End of Summer Flowers – August 2021

This summer has been notable for a late spring, then heat, drought, dashes of rain, and smoke. Flowers burst forth starting in June, sped along with the warmth, but then began to crisp early in many locations. Reports include tall forb and alpine flowers averaging three weeks early. 

Flowers still bloom along streams and shady canyons, and road sides are sporting late summer yellows in abundance. Fruits are ripening fast. Here are some of the most obvious flowers at lower elevations, which means they should still be going strong farther up the trail. Butterflies are active on these remaining nectar sources: fritillarys, coppers, blues, tortoiseshells, and parnassia, to name the more recognizable groups.

Showy Goldeneye (Vigueria/Heliomeris multiflora) is abundant along roads, in meadows, and up hillsides ranging from Jackson Hole to Yellowstone National Park. The cheerful yellow heads wave atop slender 2-3’ stems with mostly opposite leaves. Sometimes the rounded ray flowers are visibly lighter toward their ends—under UV light they look like bulls-eyes to pollinators. These “composite” flowers with both ray and disc flowers provide a showy and easy place for pollinators to land and gather pollen and nectar from many tiny flowers. Like going to a big box store.

Pacific Aster (Symphiotrichum ascendens) forms colonies of blue along roadsides and smaller patches in more wooded areas.

They bloom at various heights: mowed, grazed, or just left alone. One way to tell these blue asters from others is to look at the venation of their elongate leaves.  The veins outline elongate areas. 

Curly Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa ) has colonized along main highways and park roads. Early herbarium records indicate that they have naturalized relatively recently in the county. 

They tolerate drought and winds of roadsides with their tough slightly succulent foliage. Their sap is also thick. Flower heads are sticky and the bracts curl under, hence its common name. It has an interesting fragrance.

Golden Aster (Heterotheca/Chrysopsis villosa) also colonizes park roadsides and collects in dry depressions.  The leaves are clearly hairy, shorter, and the yellow composite flowers abundant. Flowers are now forming heads of individual fruits: each fruit with one seed inside is attached to a fluffy pappus of hairs that helps them disperse into new dry sites. 

Canada Goldenrods (Solidago canadensis var. salebrosa) have been blooming strong over the last few weeks. Goldenrods have a reputation for causing allergies. This is a bum rap. Wind pollinated grasses and ragweeds (Ambrosia spp.), which are found farther east, often bloom at the same time unnoticed. Wind pollen is light and abundant and designed to disperse on the wind, and therefore gets up our nostrils. Flowers with showy petals like goldenrods have evolved to attract insects to carry the pollen from plant to plant—pollen is relatively heavy and not flying about on its own. 

Canada Goldenrod has many slightly toothed, pointed, 2-3” leaves alternating up 2-4’ stems.  Tiny heads contain about 13 ray flowers. Here the many small composite flowers bunched together create a show signaling in pollinators who can perch and wander about for the goods of pollen and nectar. Also, there are many other tiny and large insect crawling in and about the flower heads, some munching, others laying eggs, some just hiding from predators.

For plant nerds: Two other common goldenrods are smaller, smooth all over, with most of their larger leaves bunched near the base. Rocky Mountain Goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata) is distinguished by ciliate hairs long the petiole of the basal leaves and 13 ray flowers per head.

Sticky Goldenrod (Solidago simplex) has smooth petioles and heads with only about 8 ray flowers. Flower heads can be a bit resinous or sticky.

Thickstem AstersEurybia integrifolia – are tough, 2-2.5’ plants seen in a variety of habitats and elevations.

Their flower heads have sticky bracts and stems, and its thick stems tend to zig-zag. Flower heads have deep blue to purple ray flowers surrounding the yellow to rusty disc flowers. Lower leaves are much larger than those along the upper stems.

Fireweeds (Epilobium/Chamerion angustifolium) were also notably early this year and some didn’t bloom at all. Those still blooming tend to be at high elevations or in moist or shady locations lower down.

If you observe closely, you can see the flowers change flowering stages. First the anthers (above) produce male pollen while female part located in the center is still undeveloped. Then the anthers wither and the female stigma matures (below) ready to receive pollen from another flower. This progression from male to female avoids flowers self-pollinating. Flowers at the bottom of the inflorescence bloom first.

Many plants are already going to fruit and seed. Their seeds, dispersed on the wind, remain viable for only a few weeks.

In high meadows where fireweed can be abundant, hummingbirds are important pollinators. They load up on nectar before migrating south. Hummingbirds lap, don’t suck, nectar. They have little bristles at the tips of their tongues and rapidly dart their tongues back and forth into their long beaks while hovering. Truly a feat.

Rufous Hummingbirds Turning Up in Unusual Places | Audubon
Rufous Hummingbird – National Audubon Society

Rabbitbrushes are flourishing right now, with more to come. They are particularly important for supplying nectar at the end of the flowering season: look for myriad butterflies, bees, and other winged invertebrates working them over.

We have a 4 common varieties of rabbitbrushes in Teton County. These shrubs typically range from 1-3 (4)’, grow in relatively dry, sunny conditions along roadsides and hillsides, often on disturbed soils. They stand out at this time of year. Once in one genus, they are now split into two. All have linear leaves and bunches of flower heads with only yellow disc flowers, giving them a similar appearance. The varieties can be difficult to tell apart!

Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosus) has straight narrow leaves and tomentose (felt-like hairy) stems. They smell when broken and when fresh twigs can exude a white sap – hence “rubber” rabbitbrush and nauseosus in the name. 

For the botany nerd:

var. oreophilus (above) has very narrow 1-nerved leaves, greenish tomentose stems, and smooth involucral bracts.  2.5-5’ tall.

var. nauseosus has white tomentose stems, narrow grayish green leaves, and tomentose (hairy) involucral bracts. 1-2’ tall.

Compared to Rubber Rabbitbrush, Yellow Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus) typically has twisted, often wider, leaves, often with stiff hairs on leaf edges (ciliate). Also they are somewhat sticky e.g. viscid, as in the name.

var. lanceolatus has hairy upper stems and often hairy leaves which are mostly 2-6 mm wide. Involucral bracts are hairy. More common and low growing at 6-18” high than var. viscidiflorus (not shown.)

See the next posting for fruits found at this time of year. https://wordpress.com/post/tetonplants.org/4696

Frances Clark, Program Coordinator, Teton Plants, Wilson, WY


Falling into Fruits – August 2021

While flowers are disappearing, many are in fact forming fruits. Some fruits are dry and brownish, others soft and berry-like, often turning red.

Three red berries and one speckled:

Walking in the moist, shady forest and openings such as along the Trail Creek and Cache Creek trail systems, you may come across the following berries on herbaceous plants. After the fruit photos we show the flowers.

Red BaneberriesActea rubra—are poisonous to us but not so to birds or small mammals. Its shiny fruits are arranged in racemes: stalks arise off a central axis as if all are racing away. Sometimes baneberries appear in white. It is in the Buttercup Family.

Three species in the Lily Family have elliptical to egg-shaped leaves with parallel veins.

Twisted StalkStreptopus amplexicaulis — has long arching forked stems 3’ high which zig zag slightly. Leaves clasp the stem and at each joint (axis) a single ovoid red berry dangles below. Take a close look for the kink in the pedicel where there is also a small gland (perhaps to attract insects?). Twisted Stalks often grow along stream edges. 

Fairy BellsProsartes trachycarpa –usually have two berries to match where there were once two yellow flowers at the end of each stem. Berries change from green to orange to a velvet red. They are not quite round nor are they smooth. The covering is textured and contains several seeds.

False Lily-of-the-ValleyMaianthemum racemosum – has a panicle of spotted fruits held at the end of 1-3’ arching single stems. In a panicle, stalks come from a central stem and then branch again, as if going off in a panic. The leafy stems arise from a thick rhizome underground.

While the speckled berries ripen to red, they are often scarfed up by birds or rodents before you see them.

Umbellifers:  This large family of plants was recognized by the Greeks for its distinctive flower arrangement. The Umbelliferae Family is now called the Apiaceae or Parsley/Carrot Family. The flowers are arranged in an umbel: spokes from a central point like ribs of an umbrella.

