate up the stem.PackStre_habfl_TNP_PkRd_1_Q2_crp_3x5_180

Lance-leaved Stonecrops or SedumSedum lanceolatum – prefers well-drained soils to rocks. The pudgy leaves, which store water, alternate up the sprawling 4-6” stems.  SeduLanc_lfst_BTTr_62215_1-crp3x3

Flowers are bright yellow. SeduLanc_FlCU_SlgCrk_7.5.19_1_Q2_crp_5x3_180Members of the Stonecrop Family have a different type of metabolism – CAM – in order to do well in hot dry locations. They also are a host plant for the Rocky Mountain Parnassian butterfly Parnassius smintheus. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parnassius_smintheus

Yellow Indian PaintbrushCastilleja flava – was still blooming strong in the dry sage and grasslands along Gros Ventre Road near the Red and Gray Hills. CastFlav_flhab_GVRd_7.11.19_1a_Q2_5x3_180Note the arrangement of its flowers:CastFlav_infl_bractCU_GVRd_7.10.19_1_Q1_crp_5x5_180

Also abundant in spots were bright magenta Northern Sweetvetch — Hedysarum boreale — clearly a member of the pea family. HedyBore_fls_GVRd_7.10.19_1_Q2_crp_5x5_180

Ballhead SandwortEremogone congesta – has a cluster of white flowers on the top of very thin stems.  Leaves are opposite and needle like. This is a common, if overlooked, wild relative to our store-bought pink carnations.EregCong_flst_AntFlts_7.10.19_1a_Q1_3x5_180

Various – and I mean various – fleabane daisiesErigeron spp.—are common.  They are hard to untangle botanically to this eye, in part because the roots are key to ID (and I don’t like to pull them up!), and then one examines hairs.  Just knowing it is a native daisy is good enough for me. And I don’t think the insects bother with the difference either.ErigPumi_flhab_MillB_6.1.16_1crp_5x3

Mountain Meadows – cooler and moisterMeadows around String Lake and up the trail to Ski Lake feature lush arrangements of taller “forbs” or perennial flowers:BTNF_SkiLkTr_vwDougFir_713.19_fix 5x3_180Sticky GeraniumsGeranium viscosissimum  — are abundant.  Here is a swallow-tail butterfly sucking up nectar. Anyone know which species?GeraVisc_fl_Swallowtail_GdwLk_7.14.19_1_Q1_crp_5x5_180Scarlet PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – is emerging. A_CastMini_fl_GoodLktr_7613_1Q2sm Note these flowers don’t lean out the same way the Wyoming Paintbrush does (compare with above photos) and the leaves are wider. Colors of paintbrushes can be variable but the flower details are relatively consistent…if they don’t hybridize with a nearby population of a similar species. Paintbrushes can be very confusing to ID!

Silvery LupineLupinus argenteus – is the common lupine of moist meadows and dappled light of aspen groves and evergreen forests.  The back of the “banner” petal is hairless, unlike Silky lupine which is silky-hairy on the back.  Hairs help reduce water loss, which is more of a concern in open drier sites. LupiArge_habfl_LSR_6.26.19_2a_crp_3x5_180

Tall CinquefoilPotentilla arguta – hold their flowers in tight erect fists.  The yellow-to-white flowers are held up on glandular stalks 2 or more feet high. PoteArgu_hab_191GrosVrd_71111_1a_3x5

These are often confused with the more broadly spreading flower clusters of Gland or Sticky CinquefoilP. glandulosa . Both are common (and sticky with glandular hairs). PoteGlan_flCU_PassTr_62915_1crpsmThese open, accessible flowers are important for a variety of pollinators.  Scientists have found plants contain a chemical that prevents tooth decay.   

Several blue penstemons –  Penstemon spp. — stand up through the vegetation or loom over a trail.  ID distinctions include the color, hairiness, length, and angle of the anthersPensCyacf_flside_SkiLkTr_7212_1Q2smBotanists and gardeners thrive on these minute differences.  Flower size affects bee pollinators which land on lower lip—they may or may not fit properly to reach the reward of nectar deep inside the flower while effectively carrying pollen to the next flower.PensCyan_flhab_SkiLkTr_7.12.19_1_Q2_crp_3x5_180This species found along the Ski Lake Trail keyed out to Wasatch Beardstongue — P. cyananthus.

Flowers of our perennial StickseedHackelia micrantha – mirror the summer blue sky above.  Later tiny fruits will stick to socks and fur. HackMicr_fl_SkiLktr_62815_1a_crp3x3

While phlox has mostly faded, its relative Nuttall’s Gilia — Leptosiphon nuttalli – (no good common name) is beginning to bloom.  The deeply dissected leaves form frilly whorls up the slightly woody stems that form a 12″ tall mound. 29.LeptNutt_lfflCU_SkiLktr_62815_1a_Q2_crpCU_1.5sq_300Flowers are extremely fragrant.  Bend over for a whiff.  It is also related to Scarlet Gilia.

Western SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – is common in meadows to open forest. OsmoOcci_Flst_HistTr_7.2.19_1_5x3_180The tiny yellow-green flowers arranged in umbels will hold up schizocarps (split fruits) that taste like licorice.  It is related to cumin, coriander, dill, anise, and many other tangy herbs in the Parsley family. 

Louseworts are going and coming.   Fern-leaf LousewortPedicularis bracteosa – is fading fast at lower elevations, but beginning to bloom over 8,500’. PediBrac_flhab_TetPsS_7.3.18_1b_Q2_5x3_180smIn lodgepole pine forests, Parrot’s BeaksPedicularis racemosa – are unfurling their flowers to attract specific pollinators.  Usually a smart bee, channeled by nectar guides and the unique shape of the flower, lands on the lower petals, wriggles around, and vibrates its wings.  Pollen grains bounce out of the beak-like tube of the upper petal and attach to the bee’s hairy back.  Even with its long-comb-like legs, the bee can’t glean all the pollen: some remains out of reach in the crevice between the bee’s head and thorax.  Visiting the next ready flower, the bee’s positioning will cause the stigma to curve around and tap the pollen out of the crack for successful fertilization! (see lower right flower)PediRace_fl_SkiLktr_62815_7crpsm

High Elevations – late blooming!

Elevations above about 8,500’ are noticeably delayed in flower this year.  South of Teton Pass and above Ski and Goodwin Lakes, one finds only early spring flowers.  Carpets of Spring BeautiesClaytonia lanceolata — are sprouting where snow drifts are finally melting. ClayLati_habfl_mass_GdwLk_7.14.19_1a_Q1_fix_crp_5x3_180Species particularly adapted to very short growing seasons are also blooming where snow has just melted.  Patches of Rocky Mountain Snow ButtercupsRanunculus adoneus – are frequent. Note their fine leaves.RanuAdon_hab_mass_SkiLkTr_7.12.19_2a_Q2_5x3_180.jpg

There are many, many more flowers to see.  This is just a preview and hopefully incentive for you to explore, identify, and understand the remarkable plant world around us.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

July 16, 2019

We appreciate comments, corrections, and additions. Please let us know what you think about this posting.  We will do our best to incorporate your thougts.