The dried fruits are termed schizocarps: they split into two parts each with one seed, dangling from a cool hanger-like structure-carpophore. When we eat “seeds” of dill, celery, caraway, cumin, anise, and coriander, we are actually consuming schizocarps.

The largest umbellifer we see is Cow ParsnipHeracleum spondylium — with its 3’ divided leaves with very broad leaflets. The stems are over one-inch thick, hollow, and have hairs that can cause a rash with some people.

Plants with big leaves need a lot of water to keep them turgid so you often see them near streams or in wet meadows.

Cow Parsnipis is related to Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), a highly invasive introduced species found in the East and northwestern states. Hogweed is highly phototoxic, meaning the sap combined with sunlight can cause a very nasty burn-like rash.

Sharptooth AngelicaAngelica arguta — is only slightly shorter but the leaves are twice divided with smaller leaflets. The schizocarps are more bunched and also have more ribs to them.–reminiscent of celery leaves, to which it is related.

The 2’ long and wide lacy leaves of Fernleaf Licorice-root or LovageLigusticum filicinum—turn a beautiful gold as they begin to dry out. (Below is one whole leaf)

Schizocarps are held up to 3’ high, are abundant, but are very small and fragile:

The flowers were also very delicate and lacy in their umbels. These plants can be plentiful in open meadows low and high. Their fragrant roots were used for medicine.

Western SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – has almost disappeared for the season; however, you may still find the elongate schizocarps dangling along a trail edge or meadow. Earlier they had a licorice-anise flavor to them. 

If you look closely at the thine dark-brown shiny schizocarps above you can see how the one to the right is split and the two sides are dangling from a very delicate carpophore. This is the same scheme of all the other schizocarps but they are so delicate we often miss it.

It is fascinating to watch the development of flowers to fruits. While we may bemoan the passage of summer, there are always botanical treasures to behold!

Frances Clark, Program Coordinator, Teton Plants, Wilson, WY


August 18, 2021

Shrubs in Fall: Fruits and Color – Lots!

Aspens are turning yellow and orange, canyons are flaming with colors, and fruits provide feasts for wildlife. It’s a great time to get out and observe the final flings of fall.

The Rose Family is one of the most beautiful and productive families in our temperate climes. 

In the grocery store we see a cornucopia cultivated apples, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, and raspberries. On sunny slopes and forest openings birds and mammals find a similar feast of fruits provided by the Rose Family at this time of year. The background leaf color helps accentuate the display of luscious berries. This is a great year for fruits which is good because our migrating birds, small mammals including coyote and fox, and big mammals including bears, moose, and deer all relish them.

Fruits of Black HawthornCrataegus douglasii – are dripping along Moose-Wilson Road, around Trail Creek, and elsewhere. Despite their inch-long thorns, these 20-25’ large shrubs or small trees appeal to bears which will climb into the crowns and scarf up the fruits. Larger bears will use their weight to bend over the branches.  “Crataegus” means strong and sharp—descriptive for sure. Leaves are oval with shallow lobes and many teeth and they turn maroon or scarlet in October.  Fruits are deep-red to mostly black.  Another species Red Hawthorn – C. rivularis – is scarcer to find and harder to identify – slightly redder fruits and leaves are less lobed. It grows in moister sites. They are unusual to find in Wyoming.

ServiceberriesAmelanchier alnifolia – are being picked off by flocks of robins, cedar waxwings, Swainson’s thrushes, and more as they migrate south.  Purple poop is apparent in coyote or fox scat – could be chokecherry as well.  

Oval leaves with teeth at the end often turn a mottled maroon. After a frost the slightly wizened pomes are particularly delicious—like raisins with a touch of almond. Note the round fruits are in cymes (the stalks are variable in length) and have 5 dried sepal tips sticking out the top.

ChokecherryPrunus virginiana – has more elongate, toothed leaves which turn a shiny orange to red. Fruits are held in racemes—on equal-length stalks off a central axis. The round berries (drupes) do not have sepals at their ends.  It is important to know the difference from Serviceberries, especially as the leaves fall off, as cherry pits can be poisonous. Also the twigs have a distinctive strong odor of prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid), a precursor to cyanide which can be poisonous under certain circumstances. However, the wildlife enjoy them equally to serviceberries.

Rose hips of Nootka vs. Woods Rose stay on the thorny shrubs all winter.  As with other roses, the leaves are pinnately compound—several leaflets coming off a central rachis. Hips are swollen hypanthiums—the merged bases of the sepals, petals, and stamens that swell over the pistils that turn into seed-like fruits (achenes) inside. The hypanthium is a tough, nutritious casing with lots of vitamin C.  The five dry extensions from the top of the hip are actually the dried sepals that surrounded the flower petals. 

Nootka RosesR. nutkatensis – usually have only 1 (2) hip on a stalk which is 2-3x larger than the hips of Woods Rose and they have longer sepals. Rose hips are most favored by deer in the winter. 

Woods RoseR. woodsii – has several hips together. I remember the name by thinking that many trees are in the woods. 

Mountain AshSorbus scoparia – fruits are abundant this year. Here again the leaves are pinnately “compound” and arranged alternately up the stem. The fruits and foliage colors are some of the most dramatic out there. 

The berries may not be eaten right away, leaving good sustenance for wildlife into winter. 

Shrubs with Opposite leaves:

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa – at first may look similar to Mountain Ash with big bunches of red fruits and compound leaves. However, elderberry is overall coarser in appearance.  Stems are finger-thick, the leaves heftier and arranged opposite on the stem, and the plant stinks.  Different plants have different concentrations of hydrocyanic acid that makes individuals more or less appealing to wildlife and can cause diarrhea in humans if fruits are not prepared properly for wine and jellies, etc.

European Black Elderberry – S. nigra – has been used to make whistles—the core of the stems (pith) is very soft.  People used to hollow out the cavity, add a few holes along the stem—and voilá a whistle!  Sambucol, an over-the-counter medicine, has been proven efficacy as an anti-viral flu medication. We have two varieties of Elderberry: S. r. var. racemosa has red berries and smooth leaves, S. r. var. melanocarpa has black fruit and slightly downy vestiture on the leaves.

Red-stemmed DogwoodCornus stolonifera – is a favorite and readily available landscape shrub. It has tidy, opposite oval leaves with parallel veins that turn a beautiful maroon on red stems.

The white flowers form bunches of white berries which are high in lipids—concentrated energy for migrating birds: They soon disappear.  Moose also love to munch – prune – the red stems. In Montana they say dogwood is “moose ice cream!” Dogwoods grow mostly along streams.

SnowberriesSymphoricarpus spp. – are sporting soft white berries. The Greek root of the botanical name means “to bear together…fruit”. Which indeed it does – like piglets to my eye. Some flowers were clearly pollinated, other flowers were not.

Sometimes the foliage—opposite oval leaves–turns a bright yellow under aspens, but this seems a bit spotty this year.  

The slightly mushy berries – soft like marshmallows – are not for us humans to eat. The berries contain an alkaloid chelidonine which can cause “mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.”  Sources vary on the level of toxicity—my thought is to not yield to temptation. That being said, Snowberries are hardy landscape shrubs and are good wildlife food with early leaves in spring and berries that grouse and others will eat. Our two Teton County species – S. oreophilus and S. albus – are hard to tell apart except in flower.

Related to snowberries – both are in the Honeysuckle family Utah HoneysuckleLonicera utahensis – also has bright yellow oval opposite leaves.The twin red fruits are long gone. 

When leaves fall off, the oval buds with 4-6 scales on relatively thick stems (compared to the thin twiggy stems of snowberries) help differentiate the two cousins during dormancy.

Mountain MapleAcer glabrum – is a very shrubby plant that can grow to 15 feet tall. Winged samaras await the wind to break them loose so that the winged seeds can helicopter to new lands. The rather skimpy, lobed leaves turn variable colors along our mountain trails and slopes here in Teton County.

Much more brilliant and barely in the county is Big-tooth MapleAcer grandidentatum. Joyce Batson took this picture last week along Rte 26 near the Palisades Reservoir in Idaho. 

The leaves are arger with bigger teeth than Mountain Maple and the samaras are broader. 

An Odd Ball:

SilverberriesEleagnus commutata – are dangling among silvery leaves in the Snake River floodplain and elsewhere. Right now the fruits and leaves are similar in color—the fruits are hard to see. 

Birds eat the berries and moose particularly like the plants. Otherwise, it has moderate wildlife value. The 10-15′ tall rhizomatous shrubs can fix their own nitrogen, enhancing their own growth and that of other plants nearby.  Where our floodplains are used for pasture, cattle tend to graze other species leaving alone the less palatable (to cattle) silverberries, which remain standing tall.   

For Pure Color:

Mountain Huckleberries – Vaccinium membraceum – color up along forest paths and openings. Foliage is more intense with more sun. The delicious fruits are gone, but the leaves bring delight to the late season hiker. 

Often overlooked (at least by this botanist), False HuckleberryMenzeisii ferruginea – turns a clear yellow in large patches along canyon trails such as Cascade Canyon. Below it is mixed in with the much larger leaves of Thimbleberry.

False Huckleberry leaves are oval, hairy, slightly sticky, and usually larger than its relative Mountain Huckleberry. And it can have a slightly skunky odor. The fruits are dry capsules, similar to its other relative azalea. For this reason it is also called False Azalea.

Birch-leaf SpiraeaSpiraea betulifolia – lines many woodland trails with a sweep of yellow. The oval, toothed leaves alternating up thin, rhizomatous stems contain salycidic acid – the same ingredient found in willows. Salicylic acid is the original source of aspirin, now synthesized as acetylsalicylic acid.

Of note, Spiraea is in the Rose Family, but does not have the luscious fruit of its many relatives. Instead, 5 dry fruits sit in each tiny cup of a hypanthium.

Found along streamsides or up canyon trails, Thimbleberry Rubus parviflora – has the largest “simple” (vs. compound) leaves in the valley for shrubs.  Lobed like a maple, these solar collectors are expansive, and turn bright yellow as they slowly go limp.

As shorter days and cooler temperatures trigger dormancy, the vessel system to the leaves is slowly sealed off, reducing available water and nutrients. Green chlorophyll dies revealing yellow pigments that have been there all summer long capturing different light spectrums. And then these too fade as their purpose is extinguished and leaves crinkle brown and drop. Buds remain the hope for the next year.

Different plant species have different arrays of yellow to orange pigments (carotenoids), and some manufacture additional red to purple anthocyanins in the fall if warm days are followed by cool, but not freezing nights. This temperature combination enables plants to produce more sugars to fuel formation of these extra pigments. Moisture can also affect the amount of color. So each species, each plant, and each year the foliage display is unique.

The season is very short. Enjoy getting out for the fall extravaganza!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

As always we appreciate corrections and suggestions. To get on our email list for program announcements, please contact us at tetonplants@org.

Wildflower Fruits: Diversity of Dispersal

Many of our showy summer flowers are forming fruits.  Now and into fall is a fascinating time to watch how plants disperse their seeds. Many birds, small rodents, even ants depend on them for food: eating them on the spot or stashing them for later, often leaving some behind to sprout. Look at the designs of the flying fruits or how others stick to animals or float away.  There are so many ways plants have evolved to give their off-spring a chance to grow in the future.

For beginning plant enthusiasts, here is a bit botany to help explain what exactly are fruits and seeds. To start, fruits mature from pollinated flowers.


Image from: (http://stickrathbiology.yolasite.com/resources/28%20Plant%20Anatomy%20Lab.pdf)

The ovary is nestled inside the petals, protects the eggs/ovules, and transforms in shape, size, color, and texture to form a fruit. The fertilized eggs/ovules become seeds which include a seed coat surrounding a tiny embryo and extra stored food—think about a bean seed as an example.

Bean seed embryo — Science Learning Hub

(Bean seed diagram from: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/)

Fruits enable the seeds to move beyond the shadow of their parents—literally.  Fruits are dispersed by wind, water, animal, expulsion, and gravity using all sorts of mechanisms.

Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscossissimum – catapult their seeds. A geranium fruit has five compartments (carpels) – each with a seed. As each carpel dries, it will spring upright ejecting the seed.


Parsley FamilyApiaceae – One key characteristic of this family is that the flowers, then fruits, are arranged in umbels with all branches coming from a central point like ribs of an umbrella. Members of this family are often called umbellifers.  Relatives include parsley, celery, dill, anise, coriander and more.


The seeds are “schizocarps”—meaning split fruits.

Glossary | FNWD

(Schizocarp Diagram from: https://idtools.org/id/fnw/glossary.php)

Watch over the next few weeks to see how the fruits dry and divide.  Birds, mammals, gravity, and wind can all play a part in dispersal.

Cow ParsnipHeracleum sphondylium/maximum – is the largest member of this family in the U.S. and is found along streams and moist meadows.


Its schizocarps enlarge and flatten and develops a beautiful pattern before they break apart.


A tourist asked if Cow Parsnip gave a rash like Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which is invading the East Coast. I did some research. The genus Heracleum contains compounds (flurocoumarins) in the hairs and sap that make our skin very sensitive to ultraviolet light. If we brush against the plants, get the oils on us, and then we are exposed to sun, we can get a nasty sunburn or blisters (phytophotodermatitis).  While each person reacts differently, it seems our native Cow Parsnip is not as toxic as Giant hogweed, which is native to the Caucasus Mountains bordering Southern Russia and Georgia and can grow well over 8’ tall. I have not gotten a rash from this plant.


The 3-4’ Sharptooth AngelicaAngelica arguta – was still blooming the third-week in August in moist higher elevations. The variety and number of pollinators on different umbels was impressive: flies, hornets, bees.


Various insect species can easily land and crawl about spreading pollen and sucking up nectar. Angelica fruits are ribbed, vs. flattened, and will also split in two.


YampahPerideridia montana – is still producing its lacey umbels of flowers in some locations, such as sage flats and burned-over areas at low elevations around the valley. Stems are about 1-2 1/2′ high with mostly linear withered leaves.


Some plants are forming tiny schizocarps.

PeriMont_frcu_DtcCrkRd_91713_1_5x5_200Yampah will also begin to store starches into their taproots, which will provide food for grizzly bears. People like to forage on the tasty roots, as well. (Carrots are in the Parsley Family, too).

Western SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – grows 2-3′ high. The elongate fruits are held up to waist high.


It is easy to sample the 3/4-1″ fruits, which while still green taste like licorice or anise.


The fruit of its less robust relative – Sweet CicelyOsmorhiza berteroi – has a sharp point and hairs to attach to passing socks or fur.


Colorful Berries:

Clasping TwistedstalkStreptopus amplexicaulis – has branched stems that typically arch 2-3′ high over streams or in wet sites. Leaves have parallel veins and clasp the stalks which zig-zag slightly. At each leaf node, formerly a yellow flower hung from a curled pedicel.  Now a single red, ovoid fruit hangs from the same kinked stem. Who knows why the pedicels do this?


False Solomon’s sealMaianthemum racemosum – had a spray (technically a panicle) of small white flowers at the end of the arching branches in June. Now each flower has produced speckled fruits that can be scarfed up by robins, thrushes, chipmunks, and such.


FairybellsProsartes trachycarpa – also bloomed in June with usually two pale yellow, lily-like flowers at the tips of the branches. The three-parted ovary has swelled into a somewhat lumpy, brilliant-red, velvet-like fruit which stands out above the bright green leaves. This arrangement is a clear advertisement to birds and mammals to come and get it.


Our local members of the Pea Family – Fabaceae – have typical pea-like flowers and pod-like fruits. The pod was the ovary deep inside the bright petals, and the seeds were the eggs inside the ovary (see diagrams above). While we think of string beans and snap peas as vegetables, they are fruits botanically speaking.

The blue pea-like flowers of Lupines Lupinus sp. – are still blooming in some sites, but most have already formed thick, hairy pods–technically a “legume”. (For botany nerds: legumes are single carpels that split down two sides–compare to “follicle” below.) Many pods have dried, twisted, and propelled their seeds – some up to 10’! Plants and seeds contain poisonous alkaloids in varying amounts, and while most wildlife can eat the plants and seeds, they are toxic to domestic livestock, especially sheep, and to people.