 

Tra-la – It’s May! – Early Spring Flowers 2019

WyHab_WL_Mosaic_GameCrk_42915_5x3_180.jpgSpring sun is warming south-facing slopes of buttes and hillsides.  Snow along Grand Teton National Park roads is finally retreating. Wetlands are warming. Bugs and birds are flying about. The delight is in the details of small flowers; no big show yet.

Along roads and low openings in the valley:  

Patches of yellow buttercups are the first to draw the eye.

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ButtercupRanunculus spp. – flowers gleam, and uniquely so. The outer layer of the petals – epidermis – is only one-cell thick and the cells are particularly thin and flat.  They hold pigments that absorb blue-green wave lengths of light. Thus yellow wavelengths can keep going through the outer cell layer, penetrate a thin air layer, and then reach a starch layer of cells that scatters the yellow light back up through the pigments again. Furthermore, the thin outer layer with air layer just beneath has the physical properties of a thin-film, creating the shiny look to the flowers. The combination os pigmentation and unique structural qualities of the flower cells provide the bright glossy yellow found only in buttercups and a few cousins.  At certain angles, flowers actually flash a signal to passing pollinators to come visit. (For much more to this complex story see references below.)

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Buttercup petals beam intense yellow light and UV wave-lenghs that signal to pollinators. Also, the curving petals with the special cell layers provide addtional warming to the reproductive parts in the center, speeding up the life cycle.

Look closely at our two similar species of buttercups:

RanGlab_habfl_AntFlts_5411_5Q1smThe lowest leaf of Sagebrush ButtercupRanunculus glaberrimus – is unlobed, the upper leaves are 3-lobed. It is a denizen of sage flats.

RanuGlabcf_flhab3_nopetals_BTBut_5.6.19_1_Q2_crp_3x5_180Some individual Sagebrush Buttercups don’t have petals, only sepals. I dont’ know why the flashy petals aren’t there.

RanuJovi_flhab_Cluster2_MuriRch_4.21.18_1aQ2_4x3_180fix.jpgIn Utah ButtercupR. jovis – both the lower and upper leaves are lobed into three parts. Note buttercups have many separate anthers and stigmas—a common characteristic of this family. It is found in relatively moist locations, including woodland edges and openings.

ClayLanc_fllv_JosRdg_2614_1crp180sm.jpgSpringbeautiesClaytonia lanceolata — grow in scattered in patches. Some blooms exhibit obvious pinkish veins that direct pollinators to yellow nectaries in the center. Pollinators bump against the anthers and get dusted with pollen.

OrogLine_habfl_RkCrk_5.2.19It is easy to step on Turkey PeasOrogenia lineariifolia. The plants look like bits of lichen or stone, nothing to think about.

OrogLini_fl_Elkscat_MuriRch_4.21.18_3_crp_5x3.5_180However, Turkey Peas are more interesting if you take a close look at their tiny white flower with maroon centers that together form clusters barely an inch long. Think about what tiny insects must pollinate them–likey small flies and bees.

OrogLin_bulbCU_WilBrk_4912_1a_5x3-180.jpgSandhill cranes, bears, and rodents seek out the thumb-sized bulbs (“peas”) for food.  (Turkeys would likely eat the bulbs if they lived in Jackson.)

DiceUnif_habfl_PkRd_4.23.19_crp_5x3_180ipThe quintessential western plant Steer’s-headDicentra uniflora – requires some belly botany. Scan an area for divided leaves and then get down to stare at the steer-like flowers. This is the larval host plant for the Parnassian butterfly Parnassius clodius, which Dr. Debrinski from MSU is researching in Grant Teton National Park (more info on her research below).

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Parnassian butterfly species on Blacktail Butte 5.4.19.

 

FriPudi_fl_SchwLd_bench_fl_52011_1a_5x3_180fixYellowbellsFritillaria pudica – are always cheerful! The 6-8”-high plants sprout from miniature scaly bulbs. The base of the 6 yellow tepals is said to change from red to green depending on pollination, but I can’t see any consistent difference happening to the outside flower color or anthers and pistil on the inside. Maybe you can.

Violets are flowering here and there:

ViolPurp_habfl_RkCrk_5.2.19_1_crp_5x5_180Goosefoot VioletViola purpurea var. venosa – has leaves shaped like goose feet with a few more toes. The back of the leaves and yellow petals are often purple, hence “purpurea” in its botanical name. Note the dark center of the flower and the convenient landing pad of petals for pollinators.

ViolNutt_fl_JosieRidge_fl52011_1crp180sm.jpgSeveral yellow violets intergrade in leaf features which confuse me and other botanists trying to sort out the names.  This cheerful specimen is one of three look-alike species – V. vallicola, V. praemorsa, or V. nuttalii.  Leaf ratios, shapes, and hairiness, as well as ultimately seed-capsule sizes, determine identification.

Dry slopes and knolls:  Rambles up the south side of Blacktail Butte and rocky knolls around Kelly Warm Springs yield treasures tucked into the rocky soils. Many of the plants are silvery and/or hairy and grow very slowly into low mounds or mats—adaptations to limited water and nutrients and intense light and wind.

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Please watch you step…these small plants can be hard to see and some are very old.

PhloHood_flhab_BltB_4.13.17_1_5x3-180sm.jpgHood’s PhloxPhlox hoodii – is often the first out, with its white to bluish flowers. Bees and flies pick up on the sweet fragrance. They come in and land on the flared petal tips and dip their long tongues deep down the center tube for nectar. They then carry the orange pollen off to other flowers nearby. The leaves of Hood’s Phlox are opposite, very small and tight on very slow growing stems that collectively form a cushion shape.  Plants inches wide can be decades old.

WyPl_PhysDidy_FlhabCU_Bt_3.22.15_1Q2_5x3_180Nearby, TwinpodsPhysaria didymocarpa – feature bright-yellow, 4-petalled flowers at the end of sprawling 3-4” stems. Spade-shaped, silvery leaves help identify this member of the Mustard Family. Mustards usually have 4 petals, 6 anthers (2 short, 4 long), and one 2-parted pistil.

AnteDimo_flfm_lvs_KWmSp_5.4.19_1_Q2_crp_5x3_180The first pussytoes to bloom is Low PussytoesAntennaria dimorpha.  The tiny gray, finely hairy leaves form mats on the ground. Look closely for the flowers.

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Individual female flowers have stigmas…

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that fork to capture pollen.  No males in sight.

Note female and male flowers are on separate plants. This separation helps encourage cross-pollination, but if there are no pollinators present, females can set seeds on their own. Female plants often outnumber male plants in a population.

A_CymoLonp_habfl_kws_42614_3Q1_crpsm180.jpgSprawling CymopterisCymopteris longipes – is spreading its whorl of dissected silvery leaves low to the ground.  As a member of the Carrot Family, plants have umbels, in this case with yellow flowers.

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Cymopteris longipes has a buried pseudoscape. This buried stem is surrounded by old leaf bases. The true roots actually branch from below the area shown here.

Later, the underground stem will stretch up lifting the leaves higher to the light above growing competition. The stalk of the umbel will extend, too, elevating the winged fruits into the wind mid-summer.

AstrPurs_flhab_BTBut_5.6.19_1_crp_5x3_180Pursh’s MilkvetchAstragalus purshii – is also just beginning to flower on dry knolls.  The pea-like flowers are slightly yellow to white with a blue bow to the keel (lower two petals). Some flowers open wide for pollinator business. Note the pinnately divided leaves are silvery hairy.

CastChro_bractsLvs_BTBut_5.6.19_1_5x3_180The brilliant red of paintbrushCastilleja chromosa – is provided by the leaf-like  bracts. Soon tubular flowers will emerge from their axils. I am not sure why there is so much color without the presence of any flowers yet. Maybe the plants are announcing to pollinators: opening for business soon!

TownLepi_fllv_KWmSp_5.4.19_1a_Q1_crp_3x3_180Our local Townsendias belong to a beautiful but often confusing genus. This plant has all the features of T. leptotes: narrow leaves, whitish petals, a whorl of 4-5 rows of pointed bracts tinged with color. Apparently this species and T. montana can hybridize or self-fertilize to the point that some experts say separating the two species appears “arbitrary.” I say, let’s just enjoy the flowers if you can find them. They are pretty rare.

Wetlands with catkins:

AlnuInca_flm_MWRd_4.22.19_1a_Q2_5x3_200.jpgShrub swamps throughout the valley are warming up. Ducks, moose, and beaver are moving through the waters under dangling catkins of alders and amidst thickets of pussywillows.

AlnuInca_flMfm_FallCrkRd_4.29.18_1_Q1_3x5_180Male catkins of mountain aldersAlnus incana var. occidentalis – elongate: their pollen is released upon the wind to meet up – purely by chance – with the stigmas of female flowers (above left in photo) in separate, stout “cones.”

BetuOcci_Flst_CUGameCrk_5.30.18_1_Q1_crp_5x3_180Later in May, its relative Bog BirchBetula glandulosa – will bloom after its leaves have filled out.

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Male catkin of Booth’s Willow – Salix boothii.  Notice the waxy “bloom” on the greenish yellow stem that can rub off.  This is a helpful winter ID feature.

Willows (Salix spp.) of various kinds (and there are many) are bursting their buds and producing male or female “pussies”.  In willows, female fruits (capsules) are the definitive for identification, but are often elusive. Bees pollinate many willows—they seek out nectar at the base of tiny, petal-less flowers.

WyPl_PopuSp_BudMCU_AntFl_42415_6bQ2_crp_5x3_180

A male catkin of cottonwood – note the red anthers that will soon shed pollen.

Cottonwood and its congener aspen (both are in the genus Populus) also have catkins, again males and females on separate plants.  It is fascinating to investigate the differences.

We are seeing just the first flurry of flowers.  We will try to keep you posted on new arrivals.

Enjoy your adventures into spring!

Frances Clark, Teton Plants 5.7.19

P.S. We always appreciate comments and corrections.  Please send an email to tetonplants@gmail.com

References:

“How Buttercups Get Their Gloss” by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor – link: https://www.livescience.com/57964-how-buttercups-get-their-yellow-gloss.html

“Scientists Discover why buttercups reflect yellow on chins”. By University of Cambridge, Phys.org.  December 2011. https://phys.org/news/2011-12-scientists-buttercups-yellow-chins.html

“Functional optics of glossy buttercup flowers” by CJ van der Kooi, et al.  Journal of Royal Society Interface 14.  Fascinating details including photos of the physics. Available on line at  https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsif.2016.0933

Dr. Diane Debinski is studying Clodius Parnassia butterfly populations in Grand Teton National Park. Here are a few links to her research:

https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/nrem_pubs/274/

https://repository.uwyo.edu/uwnpsrc_reports/vol38/iss1/12/

Time to Hike for Subalpine to Alpine Flowers before they Fade

BTNF_Rendv_CodyB_VwNUp_8.7.18_1s_Q1_5x3_180Wildflower seekers are hiking above 8,000’, even 9,000′, for colorful displays of flowers found earlier at lower elevations.   It is also time to search for unusual subalpine to alpine flowers above 9,500′ to 10,500′

Here are some recent sightings and identification tips, focusing on species specialized to grow in the very short summer season, instense sun, abrasive wind, and poor soils of high altitudes. Most of the photos were taken in the past week up on Rendezvous Mountain, but the species can be seen elsewhere.

The majority of the photos below were taken in the last 10 days around Rendezvous Mountain. The photos focus on identification tips. You are welcome to ignore the details and just enjoy their beauty. If you are a full flower nerd, know that the taxonomists do not always agree with the classification of some of the species shown…opinions among scientists often vary.

Starting from the top:

HappSuff_SympFoliApr_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180

Woolly GoldenweedHapplopappus suffruticosus – is cheerfully sprawling along the road down Rendezvous. These subshrubs have woody bases, alternate twisted leaves, and bright yellow flowers (photo above and below).

HappSuff_fllvs_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180

Eaton’s/Tweedy’s ThistleCirsium eatonii/tweedyi. – is a 2-4’ tall, native (good!) thistle which catches your attention:

CirsTwee_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_fix_3x5_180

Carefully, look into the dense cluster of flowers at the top of the plants: The bracts are interlaced by a web of glistening hairs. Bracts surround 2-3” pinkish flower heads. Pollinators are plentiful!

CirsTwee_flBracts_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_5x5_180Leaves are 6-8” long, toothed to lobed, wavy, and spine-tipped. Notably, petioles run down the stem (decurrent). Tweedy’s thistle is deemed “unresolved” by the authoritative Flora of North America: it is not even considered a variety. However, the authors note that there is much post-glacial hybridization among formerly isolated populations of this complex genus.

ArniLong_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q1_5x3_180Bright yellow Long-leaved ArnicaArnica longifolia – grows in cheerful drifts.

ArniLong_flCU_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q1_5x3_180The 1-1.5’ stems feature several pairs of elongate leaves, as well as many yellow heads surrounded by equal-length bracts. The plant is overall glandular hairy with a strong odor.