For those who wish to propagate lupine from seed, it is easiest to plant ripe seed in place and let nature breakdown the tough seed coat over the winter.  It is best not to transplant the young or older plants as they have long taproots that get broken, setting the plant back.  One helpful link: https://www.blogs.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/wapmcmt7129.pdf

If pollinated, each magenta pea-like flower of Western SweetvetchHedysarum occidentale – will produce a string of loments: essentially flattened pods. The winged segments–each with one seed–split off and are likely caught upon the wind to be transported to new ground.



The Buttercup Family has several variations:

Colorado ColumbineAquiligia coerulea – has 5 separate dry “follicles” each containing numerous seeds. Follicles split down one side. These follicles derive from separate carpels, typical of some members of the Buttercup Family.


The blue flowers on the 5-6′ stalks of  Tall DelphiniumDelphinium occidentale – bloom from bottom to top and out the side branches.  So the fruits ripen from bottom to top as well. It is interesting to observe that not all the flowers are pollinated–some just fade away.


After the blue tubular flowers are pollinated, the 3 distinct carpels enlarge to form 3 distinct follicles with many seeds inside. It is easy to see the similarity of these fruits to Columbine.


A third member of the family, Fendler Meadow Rue – Thalictrum fendleri – is usually found in the forest. Meadow Rue plants are male and female and are wind pollinated.  The “achenes” form only on female plants and likely just fall to the ground or perhaps a Junco or other bird comes and gets the fruits.


Its relative Sugar Bowls  – Clematis hirsutissima – has individual achenes that are attached to long hairy stigmas that help them fly off on the wind.  This plant is often called the Dr. Seuss or Phyllis Diller plant in the summer when it is in its “bad hair day” fruiting phase.


Other dry fruits:

Fern-leaf LousewortsPedicularis bracteosa – sported spires of beaked yellow flowers in early summer. Now the spikes are drying and dry capsules (formed from more than one carpel) are splitting open. Dark seeds are sifting out as the wind waves the stems about.


Bladder Campion –  Silene latifolia – has cups filled with seeds that shake out over time.SileLati_frCalyx_TrCkTr_8.26.18_3_Q2_crp_3x4_200

Leopard LilyFritillaria atropurpurea – has squarrish capsules that shake out seeds:


And perhaps the most pesky dry fruits that catch a ride on our pant legs and socks, as well as our dog’s fur, is Western StickseedHackelia micrantha.  The sharply pronged green to brown small nutlets are often passed unseen but are soon felt as they hitchhike down the trail and even home.


Composites get around:

While many composites or members of the Aster Family produce one-seeded fruits with fluffy parachutes like a dandelion, others have fruits nestled tight in heads.  For instance, Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentalis – has its fruits (achenes) standing firm on cone-shaped receptacles waiting for birds, such as Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches, to find them.


As birds avidly eat the fruits, they often dislodge some that fall to the ground. (photo by Susan Marsh):

PISI on RUOC 3 copy_crp_5x5_235

The same dispersal mechanism likely happens in Arrowleaf BalsamrootBalsamorhiza saggitata – with birds prying out the elongate achenes held within sharp protective scales.


Many plants can have more than one dispersal mechanism.  For instance, thistles–both native and introduced–can attract seed eaters which pluck out and therefore loosen fruits which then fly off upon the wind.


Keep on watching.  There are many more fruits and seeds to come, each with fascinating dispersal strategies!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

P.S. As alwasy we appreciate corrections and comments sent to us at tetonplants@gmail.com.  Also, look at the recent posting “Culmination of Composites–August 2020” for flowers that will soon be shedding wind-blown seeds.

A Culmination of Composites–August 2020

A variety of composites – members of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) – have been in bloom since the beginning of August, and many continue to bloom into the end of the month. Composites are at their flowering peak when most insects are also at the climax of their annual life cycles.  For instance, butterflies have developed from eggs to larvae to chrysalises to beautiful adults over the course of the summer.  They depend on nectar in their final days. These and many other insects are laying eggs in host plants for another year. August is a great time to look at both flowers and insects!

Ai_ButFly_Frit on Rabbitbrush_bySMarsh_8.23.20_5x5_250_Q1.jpg

(Photo of Fritillary on Rubber Rabbitbrush by Susan Marsh)

As some of you already know, the Aster family is one of the largest plant families in the world. The basic characteristic of the family is that many individual flowers are gathered together on a platform and surrounded by protective bracts to form a “head” that looks like a single flower—a “composite” flower.


(Image from: https://cronodon.com/BioTech/asteraceae.html)

From this simple flower “plan”, the variations multiply.  The 5-parted flowers can be “ray” flowers with their petals fused into a single showy petal-like structure, or less obvious “disc” flowers with the petals fused into a tube.  Heads can have a combination of both ray flowers and disc flowers, or all disc or all ray flowers and come in various sizes and colors.  The surrounding protective bracts are helpful ID features and fruits have distinctive dispersal mechanisms, as well.


Ecologically, members of the Aster Family offer an abundance of nectar and pollen in one location over an extended period of time: individual flowers boom and fade sequentially.  Also, the often wide-open arrangement enables many different insects to land and probe, dab, lap, and suck nectar and gather pollen accidentally or on purpose before they seek more rewards on the next similar flower. Insects munch on developing or ripened seeds, lay their eggs in flowers or stems, and otherwise make use of these often abundant plants.  Birds and small rodents are common dispersers of the fruits.

With this introduction, here are some common composites that have been blooming for the past couple of weeks.  We have provided some ID tips to help you look more closely.

Showy GoldeneyeVigueria multiflora – has several cheerful yellow flower heads waving about on thin 2-3’ stems adorned with oblong opposite leaves. If you look, you will see that there is a shift in hue from a lighter yellow to a darker tone toward the center of the “golden eye”.  Insects with their UV vision likely see this as a distinct bulls-eye.  Showy Goldeneyes are common along park roadsides and into dry meadows.


Curleycup GumweedsGrindelia squarrosa – are sturdy, dense, foot-high plants found along park roads.  The bright-yellow, almost glowing, flower heads have distinctive sticky bracts which curl under.


You are likely to smell TarweedMadia gomerata – before you see it.  An acrid odor arises from around your feet where you have stepped on it. You may wonder. “Where are they paving the road?”  Usually only a few inches high (although I have seen it 18” tall), these resinous plants have tiny oily hairs and small linear leaves. Heads have only a couple of ray flowers. This annual is mostly in disturbed sites and is considered a native weed.


Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentalis – grows to 4-6’ high.  The large oval to triangular leaves can reach 10” long and alternate up sturdy straight stems.  At the top are brown-black “cones” surrounded by a collar of green bracts.  The “cone” is the “receptacle” or platform for the many tiny disc flowers. Flowers start blooming from bottom—look for the yellow pollen, and spiral up over a couple of weeks to the top. These tiny flowers attract dozens of pollinators! In one large meadow with thousands of coneflowers, I witnessed bees on one-in-20 cones, often more than 1 bee/flower head, and myriad Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies, all gathering pollen and nectar from these abundant “disc” flowers. Later Pine Siskins and other birds will pluck out the seeds. Again, it is likely the flowers project a UV signal that our human eyes cannot detect.


Rayless ArnicaArnica parryi – is also composed of only “disc” flowers, unlike its much more admired relatives which have showy heads of both ray and disc flowers.  Note the bracts are even in size and the leaves are opposites, as in all arnicas.


Canada GoldenrodSolidago canadensis – is perhaps one of the most important flowers for biodiversity in the U.S. according to Dr. Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware*.  Abundant from East to West, the 2-3’ flowers colonize large areas. Here they spread best in relatively moist soils.  By mid-August, they produce hundreds of tiny yellow flower heads that attract pollinators of all sorts. Other insects burrow into the stems to over-winter or lay eggs. Many birds depend on the bugs for their nutrition.


Goldenrod is not responsible for our allergies: Their showy flowers have evolved to attract insects to deliver the heavy pollen. However, often unseen nearby are plants that rely on wind to disperse pollen—such as grasses and soon sagebrush. Wind-dispersed pollen is much lighter and can lodge in nostrils and eyes.