ArniLong_habfl_Rendv_road_8.11.18_1_Q1_5x3_180It is common as you continue down the mountain road and seen from the tram.

As you head down farther where snow piled high in the lee of mountain slope or in a bowl, plants are larger and more profuse. Here a few showy species seen on the way down to Cody Bowl:

BTNF_Rendv_CodyB_VwNUp_8.7.18_1s_Q1_5x3_180

HedyAmerAlp_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180Alpine sweetvetchHedysarum alpinum var. americanum – has many deep violet- red, pea-like flowers (its in the pea family) dangling from one side of the inflorescence (photos above and  below).

HedyAmerAlp_fl_Rendv_8.11.18_3a_Q2_5x5_180Bluish-green leaves are pinnately divided into oval leaflets. Careful measurements of flowers (9-15mm) distinguish it from the slightly larger flowered (17-22 mm) Western Sweetvetch (H. occidentale). (Not all taxonomists agree with this separation!)

HedyOcci_fr_SkiLkTr_81413_4aQ2_3x5_180

The fruits of Sweetvetches are termed loments – segmented fruits each with one seed inside. I think of them as pods flatted by a steam roller. The flat segments break off and disperse upon the wind. Many are forming now (photo above).

White-coiled LousewortPedicularis contorta – has distinctive “coiled” or beaked white flowers which have evolved to fit worker bumblebee pollinators (below). Note the stigma projecting from the coiled  beak formed by fused petals.  When a bee lands, the stigma fits between the bee’s head and body and picks up pollen which the bee could not reach from a visit to another lousewort flower.

PediCont_flhand_SkiLktr_62815_4.a_Q2_5X5_180The 1’ plants have divided, mostly basal leaves, which helps distinguish it from a similar, more lower-elevation species: Parrot’s Beak – P. racemosa – which has with toothed but not lobed leaves.  White-coiled lousewort is shown  below.

PediCont_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_3a_Q2_5x5_180

Sulphur PaintbrushCastilleja sulphurea – continues to bloom in the shade of Engelmann spruce and Subalpine Fir, where snow collected over winter and lasted longer.

CastSulf_habfr_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

GroundselsSenecio/Packera  – are common and confounding yellow composites. They have equal length bracts like Arnicas, but the leaves alternate up the stem.

BTNF_Rendv_vwRockSpLp_low_SeneCras_8.11.18_2_Q1_5x3_180

The relatively large Thickleaf GroundselSenecio crassulus – is still blooming strong in mountain meadows, such as Rocky Springs Loop (above). Look for the even-sized, waxy bracts with black somewhat frayed tips.

SeneCras_flCU_PassTr_71615_1_Q15x5_180_Undulating, slightly toothed, slightly succulent or waxy leaves clasp the 1-2’ stems (below).

SeneCras_lf_PassTr_71615_1_3x5_180

Related and once grouped in with Senecios, two different “Packeras” continue to challenge this and other botanists. The expert Arthur Cronquist said groundsels are a “transcontinental complex of ill-defined taxa.” It is a challenging (frustrating!) botanical puzzle to try to tell them apart!

PackStrecf_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_fix_5x3_180

Rocky Mountain GroundselPackera/Senecio streptanthifolia – is found frequently at lower elevations, and more occasionally at high elevations. The lower leaves are toothed or lobed more or less, as are the upper leaves. The lower leaves are larger than the upper leaves. Plants have many yellow flower heads. I am not sure which species this is! (photo above).

Different GroundselPackera/Senecio dimorphophylla – is often hard to tell apart from Rocky mountain groundsel. However the scientific name di- (two), morpho- (shape), phylla (leaf) indicates a distinct difference in the shape and size of basal vs. stem leaves. The basal leaves tend to be unlobed to toothed, the upper leaves more deeply lobed and clasping the stem with arrow-shaped leaf bases (auriculate). At least a few stem-leaves are often larger or equal in size to the basal leaves (I have noticed that the lowest stem leaf is often the largest and most indicative of the species).  The photo below seems a clear identification of this species. I also noted that it seeds in readily to the harsh conditions of talus. PackDimo_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q1_3x5_180

Asters are beginning to appear.  A common species at high elevations is the Leafybract AsterSymphiotrichum foliaceum var. apricum – which is low growing, with slightly clasping leaves, and wide bracts (foliaceous) with purple tips surrounding the lavender heads (photo below).

SympFoliApri_FlCU_RkSprLp_8.11.18_1b_Q1_crp_3x5_180

Thickstem asterEurybia integrifolius – also has flaring, variable bracts. Flower heads are sticky hairy and a distinctive deep violet blue. Reddish stems are also glandular hairy. This 1-2.5’ plant grows readily at lower elevations, as well (photo below).EurInt_fl_MwRd_9611_q2crpsm

Always a special treat to see, Mountain Bog GentianGentian calycosa – appears particularly abundant in moist to wet sites down to Cody Bowl. Observe the delicate lines and spots that attract bumblebee pollinators deep into the open bell shaped flowers. In this photo (below), gentian is nestled in with the common Rocky Mountain Goldenrod.

GentCaly_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

Rocky Mountain GoldenrodSolidago multiradiata – is a common plant at both high and lower elevations in Teton County.  To tell it apart from other golendrods, look for clusters of leaves at the base and stiff hairs along the petioles of the lower leaves –a sure way to know the species.  The heads also have over 13 tiny ray flowers – the “multi-radiata” in its name.  Height varies from an inch to a foot or so, depending on the conditions it is growing in.

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BTNF_Rendv_CodyB_vwtalus_up_8.6.18_1s_Q2_5x3_180The rocky talus of Cody Bowl has several speciality flowers that seem to be able to grow out of rock.SeneFrem_flhab_pol_Rendv_8.6.18_1a_Q2_5x3_180Fremont GroundselSenecio fremontii – has single flowers with the indicative row of waxy bracts. The small leaves are toothed and arranged along the stem: not clustered at the base (although some plants with short stems look like they have basal leaves).  The flowers are single and appear large compared to the leafy body of the plant.

One unusual species Alpine GroundselLigularia/Senecio amplectans – is also part of the groundsel group: Most notable are mostly solitary (1-3), nodding, ½” heads. The leaves are mostly basal and fine-toothed.

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Other species are much easier to identify and appreciate:

PrimParr_habfl_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_crp_3x5_180

Parry’s PrimrosePrimula parryii – grows very rarely in the talus of Cody Bowl. I have also seen it near the top of Targhee in a similar rocky habitat.

AnemParvi_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_5x5_180Small-flowered AnemoneAnemone parviflora – is only inches tall with tidy whorled leaves.

AnemTeto_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_crp_5x5_180And nearby, the deep-pink Teton AnemoneAnemone tetonensis.

AnemSp_frCU_Rendv_72415_1_5x5_180Some anemones are already setting seeds!

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A particularly tiny plant: Alp LilyLloydia serotina – is only 2-6” high. Its 6 white “tepals” remind us it is in the Lily Family. It grows from bulbs.

CampUnif_flhab_pol_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_fix_5x5_180Similar in size is the Alpine HarebellCampanula uniflora. Instead of many bell-like flowers per stem found in the more common harebell, this species has only one flower per stem, as the Latin name uni-flora aptly describes.

PoleVisc_flhab_hand_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q1_5x3_180You may smell this plant before you see it’s blue flowers: Skypilot or SkunkflowerPolemonium viscosum. It ranges in size from 5-12” high.

As one heads down into the lower portion of Rock Springs Loop, flowers once again become plentiful:

BTNF_Rendv_RkSprLp_vwFlmix_8.11.18_Q2_fix_5x3_180Snow ButtercupsRanunculus adoneus – are blooming brightly in recently melted snowpatches. The leaves are divided 1-2x into narrow lobes (photo below).RanuAdoe_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1a_Q1_5x3_180

A flower mix of more subalpine or meadow species is patchy on the steep slopes.  Below is a combination of Nuttall’s LeptosiphonLeptosiphon nuttallii – and very low growing Thickleaf GrounsdselBTNF_Rendv_vwRockSpLp_SeneCras_LeptNutt_8.11.18_1_Q1_fix_5x3_180Another combination includes Sulphur paintbrush, Bog Gentian, and Coiled-beak Lousewort:BTNF_Rendv_vwRockSpLp_flmix_GEntCaly_LeptNutt_8.11.18_2a_Q1

There is much more to discover in the high elevations before snow flies. Enjoy looking for the above species and more these last few weeks of summer.

And for other flowers still blooming at this time and with more aster ID go to our 2016 archives: “Get High on Wildflowers”:  https://tetonplants.org/2016/08/

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Corrections and comments welcome!

 

 

 

What Blooms in Wildfire Burns?

RkPkwy_Burn_PeriMont_vw4_8.2.18_1_s_Q1_5x3-180Forest fires can appear devastating at first, but for the most part nature has its systems for resilience. Depending on how hot the fire was and what plants were present both above and below ground and nearby, vegetation will return in its own due course. In some cases, plants sprout that have not been noticed in years, and indeed are triggered to flower after the heat of the moment. Others take advantage of the open ground and fly in with fresh seeds. Still others have stored seed until the magic moment. Wildlife also takes advantage of the changes.

Lodgepole PinePinus contorta – is a fire-adapted species. While the thin-barked trees are killed, thick “serotinous” cones have held seeds for years.PinuCont_FrSerCU_MWRd_32212_1.jpgTheir cones have thick scales with spine tips which protect the seeds inside from mauraders and weather for years.  When a fire comes through, the resin that has sealed the scales shut melts, and cone scales open wide, releasing winged seeds upon the wind. The delicate embryos fall onto newly exposed soil, which may be enhanced by ash, and quickly germinate. Ash often contains recycled nutrients and retains warmth which helps the seeds grow.  Seeds germinate quickly, giving them a headstart among competing plants.  Pines in fact need sun to grow well. A truly fire adapated species!

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Mountain MallowIlliamna rivularis – often appears in great numbers after a burn.  Affected by extreme heat, their thick seed coats crack, enabling seeds to imbibe water and sprout. These seeds may have lain buried for decades in the soil waiting for such a moment. BTNF_PalmCanTr_Burn_IlliRivu_7_7.13.18_Q2_5x3_180Due to a prescribed burn south of Hoback, the slopes along the trail up Palmer Creek are now covered with 4-5’ flowering Mountain Mallow plants (photo above taken 7.13.18). Soon fruits, which look like peeled hairy tangerines, will split to release seeds for the next generation decades in the future (photo below).IlliRivu_frsSt_LeiLk_91213_2aCrpsmNote: In mountain mallow the seedbank is in the soil, in lodgepole pine, the seedbank is in the air.

Another plant that responds uniquely to fire is SnowbrushCeonothus velutinus. Hikers can see a profusion of Snowbrush along String Lake (below) and on the way to Taggart Lake in Teton National Park.TNP17_StrLkTr_CeonVelu_CU_WyHab_6.30.17_2_5x3_180This evergreen, resinous, sprawling shrub will shoot up new branches from old roots after a light fire. After heavy burns, it can also sprout from “Rip-van-Winkle” seeds.CeonVelu_fllfCU__StrLk_71105_2_3x1_180

Flowers blooming almost a century ago produced seeds that have been lying in wait until heat and sun stimulated them to germinate. CeonVelu_frLvs_BTTr_82013_1_5x3_180

Others report a profusion of White SpiraeaSpiraea betulifolia – blooming (photo below) within the 34,000-acre area of the Cliff Creek Fire, also of 2016.  This appears to be another species is “released” after a fire.SpirBetu_fllf_20LkRd_71113_1a_5x3_180.jpg

The results of the 20,000+ acre Berry Fire are visible from the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway (photo below) and Grassy Lake Road. The 2016 fire burned fast and hot in some areas forming a mosaic of impact.RkPkwy_Burn_PeriMont_8.2.18_5a_s_Q2_5x3_180Notably, in some areas it burned through lodgepole stands that were recolonizing from a fire only a few years before. Ecologists and foresters are concerned that this unusual short “return” interval will be the pattern of future fires in this era of climate disruption.

PinegrassCalamagrostis rubescens – is a tufted, long-leaved grass that rarely blooms. While a common groundcover in the shade of a forest, it usually goes unnoticed by hikers because it is “just a grass.” However, with the stimulus of fire and sun, 2-3’ stalks of delicate flowers shoot up and flourish (photo below). TNP17_Burn_CalaRube_8.17.17_2_Q2_5x3_180 Deep fibrous roots of Pinegrass are important for holding soils, especially when soils are vulnerable to erosion after fires. Plants are blooming in profusion near the parkway.

RkPkwy_Burn_For_flwMix_Epil_Cala_8.2.18_1_s_Q2_5x3_250FireweedEpilobium/Chamerion angustifolia – is well known for showing up after fires. In the insulating soil, rhizomatous (underground creeping) stems growing 4-6” deep may have survived the above-ground heat to sprout again. Even one surviving plant can shed 1000s of seeds that can catch upon the wind, land, and germinate quickly on exposed ground. (Photo above shows both Fireweed and Pinegrass.)