Oregon DaisyErigeron speciosus – is one of a few showy blue daisies (vs asters below) that bloom into late summer. Typically, Erigerons have many, often narrow, ray flowers surrounding many yellow disc flowers. Even-sized bracts ring the flower heads like a palisade fence. One- to three-inch oval leaves alternate up the stem. These plants are showy and sturdy enough to be good garden plants!


Leafybract AsterSymphyotrichum foliaceum/cusickii – is 1-3’ tall, has large alternate leaves which can be 4-6” long near the base, smaller near the top.  The blue flower heads are surrounded by “leafy” bracts of different sizes which are arranged roughly like shingles on a roof. This species comes in various varieties, but here we group them as one.


Pacific AsterSymphyotrichum ascendens – is a tough 1-2’ plant that seems to thrive along roadsides.


The light-blue flower heads have tidy bracts that look like well-placed shingles. The narrow leaves have veins that form elongate patterns which help determine this particular species.


Engelmann AsterEucephalus engelmannii – is readily identified by its 4-5′ stems cloaked by alternating 4-6” leaves that retain their size as they spiral up the stem.


The large white flower heads are surrounded by a distinctive set of bracts. This is a very common plant in aspen groves and higher elevation meadows.


Thickstem AsterEurybia integrifolia – thrives from sagebrush flats in the valley floor up to 9,000’ subalpine meadows. Stems are not only thick and sticky but have a bit of a zig-zag at the nodes where each leaf alternates up the stem. Deep purplish-blue flowers are protected by hefty protruding bracts covered by sticky hairs. All sorts of insects come in to pollinate them and others try to eat them…sometimes getting stuck in the forest of glutinous hairs.


Musk Thistle – Carduus nutans – is a monster of a composite.  This invasive exotic can grow up to 7’ tall sporting multiple stems with elongate lobed leaves, all armed with ferocious spines. However, it is hard not to admire the 2+” flower heads for their gorgeous color. Insects galore come to gather pollen and nectar. And recently I have witnessed pine siskins and a downy woodpecker relish the fruits.


Each fruit (technically an “achene”–a dry case with one seed inside – like a sunflower seed) is attached to a sail of fluff. Hundreds, thousands, of fruits are dispersed by the wind, seeding into pastures and along trail edges, where new plants sprout up quickly to outcompete our natives. USDA has designated  musk thistle a noxious weed. Our local Teton County Weed and Pest https://www.tcweed.org/ can help land owners control it on their property.


Rabbitbrushes lure myriad butterflies, bees, and flies at the end of the growing season when nectar and pollen supplies are shriveling up.  Both species do well on dry, often disturbed sites such as roadsides, construction sites, and cliff edges.

Rubber RabbitbrushEricameria nauseosa – has a white sticky sap that has been investigated as a form of rubber—hence its common name. “Nauseosa” likely comes from the very strong fragrance and taste of  broken twigs. Twigs are typically covered in a layer of fine white hairs – tomentum – and are rather flexible. Leaves are very narrow up to 4” long on shrubs that can be 2-4’ high and wide. The many elongate disc flowers attract a hubbub of late summer pollinators.


Douglas RabbitbrushChrysothamus viscidifolus – is best identified by its twisted leaves with resinous or “viscid” glands.


The stems do not have hairs. It comes in several varieties, but this is the most common one I have seen. Typically shrubs are only a foot or so high.


While most of these flowers will be fading in color, another composite is just beginning to bloom–Sagebrush!  However, their flowers are wind-pollinated and, therefore, often go unnoticed.

Many of these same flowers and more are featured on past Teton Plants posts.  Look into the TetonPlants.org archives for more images and info.

Enjoy botanizing!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

P.S. As always we appreciate any corrections or suggestions.  Email us at tetonplants.org for your comments and to be placed on our email list.


Wildflowers of Teton Pass – July 2020

A late-July hike to Mt. Elly, south of Teton Pass, is an adventure through fields of wildflowers.

This post is in cooperation with the Wyoming Wilderness Association.   (https://www.wildwyo.org/ ) which promotes the preservation of Wyoming’s wild lands.  Peggie dePasquale, Associate Director, asked us to lead a group wildflower hike into the Palisades Wilderness Study Area at the end of July; however, due to concerns of Covid 19, we decided it was best not to be crowding around to view intriguing plants.

The following post encourages you to get out to see the flowers now along Teton Pass and other trails at similar elevations both in the Palisades WSA and elsewhere. Many, if not most, of the flowers will be the same. And they will keep on blooming at higher elevations or in cooler sites over the next couple of weeks.

The mile-and-a-half hike south from Teton Pass to Mt. Elly gently rises from 8,400’ to 9,200’ in elevation. The trail takes you across moist and dry mountain meadows covered in perennial wildflowers, through the dense shade of older growth Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forests where fewer flowers persist, and to a south facing prominence dominated by sagebrush. At the end of the trail before it descends into Black Canyon, you can take in the expansive view south into the Palisades Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

The WSA is one half of the Greater Palisades Area that encompasses a quarter of a million acres of wild and untrammeled land. To learn more about the management challenges that surround the Palisades check out the website for the WWA film, PalisdesProject.org.

WWA_TetPsTr_Vw S_1_PdP_7.22.20_5x3-200{photo by Peggy dePasquale, WWA)

On to Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers!

The following plants are organized more or less in the order of appearance. Most can be seen within the first half-mile to the junction with the cell tower. Numbers on the map by Susan Marsh helps to orient you:

Tetpass map_sm_7.26.20

Along with the photos, descriptions are meant to be helpful in identifying species. At the end of each is a rating of “relative frequency” for this trail: R-Rare, O-Occasional, F-Frequent – C-Common, A-Abundant, LA – Locally Abundant e.g. a plentiful in only one or two places.

Here is a diagram of the basic flower parts to help you to see and identify the flowers – fun puzzles! (image from greenandvibrant.com)

Parts of a Flower and Their Functions (With Diagram) | Green and ...

1.To start, climb up the trail (not the access road) through large old trees:

You will see two very large trees with flaking bark, Engelmann SprucePicea engelmannii. It has square, pointed, stiff needles that sit on little pegs. These sharp needles are typical of spruce. Cones dangle down and stay intact. They are often stashed by red squirrels for their winter food supply. O


Look for 3 small trunks at the bend in the trail that are mostly gray and smooth with horizontal lines of bumps. These are Subalpine FirsAbies lasciocarpa. The bumps are filled with a sticky resin that helps defend the tree from boring predators. The resin has been used by humans for sealing seams of canoes. The wood is brittle and used for light construction. The individual needles are flat, blunt, and feel soft.  They are “friendly firs.” Cones stand up on the upper branches and the scales and seeds will fall off when they ripen in the fall.

AbieLasc_br_GraCan_61011_3x5_180blgThese two tree species are stalwarts of the higher elevation “spruce/fir” forests seen around Jackson Hole and south into the Snake River Range of the Palisades WSA.  They grow where there is sufficient moisture/snow.

In the understory are several large 6-10’ shrubs of Mountain AshSorbus scoparia. The leaves are divided into shiny leaflets arranged along a central stalk—”pinnately divided”. These “compound” leaves alternate along the woody stem. The sprays of small white flowers are fading and will produce bunches of red-orange berries in the fall that are relished by bears, small mammals, and birds. SorbScop_habfl_TetPs_7.20.20_1_Q2_5x3_200blg

2. As you step out into the sunny slope, you will see several of the most common species found in mountain meadows.  A combination of harsh winds and a late-growing season makes it hard for trees to survive. Herbaceous perennials use food stored in roots and underground stems to shoot up fast when the snow melts. New leaves take advantage of the long days of our short summers. It is amazing how such abundant biomass is produced each summer from bare ground.

BTNF_TetPs_Flmix__1_7.20.20_2_Q1_5x3_200blgFern-leaf LovageLigusticum filicinum Tall 3-4’ plants hold up clusters of lacey white flowers. Leaves are finely dissected and skirt the stems to 2-3’. Abundant in montane parks and aspen groves. The shaggy thick fragrant roots have been used medicinally by Native Americans. C LiguFili_flhab_TetPs_7.20.20_1_Q1_5x3_200_blg

Lovage is just one of several members of the Parsley or Carrot Family – Apiaceae –  seen on this trail. The tiny 5-parted flowers are held up in umbels. Umbels arise from a single point, like ribs to an umbrella. The dry fruits are schizocarps, which split in half. Often the fruits and/or foliage are fragrant. Leaves are usually dissected – think carrots and parsley. This family includes cumin, anise, dill, and several other fragrant herbs.  Many have been used medicinally.