Other plants flowering among blackend trunks include several members of the Aster Family which have deep roots and seeds dispersed by wind.RkPkwy_Burn_ArniXdive_8.2.18_2_s_Q2_crp_%x3_180Cheerful patches of Broadleaf ArnicaArnica latifolia – and a strange hybrid, likely Arnica X diversifolia – a cross between Heartleaf and Broadleaf arnica, are growing in charred soils (photo above).RkPkwy_Burn_GrsLkRd_SoliMiss_8.2.18_2_s_Q1_5x3_180Large clumps of yellow Missouri GoldenrodSolidago missouriensis – was dense along Grassy Lake Road, brightening the dark scene (photo above).RkPkwy_Burn_GrsLkRd_flwMix_EuryInte_Achi_8.2.18_2_s_Q2_5x3_180A mix of YarrowAchillea millefolium – and Thickstem AsterEurybia integrifolia are common in fields right now, but they are also flourishing in the sun under dead lodgepole pine trees along Grassy Lake Road (photo above).

TNP17_Burn_LupiArge_8.17.17_1_5x3_180Silvery LupineLupinus argenteus – seeds are “scarified” by the heat of fire, enabling  buried seeds to germinate relatively quickly.  As a legume, lupines have a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria in their root nodules that can “fix” nitrogen. This provides lupines an advantage in colonizing poor soils (photo above). Their heavy seeds pop out of their pea-pod like fruits.RkPkwy_Burn_DracParvi_hab_8.2.18_1_s_Q2_crp_5x3_180A robust member of the Mint Family – DragonheadDracocephalum parviflorum – (photo above) was a new species to this botanist. Apparently it thrives in disturbed soils.RkPkwy_Burn_flwmix_ErigSpec_Peri_Lupi_8.2.18_1_s_Q2_5x3_250Patches of other common meadow flowers have retained a niche as well, including Oregon DaisyErigeron speciosus – (photo above) with its many narrow, lavender ray flowers (ray flowers look like petals). Many perennials have deep storage roots that are often insulated by soils to heat of fire (or the cold of winter.)

It is unclear to this writer how much of the open areas between forest patches of the Berry Fire actually burned, if at all.  (Do you know?) Often meadows don’t provide enough fuel to carry a fire. However, embers often fly across roads, wetlands, and meadow, igniting trees despite the intevening “fire breaks.” In any case, this is what is growing in the meadows.

RkPkwy_Burn_PeriMont_vw1_8.2.18_2_s_Q1_5x3_180Common YampaPerideridia montana – has created a tapestry of white. Upon a walk through the area, one can see that many late-summer flowers which are common elsewhere as here as well: a hidden layer of Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscossimum, blue spires of Tall DelphiniumDelphinium occidentale, yellow sprays of CinquefoilPotentilla spp., orange-yellow Rocky Mountain GolendrodSolidago multiradiata, and spikes of blue Silvery Lupine mix in.

Common grasses include: stiff spikes of TimothyPhleum pratensis (photo below), PhlePrat_fl_2OL_8714_3_5x5_180Mountain BromeBromus carinatus (photo below),BromCari_fl_BTTr_62715_1_5x5_180and elegant spikelets of OniongrassMelica spectabilis (photo below):MeliSpec_flCU_BTTrHd_62215_2Q2_5x5_160(Note all the grasses pictured above are in bloom)

These grasses have dense deep roots or bulbs, as in the aptly named Oniongrass (below).MeliSpec_bulbfl_SkiLktr_62815_1acrpsmGrasses have evolved to sprout from buds at the base of their leaves – an adaptation to both browsing and fire.

As for wildlife, signs of elk are frequent–they enjoy nutritious grasses. Bears will enjoy the storage roots of yampa come spring—or perhaps pocket gophers, which also eat yampa roots. A week ago, a pair of Sandhill Cranes was walking through the downed trunks, feeding on insects. Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers seek out burned-over forests as long as the bark remains. Using their chisel-like bills, these woodpeckers feast on insects feeding and breeding under peeling, split bark of weakened or dead trees.

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Despite the stark appearance, all is not lost after a wildfire.TNP17_Burn_Logs_EpilAngu_8.17.17_1_5x3_180

Much is being researched and understood about fire ecology.  It is facinating to conduct your own observations.  We have a wonderful opportunity to see the variations in progression at the Berry and Cliff Creek Fires, both of which were started by lightning two years ago.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Meadow Flowers: Obvious Favorites of the Sun

BTNF_Munger_vwFl_7.4.18_3_q2_5x3_180smWith summer strong, flowers are blooming everywhere in and around Jackson Hole. Here are a favorite dozen (plus!) wildflowers seen on hikes this past week: around Phelps Lake and up Munger Mountain (above); the start of the Ski Lake Trail; just south of Teton Pass; and the north end of Grand Teton National Park.  Lower elevations fade first while upper elevations are just emerging.

As always, it is fascinating to observe flower shapes and color and to discover which pollinators come to visit. Much is still unknown about how flowers work. Also, much of the action occurs underground.  Enjoy your investigations.

Sticky Geraniums (Geranium viscosissimum) are abundant both in full sun and under the shade of aspen trees. Their wide-open pink to magenta flowers attract pollinators of various sizes. Nectar guides—dark lines—lead into the center of the flower to the reward of both nectar and pollen. Male pollen is offered first by 10 anthers, and as the flower matures, five female stigmas are then exposed to gather pollen from insect visitors.  This way it is not fertilized by itself, which can cause inbreeding depression.

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Wide open flowers invite a variety of pollinators.  Here the male anthers are ready before the femail stigmas which lie in the very center of the flower.

One-flowered Little Sunflowers (Helianthella uniflora) form masses of cheerful yellow on hillsides.

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About 2-2.5’ tall, each of its many stems sports more or less opposite leaves with three strong veins. The stems are topped off with at least one 2”-wide flower head.

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Here the Little Sunflowers are flourishing high on Munger Mountain July 4.

Its more robust relative Five-veined Little Sunflower (Helianthella quinquenervis) stands taller and glares right at you.

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Note the number of pollinators and the individual small flowers beginning to bloom!  As composites, sunflowers have many tiny flowers that unfurl in a spiral, starting on the outside.  These many flowers form a “head”.

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The large lower leaves have 5 distinct nerves (quinque = 5 and nervis = nerves) and plants usually have only one big 3-4” flower head per stem.

Both of these sunflowers are relatively small compared to cultivated sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) produced for oil and seed. Note, a sunflower head has many tiny flowers that bloom in a spiral sequence. Each flower will produce a fruit with a single seed—think about unshelled sunflower seeds—the shell or husk is the fruit, with a nutritious seed inside. Birds will flock to the seeds when ripe.

Fernleaf Lovage (Ligusticum filicinum) or osha is just coming into flower in some places. Individual tiny flowers are held out in umbels—structures similar to ribs of an umbrella. Umbels are a distinctive feature of the Parsley or former Umbelliferae Family.

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Lovage leaves are finely dissected, similarly to its relative—carrot or Queen’s Anne’s lace.

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Below the frilly skirts of leaves grows a dense collection of pungent roots that Native Americans have used for centuries for medicinal purposes.

Giant Hyssop (Agastache urticifolia) is one of the few members of the fragrant mint family in Jackson Hole.

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Like all mints, the 2-4’ stems of Giant Hyssop are square, the scented leaves are opposite, and the flowers “bilabiate” or “irregular” e.g. flowers have two similar halves—like our faces.

Long anthers stick out, distributing pollen on the heads of hovering hummingbirds or on bodies of pushy bees which use the lower petals as platforms.  Upon visits to other hyssop flowers, these pollinators distribute pollen to female parts which form seeds.

While several of the flowers listed below have faded in southern, lower reaches of Jackson Hole, they are blooming abundantly up near Oxbow Bend and at higher elevations.

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Many flowers that bloomed around Antelope Flats a few weeks ago are now blooming at higher elevations or more northern reaches of the park.

Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) forms “clouds” of flowers above mats of ½” oval leaves.

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At this time of year, 1’ stems shoot up forming clouds of fluffy creamy white to yellow to rose flowers. They float low over the hillside or sageflats.  At the base of the “inflorescence” is a whorl or collar of oval leaves.

Sulphur Buckwheat flowers provide valuable nectar to pollinators, such as Parnassian Butterflies. Dr. Diane Debinski of Montana State University is investigating the relation of this species and Clodius Parnassian butterflies (Parnassius clodius) near Pacific Creek to determine impacts of climate change on insect populations.

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I think this is a Clodius Parnassian butterfly which is being studied.  The species nectars on Sulphur Buckwheat flowers.

Towering up between sulphur flowers, wands of Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) wave in the wind.

IpomAggr_flst_AntFl_6.19.17_1_crp_3x5_240The 1-2” red trumpet flowers attract hummingbirds, which are able to hover and extend their long tongues into the deep tube to lap up (not sip) nectar. A bird’s head may be doused in pollen on one visit. On the next stop, it is poked with a sticky stigma that will collect the pollen to make seeds. Pinkish flowers later in the season attract long-tongued sphinx moths, which provide a similar pollination service.

Lupines are another common flower of both sage flats and mountain slopes.

Silky Lupine - Lupinus sericeus

Silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus), which grows in sunny locations, has hairs on the backside of the “banner” of the pea-like flowers and very hairy palmate leaves. The hairs help protect plants from intense sun and wind of open sites.

In the Pea or Legume Family, lupines can “fix nitrogen”, enabling plants to grow in poor soils. Bacteria are harbored in nodules formed by the roots. In return for the plant’s protection and some food, bacteria convert nitrogen (NH2) from the air (soil has air pockets) into a form that plants can use (NH3). For centuries, farmers have grown clovers and alfalfa—also legumes–to provide this same soil enriching function.

Some hillsides along the Ski Lake Trail or under aspens at Munger Mountain are dominated by spires of yellow Fernleaf Lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa). PediBrac_flhab_TetPsS_7.3.18_1b_Q2_5x3_180sm.jpgThese laterally flattened, irregular flowers require bumblebees to pollinate them. Bumblebees are strong and smart enough to land on the lower lip of the flowers and push and prod their way into the throat to find nectar. In so doing, the bee gets a bunch of pollen on its body. At another flower, it distributes pollen to the stigma protruding from the top of the upper lip.

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Flowers of louseworts are designed to fit specialized pollinators. Here you can see the stigma poised to tap pollen off the back of a visiting bee.

Fernleaf Louseworts are hemiparasites—they get extra nutrients and even chemical defenses from “host” plants. Roots of louseworts can attach to Arrowleaf Groundsel (see below) and Engelmann Spruce for these added benefits.

Another “free-loader” or hemi-parasite is Scarlet Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata).   The plants attach underground “haustoria” to a variety of different species. Scarlet paintbrushes, and other paintbrush species, are blooming at different elevations in Jackson Hole.

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Cinquefoils (Potentilla spp.) appear pretty much everywhere. Research indicates that the yellow- to cream-colored, 5-petalled flowers of tall cinquefoils (Potentilla arguta/glandulosa) attract dozens of different types of pollinators, which is a good evolutionary trait for success. Different insects may or may not be abundant in different years.

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Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta) is one of the most commonly seen species at this time. For precise ID, one counts up to 25 anthers, notes the roughly marked stigmas on smooth ovaries forming a slight cone in the center, and sees several flowers held tightly together on sticky stems.  In fact, taxonomists are lumping two look-alike species and now calling the genus Drymocallis. Definitely plant geek talk, you can ignore.

By being a generalist, cinquefoils are always likely to have some pollinators visit in any given year. Note: there are several different look-alike cinquefoils.

Stickseed (Hackelia micrantha) is abundant now at higher elevations, such as Teton Pass.

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The blue flowers of stickseed look like fragments of heavenly blue sky.

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However, the fruits will not be so delightful—they have devilish fruits with barbs that will attach to your socks. You will be their unwilling disperser to new lands in a few weeks.

A few other tall meadow flowers are seen along Moose-Wilson Road and will soon bloom up higher:

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A mix of tall flowers along Moose-Wilson Road where there is plenty of moistsure and sun.

Tall Larkspurs (Delphinium occidentale) are unravelling their deep- to pale-blue stalks of flowers.

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Tall Larkspur has trumpet-shaped flowers that require bee pollinators to push deeply into them to receiive their rewards.

Several tall groundsels (Senecio spp.) will soon add bouquets of yellow blossoms. Typically, flower heads all have several yellow ray (petal-like) flowers surrounded by a pallisade fence of even-sized green bracts—often with black tips. The leaves are helpful identifiers to species:

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Butterweed Groundsel (Senecio serra) has oblong serrated or toothed leaves. Plants grow to 4-6’ tall.

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Thickleaf Groundsel (Senecio crassulus) has somewhat fleshy or succulent, smooth leaves that clasp the stem. Plants  are around 12’ tall.

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Arrowleaf Groundsel (Senecio triangularis) are found in wet areas—seeps and stream edges. Leaves are distinctly arrow-shaped and sharply toothed. They grow to 2-3’ tall.

Can you guess what this is?

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A flower bud of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum spondylium)! Cow Parsnip has the largest flower cluster (umbel) of any member of the Parsley Family in the west.

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Cow Parsnip  (Heracleum spondylium) grows in moist meadows and ravines where there is enough water to supply the very large leaves on 4-6’ plants.

Of course there are many more flowers to see.  However, this “botanist’s dozen” is a good beginning to your explorations. Soon we will add postings for flowers growing in the forest, wetlands, and in just plain odd places.