Western SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – is a 2-3’ tall member of the Parsley Family. The delicate umbels of tiny green-yellow flowers are now forming 1” elongated, licorice-flavored fruits—have a taste! Sweetroot is fruiting at the beginning of the trail, but flowering farther along. The compound leaves look like those of its relative celery.  Meadows and open forests. C


The ever popular Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscosissimum – is one of the most common and persistent flowers seen right now. Note the 5 pink petals with nectar guides converging on the center which attract many insects to pollinate the flowers. A bit later the dried fruits will catapult the seeds to new ground. The sticky hairs trap and can actually absorb nutrients from tiny insects. A


Silvery LupineLupinus argenteus – is the common lupine of montane meadows and forests (vs. Silky Lupine – L. sericeus – of dry sage flats). A member of the Pea Family, it has stalks of many fragrant small blue pea-like flowers. The upright back of the flower, called the “banner”, is smooth (vs hairy in the Silky Lupine). Like all lupines, the leaves are palmately divided. Also, lupines can fix nitrogen with the aid of bacteria in their roots, and it is often the host for semi-parsitic paintbrushes. C


Blue FlaxLinum lewisii – 5-petaled flowers face up to capture the blue of the sky. The leaves are soft and narrow, alternately arranged along 1-2’ swaying stems. The long strong fibers of a European flax – L. usitatissimum – are used to make linen. This genus also supplies flax seed and linseed oil. C


Fern-leaf LousewortPedicularis bracteosa – 3-4’ plants have spires of yellow, hooded flowers. The pinnately divided, roughly toothed leaves look fern-like. Fading at the start of the trail, it is just flowering at the end. Meadows and open forest. C


Colorado ColumbineAquilegia coerulea – Elegant 5-parted flowers have flaring white sepals; the white tubular petals form 2”-long spurs trailing out the back; and many yellow anthers. Leaves are delicately dissected into 9 parts. These 24” plants are pollinated by moths and hummingbirds that can hover and extend their mouth parts deep into the spurs to reach nectar. In the process, the pollinator’s head/body is showered with pollen. When it visits another flower, the female sticky stamens tag the pollen. Consequently, 3 dry capsules with seeds will form. Moist montane. F


3. After a bit of forest, the trail goes along a drier slope:

Coiled Lousewort – Pedicularis contorta – grows along the trail edge and up the dry slope. This species rarely exceeds a foot in height, and often grows in groups of single-stemmed plants. The deeply divided leaves help in identifying it; compare to the more open, fern-like leaves of Bracted (or Fernleaf) Lousewort. PediCont_flhab_TetPs_7.20.20_1_Q2_crpBlogIts creamy white flowers just fit the shape of particular pollinators, often bumblebees. A bee lands, vibrates its wings, and dislodges the pollen down the coiled “beak” onto its back.  At the next flower, the female stigma is designed to reach pollen stuck between the head and thorax—where the bee can’t reach it. A very precise operation. The divided leaves help in ID. Drier locations. F


Edible Valerian or Tobacco RootValeriana edulis – 3’ robust plants hold up candle-arbors of small white flowers, which then form fluffy fruits. A pair of 8-10” stem leaves are pinnately divided. The basal leaves are entire and elongate to 8-10”. The thick roots have a peculiar odor and taste, and to some noses stink like “sweaty socks”; however, it is nutritious sustenance with its large fleshy root, and it has been used by humans for food. F-C


Western Sweetvetch – Hedysarum occidentale – The magenta pea-like flowers dangle from 12-18” stems, which will mature into uniquely flattened segmented pods. The leaves are pinnately compound with 1.5” elongate leaflets which have obvious veins. Plants form bright, untidy clumps to 3’ tall. More farther down the trail. Montane meadows. O


4. At the end of this stretch where the trail curves sharply to the right,


a large Douglas fir – Pseudostuga menziesii – stands out on the ledge to the left. These trees are more drought tolerant than spruce and fir. Their thick rugged bark helps it withstand low-intensity fires frequent in drier habitats. It is hard to reach the branches here, but the needles are similar to fir—soft and flat, but with a bit of a stalk to them.  The dangling cones have distinctive “bracts” which some say look the tail and two back feet of a mouse diving for cover under each scale. O


As you come around the corner, several new flowers attract attention on an extensive dry south-facing slope:

Blue Penstemons or Beardtongues – Look for stalks of blue tubular flowers and opposite leaves. The flowers have 5 short sepals and 5 fused petals that form a tube that flares out at the end with a 3-lobed lower lip. Four male stamens are curled up inside at the top of the tube. A fifth sterile stamen, more or less straight, lies at the base of the flower, and has hairs at the tip – giving the name “beardtongue”— say ahh!.  Although penstemons are easy to ID to genus, species ID requires lots of fine details. We have identified these two for you:

Low – Penstemon humilis – small 8-12” tall, with deep blue flowers with a bit of pink at the base; dry slopes. O

PensHumi_flst_TetPs_7.20.20_1_Q1_blogWasatch – Penstemon cyananthus – mid-sized plants average 18-24” tall; Dry to moist slopes. F


Paintbrushes – Castilleja spp.can be confusing to identify in part because they hybridize and colors vary within a species. Many species are hemi-parasitic, their roots connect to roots of other plant species, such as lupines and sagebrush, and siphon extra nutrients to help them grow.


In general, the leaves alternate up the stems.  Flowers have a unique design: flowers have a colorful bract (shown to right) under each flower. Each flower has a colorful calyx tube which is lobed. It surrounds the galea = tube of fused petals. The stigma and anthers are protected inside. Here the stigma sticks out from the green and red galea.

Here are some photos and tips to help ID three common paintbrushes.

Wyoming Indian PaintbrushCastilleja lineariifolia – The Wyoming state flower has very slender often narrowly lobed leaves. Bracts and fused sepals are also pointed and narrow, and provide the orange color we see here. The petals are green and form a the elongate “galea” which leans way out between slits of the calyx tube. Look for the stigma protruding at the tip. These tubular flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. Dry sites. F


Scarlet Indian PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – (we saw many on the first meadow slope, and more later)is more true red here. The flowers are bunched together at the tops of often-branching stems 1-3’ high. The bracts and sepals tend to be wide, unbranched, and pointed. Along streams and meadows, aspen and coniferous forests. F


Sulphur Indian Paintbrush Castilleja sulphurea – The overall look of the flowers is pale creamy yellow. The galea is often tucked behind the calyx and bracts. Stems 8-22” often branched. Subalpine to Alpine.


Sulphur BuckwheatEriogonum umbellatlum – is also common in sageflats and dry slopes of the valley floor. The pale-yellow to white flower clusters have a collar of leaves on 12” naked stems, and then small oval leaves that form a mat on the ground. Later the flowers will turn a rosy pink, and the dry fruits will be eaten by many small birds, such as juncos.


Scarlet GiliaIpomopsis aggregata – Bright red 1” tubular flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. Hairy leaves are deeply dissected into linear segments that alternate up 1-3’ stems.  Note, at first glance it might remind you of the Wyoming Paintbrush but the flowers here are much more symmetrical in design. Meadows and sageflats. F-C


Silverleaf Phacelia – Phacelia hastatais a lowly grayish plant with dingy blue flowers that is able to tolerate these dry rocky soils. At the end of the trail you will see its elegant relative. O


The Aster Family – Asteraceae – includes many familiar flowers. In this large family, many tiny flowers are arranged in “heads” surrounded by green bracts which together form what look like single flowers—a  “composite” flower. Flower heads may have showy “ray” flowers that look like petals and small “disc” flowers that cluster tightly together in the center. Some genera have only ray flowers, others only disc flowers.  Bracts and leaves are highly variable and help in ID. Fruits are achenes: a dry shell with only one seed inside. Think of your unshelled sunflower seeds. Some fruits are light and dispersed on a hairy “pappus” that floats them away; other achenes sit tight in the drying flower head until eaten by a bird or rodent.