Have fun!

Frances Clark, Teton Plants

P.S.  We try very hard to be accurate.  If you see an error, please let us know so that we can correct our mistakes at tetonplants@gmail.org .  Thank you!

Spring Emerging – April 2018

Our first flowers are finally revealing themselves as the snow melts along road verges, fields, sage flats, and open forests on the valley floor.

Many early wildflowers are “spring ephemerals”: they flower before there is competition for light by larger plants and then disappear, leaves and all, within a few weeks. They have adapted to this niche of opportunity.  Often just a few inches high, they are best observed on one’s belly – belly botany.

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A few sturdy woody plants are also blooming. At this time of year they count on wind for pollination, as insects are few. We often overlook their flowers because they don’t have showy petals: wind cannot see.TNP16_MWRd_AlnusSalix_Spr_1_5x3_180

Spring ephemerals emerge from underground storage units: tubers, bulbs, and rhizomes. Stored starch fuels new shoots to stretch above ground into the light where they can then form leaves for photosynthesis, making new food. They will quickly flower and then store fresh starch reserves underground for the next year. The leaves disappear from the surface—leaving only fruits to release seeds.

The growth pattern of our wild spring ephemerals is similar to our cultivated bulb plants, such as snowdrops, crocus, and daffodils whose foliage will fade by the end of spring. If you let them die back naturally in your garden instead of “tidying them up”, the leaves will make enough food to form new bulbs for a show next year.

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The flowers of Turkey PeasOrogenia linearifolia – are tiny: 10-12 or more blossoms will fit on your thumbnail. The plants are barely an inch or two high and hard to detect among old twigs, leaves, and stones. The name Turkey Pea likely comes from their tiny bulbs.

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Turkey peas are miniature members of the Parsley Family or umbellifers. The two parted stigma is maroon and surrounded by 5 white petals and maroon anthers. We observed flies and less frequently honey bees pollinating them.

Utah and Sage Buttercups are spreading their bright yellow petals–they gleam! Both species look very much the same; however,

Utah Buttercup – R. jovis has 3-parted leaves and fleshy, tuberous roots. So far I have seen these frequently under cottownwoods and in rough fields.

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Sage buttercup – R. glaberrimus – tends to have undivided leaves at least the first ones at the base.  Stem leaves may lobed.  The roots are cylindrical, not pudgy. As the name implies, it is more often found in sagebrush habitats.

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Honey bees are a pollinator to this Utah Buttercup.  Note Turkey peas in lower right. (Photo by Mary Lohuis 4.20.18.)

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Bending down low you can catch a whiff of their sweet fragrance 1-2’ off the ground. The sun warms the soil and wafts the scent to low-cruising pollinators—flies, bees, honeybees. They pick up the scent, then the color. The slight change in color in the inner part of petals is a change in the UV reflectance of “bee yellow”: the inner part is a contrasting bull’s-eye to the pollinator.

Spring BeautyClaytonia lanceolata – is beginning to appear. Two opposite leaves expand and 1 to several flowers will slowly stand up in between.   White to pinkish peals are striped pink, drawing in pollinators to open saucers of flowers serving nectar.

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YellowbellsFritillaria pudica – have been sighted! The 6 yellow tepals (3 sepals and 3 petals) dangle down forming a bell. Pollinators key into the changing of color at the base of the flower: green then reddish—indicating different stages of fertility.

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By all appearances Steer’s-heads – Dicentra uniflora – are the quintessential western spring flower with their distinctly bovine design.  The flowers serve to attract bees that can navigate the complex flowers to reach the nectar reward at the base. Bluish leaves are divided several times into rounded lobes and are toxic. Dicentra seeds are dispersed by ants.

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The Bleeding Heart (Fumatory) Family includes our ornamental bleeding hearts – Dicentra spectabilis – and our local species Golden Corydalis – Corydalis aurea – which can be seen along Game Creek in late April.

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Woody plants – With the lengthening of the days, buds begin to exude a hormone, auxin, which then spreads down woody stems stimulating cell division of the cambium—the stem tissue that encircles the stem just below the bark.  New vessels (xylem) enable water and nutrients from the roots to reach newly expanding shoots and flowers.

Typically, early spring shrubs and trees are wind pollinated. There is plenty of wind and relatively few insects about. Plants colonize open areas where there is little interference by leaves or trunks for pollen to blow from male to female flowers of the same species.

Most flowers are either male or female and come out at slightly different times or are on separate plants altogether to assure cross-fertilization—a mixing of genotypes.

AldersAlnus incana – are dangling their 2-3” long male catkins over the wetlands along Moose-Wilson Road and elsewhere. If you can get up close without getting your feet wet, you can look for the deep-maroon 1/4″ female catkins nearby on the same branch. They have scarlet stigmas which capture the pollen. You can also find last year’s tough 1” woody female “cones”. Male catkins wither away after they have released their pollen.

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AspensPopulus tremuloides – Fuzzy, silvery catkins are emerging on some trees but not others, depending on the clone. Male and female flowers are on separate trees and separate clones.  Below female catkins extend their maroon stigmas to catch the wind-dispersed pollen.

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Closely related to aspens, Cottonwood – Populus spp. – buds are bursting. Cottonwoods also have male and female plants. One can smell the distinctive odor of the balsam “oil”. The oil is popularly used as a salve and for aromatherapy.  In the photo below, male catkins are just emerging–note red anthers, also the sticky, fragrant sap on the bud scales.

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Pussy WillowsSalix spp. – Since childhood, many of us have loved pussy willows for their silky soft catkins. There are dozens of different types of pussy willows in Jackson Hole, with catkins ranging in size from ½-3” and the leaves of different sizes, shapes and textures. ID to species is very difficult, but the genus Salix is easy to determine. Buds have one covering or scale. Watch as this cap is pushed off as the catkins expand.

While I used to think willows were wind pollinated, in fact many willows are insect pollinated. The tiny scales hidden in the silvery hairs of the upright catkins have nectar glands at their base. UV light and perhaps the shiny catkin hairs attract bees and flies to this reward.  Vistors then carry pollen to a separate female plant. Look for anthers in the males  catkins (shown below) and stigmas in the females to know which gender the shrub is.

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Yellow willow stems are obvious in spring. Carotenoids produce yellow and orange hues (the same pigment that colors our carrots!).  These pigments help trap certain wavelengths to aid photosysntheis while at the same time protecting cells from harmful rays.  Willows are taking advantage of the bright unshadowed light for a jump start to growth in spring.

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April is a wonderfully subtle time of year when a few blooms count for much pleasure. I hope you can venture outside and enjoy it!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

4.22.18

As always, we appreciate any corrections.  Please email tetonplants@gmail.com