Arrowleaf BalsamrootBalsamorhiza sagittata – is a prime example of a composite flower: It has a large yellow sunflower-like flower head with yellow ray flowers around many disc flowers that bloom over time. Green bracts surround the head. Note the foot-long silvery arrow-shaped leaves. This species flowered abundantly in the valley over a month ago, and is still blooming at these higher elevations. You will see more later. F


Two Little SunflowersHelianthella spp. – are also seen here and there along the trail and are common elsewhere. The One-flowered HelianthellaH. uniflora – has alternate to opposite elongate oval leaves and typically 1 flower at the top of each 2-3’ stem. O


The Five-nerved HelianthellaH. quinquefolia – has larger heads 2” across which stand up up to 3-5’ and seem to stare right at you. The lower 6-8” leaves have 5 distinct veins. O


Comparatively, Tapertip HawksbeardCrepis acuminata – is not the most showy flower, but together its many small yellow flower-heads form a yellow bouquet on top of branching 12-18” stems. The flower-heads are like small dandelions with all “ray” flowers. Each head has only 5-10 ray flowers and the surrounding few bracts are smooth. Note the 8” grayish sword-shaped, leaves with sharp lobes are mostly at the bottom but also alternate up the stems. F on dry open slopes here and in sageflats.


As the trail bends around and there is more moisture, there are places with magnificent mixes of species. These are good “review” spots.


5 Continuing along the dry rocky slope: more “composites”

Dusty MaidenChaenactus douglassii – are grayish plants only 8-10” high. The whitish flower heads have only disc flowers, no ray flowers. The leaves are “pinnately” lobed and silvery hairy. The hairs help to reflect the intense sunlight and reduce evaporation, thus reducing water loss. R


Rocky Mountain Groundsel – Packera streptanthifolia – has bright yellow flower heads with several wide ray flowers, and a center of disc flowers. The basal and stem leaves are highly variable as is the height. It shows up here and there along these dry slopes. O


Rocky Mountain Goldenrod – Solidago multiradiata has compact clusters of bright yellow-orange heads with many tiny ray flowers atop 1’ stems. Lower elongate leaves have stiff hairs along the edges of the petioles – a good ID character. Typically grows in dry rocky sites. O


Mountain TownsendiaTownsendia montana/alpigena – can be overlooked as it is a  very small plant that grows in 6” wide tufts and only 2-3” tall. This tiny aster-like plant has violet-blue flowers and yellow disc flowers. 1-2” leaves broaden toward the tip (obovate). Dry rocky, subalpine locations. R-O.


Another yellow composite that will soon be frequent along the trail: Houndstongue HawkweedHierachium cynoglossoides – leaves are oblong-linear, with noticeably hairy stems—hairs stick straight out.

HierCyno_lfCU_PassTr_71615_1sm blg

Plants will produce clusters of bright yellow ray flowers surrounded by blackish-hairy bracts. O


6. Just before you reach the access road and cell towers are two showy members of the Phlox Family.

The Phlox Family has fragrant tubular flowers with 5 flaring lobes. They are pollinated by long-tongued bees or butterflies that can perch on the wide petals and dip their mouthparts down to the bottom of the  tubes to reach their reward of nectar. Leaves are opposite on the stem.

Nuttall’s Gilia – Leptosiphon/Linanthus nuttalii – White very fragrant flowers cover foot-wide mounded plants. Leaves appear needle thin and whorled around the delicate 12” tall stems. Actually they are deeply dissected opposite leaves. Grows on rocky, usually sunny montane slopes. O, fading


Many-flowered PhloxPhlox multiflora – A reminder of spring in the valley, mats of tubular white flowers waft a wonderful scent. Opposite, “awl-shaped” leaves are about 1” long forming dense mounds. Dry open places. O – most faded here.


After the Cell Towers:

The open meadow has many of the same flowers as before: Balsamroot, Flax, Edible Valerian.

Cinquefoils – Potentilla spp: – become more noticeable. Several cinquefoils are frequent along roadsides and meadows. They all have 5 green pointed sepals, 5 bright to pale-yellow to whitish petals, and compound leaves—some are pinnately compound, others palmately divided–found at the base of the plant and alternating up the stem. Most are very adaptive plants and they can hybridize: They can be confusing to ID! You don’t have to bother with the particular names—just “cinquefoil” is fine. For the avid, here are three common ones found along this trail.  

Tall (Sticky) Cinquefoil Potentilla arguta –stands 2-3’ high, has “pinnately-divided” leaves at the base and up the stem, sticky hairs all over, and pale yellow (to white) flowers that are clustered fist-like at the ends of stiff upright stems.   F


Gland CinquefoilP. glandulosa – is very similar and at times hard to distinguish from Tall cinquefoil. However, the flowers tend to be on branches that are less stiffly upright. O


Slender CinquefoilPotentilla gracilis – has wide-spreading sprays of cheerful yellow flowers. The leaves are “palmately”-divided into 5-7 leaflets, mostly found at the base of the stem. This is a highly variable, common, and adaptable species. F  


7. Entering Palisades WSA:  Note the sign is posted on a fir tree.

BTNF_TetPs_WSA_sign_7.20.20_1_Q2_5x5_200blgYou will continue through the small patch of spruce/ fir forest to more meadow with many of the same species as before. Here we add:

Orange Mountain DandelionAgoseris aurianticum – looks like a large orange dandelion with its many ray flowers at the top of 8-12” stalks surrounded by elongate basal leaves. O


You may see also the more common yellow Mountain DandelionAgoseris glauca. O


Thickleaf GroundselSenecio crassulus –  is another composite that can be common in mountain meadows ranging from 1-3’ tall. Bracts are all the same length, smooth, and black-tipped and surround the several strap-like yellow ray flowers and many disc flowers. The base of the elongate pointed leaves “clasp” the stem. The fruits will have a feathery white “pappus” which will help the seeds disperse in the air, like a dandelion. O


Tall LarkspurDelphinium occidentale– is sending up 4-5’ spires of blue to white flowers. It is a lean relative to the profuse ornamental Delphinium/larkspur blooming in many Jackson Hole gardens right now. Look for its  relative Low Larkspur farther along to examine how the flowers work. O


Sugar Bowls – Clematis hirsutissimais often nicknamed “Dr Seuss plant” for its clusters of unruly fluffy fruits on top of 2’ tall 3’ wide plants.

ClemHirs_fr_PassTr_72714_1_5x3_180These fruits come after the early blooming flowers mature. Flowers have four, 1-2” long violet-blue sepals (there are no petals) that form an elongate, thickened, bell-shaped flower.

ClemHirs_flhab_TetPsS_7.3.18_1_Q2_5x3_180The large opposite leaves are dissected into elongate leaflets. Sugar Bowls are considered a harbinger of spring in the valley, yet it is blooming at end of the trail now!  O

8. Enter another large patch of old growth spruce/fir forest. Note the downed trees that remain intact for years due to the cold dry climate.  Little grows in the deep shade.  A large log serves as a handy place to rest, before you continue you up and on to more meadows!

9.  Got the blues! This meadow has a great selection of blue flowers:

Jessica StickseedHackelia micrantha – looks like a tall for-get-me not. Delicate clusters of sky-blue flowers with yellow centers have much appeal. Plants grow to 3-4’ feet tall with 4-6” elongate leaves, mostly at base, but also alternating up the stem. However, its barbed fruits which stick to clothing and fur are less welcome. The fruits help spread the seeds down the trail. C



Low-LarkspurDelphinium nuttallianum – Another plant that bloomed almost 2 months ago in the Valley, there are still patches here. The deep blue flowers have 5 flaring blue sepals—one of which forms a spur; 2 whitish petals streaked with nectar guides that stand up, 2 hairy petals that drape down. This array  guides pollinators into the flower past the mop of yellow anthers, to reach down to where there is a reward of nectar. They fly off with a dusting of pollen on their backs. If pollen is successfully transferred to another flower, 3 upright seed capsules will form. F


Mountain Bluebells – Mertensia ciliataDangles of pink to blue “bell” flowers at the tips of 3-4’ high arching branches. Oval 2-3” blue-green leaves alternate up the stems. Flower color goes from pink to blue when ready for pollinators. Found in moist meadows and seeps. LA.


Two blue aster-like species have begun to bloom along the trail.  They are actually Fleabane Daisies – Erigeron spp. –flowers have many blue to whitish narrow ray flowers and the bracts to their flower heads are pretty much all the same length. Keep an eye out for them.

Showy Fleabane – Erigeron speciosus – is probably the most common of the larger fleabanes in the area, growing at moderate and higher elevations. Many narrow ray flowers of a violet-blue color, ofen 2’ or more high. Leaves are shiny and they often have slightly wavy margins. O


Wandering (Subalpine) DaisyErigeron peregrinus – This showy daisy has light violet ray flowers that tend to be wider and larger than those of Showy Fleabane. They grow up to 2’ tall, and along this trail they favor the edges of forest where both sun and moisture is available. O


Late melting snow patch 100’ before the Lithium Trail. Wind has deposited the snow into a heap over the winter, and the deep shade of the forest keeps it from melting very early, so you can still find the first flowers of spring here.

Spring BeautyClaytonia lanceolata – bloomed in the valley in April and is just now blooming as the snow melts here. R


Snow ButtercupRanunculus adoneus – has glossy yellow petals which reflect sunlight. Weak stems are about 6” high and the leaves are divided into delicate long segments. R 


10. Meadow near End of Trail:

Amidst the yellow stalks of Fern-leaf Lousewort is Mountain/Alpine SorrelRumex paucifolius. Plants stand 1-1.5’ tall, with a cluster of 6-8” elongate leaves around the base and shorter leaves alternating up the stems. Leaves have a tangy flavor from oxalic acid. Flowers are very small but in numbers produce an intense reddish hue. Male and female flowers are on different plants. Different species of sorrels are used for food and/or medicine. LA


 Enjoy the view south into the heart of the Palisades WSA.

Looking across Mosquito Creek, you can see many of the area’s high peaks from Wolf Mountain to the south to Observation, Palisades, Starvation, and other high points to the west. The plant communities in the area include some that are not common in this part of Wyoming (curl-leaf mahogany; bigtooth maple). The area’s size, diversity, and beauty all contribute to its status as a candidate for wilderness.

TetPs_Vw_WBlkCan overlook_SM_5x3_200blg

11. To the summit of Mt. Elly:

Bear left up a short, steep slope through spruce and fir, and dying white bark pine trees.


White-bark pinePinus albicaulus – is a high-elevation species with 5 needles/cluster and tough 2-3” cones with large nutritious seeds. Clark’s Nutcrackers are able to dislodge them from the cones with their strong beaks and can stash 1000s of seeds each year, remembering where they placed them in holes on mountain sides. They retrieve this highly nutritious food to survive the winters. However, some seeds are left to sprout.  Both bird and pine depend on each other. Climate change is affecting the viability of this keystone species as pine bark beetles and pine blister rust have now spread into the warming high elevations. R


Silky PhaceliaPhacelia sericea – is tucked into the shade.  It is an elegant plant that stands up tall to 1-2 feet.  Stems are trimmed with coils of royal purple flowers, each with elongate, gold tipped anthers.  The leaves swirling around the base of the stem are neatly lobed. R


Dry south facing slope: Sagebrush is intermingled with several common species found in the valley below:


Along with Sulphur Buckwheat, Scarlet and Wyoming Paintbrushes, and Slender Cinquefoil, look for

Ball-headed Sandwort – Eregomone congesta – Needle-like leaves are paired up the 12” thin stems which together form delicate clumps. Each stem is topped with several ¼” white flowers, each with five sepals and petals, congested together. Dry sageflats and slopes. Here scattered on dry slopes. LA


Lance-leaved StonecropSedum lanceolatum – has small pudgy pointed leaves that alternate up the 4-8” stems or form rounded clusters at the base or axils. Flowers with 5 bright yellow petals. The succulent leaves along with a different metabolic pathway help them survive on rocky or desert sites. LA on rocky sites.



On the way back enjoy the abundance of the many different flowers and the large and small critters that depend upon them. Remember the freedom provided by the space and wildness of the Palisades Wilderness Study Area.


We welcome comments, corrections, and shared adventures.

Frances Clark and Susan Marsh, Teton Plants

Teton Plants is a chapter of the Wyoming Native Plant Society.  We are all volunteers who enjoy sharing the delight and intrigue of wild plants through field trips, lecture programs, and postings.  See past “What’s in Bloom” postings for more information on plants throughout the seasons.  To be placed on our email list or to get a list of the plants seen along this trail contact us at tetonplants@gmail.com

Also, contact Wyoming Wilderness Association for more on the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, and the other work they do.  WWA can also provide the list of plants on the trail.  https://www.wildwyo.org/

Teton Shrubs – Spring

The Valley is full of flowers in June.  So many so that here we present them by type—here are the shrubs, which come into their own when in full flower.  Separately, we will post Wildflowers in Sageflats and Hills/Sun and Wildflowers in Forests/shade.


Most shrubs are most appreciated in spring when they bloom, although some will have colorful foliage and fruits for a short time in fall.  The rest of the year, shrubs are usually overlooked as just green bushes or just twigs.  So now is the time to celebrate shrubs.

Note: Shrubs are woody plants usually between 6”-20’ tall with multiple stems vs. 1 or 2 trunks of a tree.

The following are more or less in flower sequence within their group.

First to Start:

WillowsSalix sp. –  There are many, many types of willows of all sizes. They are very important for wildlife: pollinating bees, nesting birds, browsing moose, and dam-building beaver to name a few.


We usually welcome their early spring catkins—pussy willows.  They come in male and female versions, are pollinated by insects (not by wind, as previously thought) starting in April.  By late June the female capsules are bursting with thousands of seeds attached to a tufts of fluff being dispersed by wind.  Along with their relatives the cottonwoods, they are creating blizzards.


The teensie seeds are viable for only a few days, and they must land on moist open ground to germinate. Only a couple of seeds out of a million will sprout and grow up at all. Plants, though, can propagate vegetatively from broken stems stuck in the mud, as along flooded rivers or around beaver ponds.

Utah HoneysuckleLonicera utahensis – has oval leaves that are arranged opposite each other on the stems.  The trumpet-like, pale yellow flowers are found in pairs, their ovaries attached at the very base.  Later twin red berries will loll upon the green of the leaves…but not until late July.


Oregon GrapeMahonia repens – is one of our few evergreen shrubs and is particularly tough.  It grows in sun or shade, often on very rocky soils.  Several thick holly-like leaflets form along the central petiole to comprise a compound leaf. In spring the “evergreen” leaves remain, although a bit tattered, until the new leaves replace them.  The flowers are remarkably fragrant and last a long time.  The underlying bark is yellow with “berberine” which has medicinal properties.


Mountain Maple  – Acer glabrum – has inconspicuous flowers that are pollinated by wind or perhaps some insects?  Each flower is usually male or female to prevent self-pollination.  By now in late June you can see the beginning of the fruits forming – the double winged samaras – that will twirl to new realms later in the fall.


The leaves are 3-5 lobed, with some saw-like teeth along the edges.  Often I see the leaves mottled with a deep red “fungus”.  The velvet red splotches are actually formed by tiny galls created by mites:  https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/velvet_galls_caused_by_tiny_eriophyid_mites


A June Parade of White Blooms in the Rose Family:

These common shrubs grow from a few feet to up to almost 20’ tall.  They all have five green sepals, five white petals, and anthers (the pollen bearing parts) in multiples of 5. These three whorls merge into a cup-like hypanthium that will later swell and protect the seeds. Hypanthium structures are common in the Rose Family. In the very center of this cup-like feature, sit the female ovaries and eggs that will form the seeds.  The fruits will be a combination of swollen protective hypanthiums and the mature seeds in the center. (image wikipedia)

Hypanthium - Wikipedia

All these plants are related to cultivated fruits we eat: apples, plums, pears, peaches—also in the Rose Family.  Our native roses blooms in July–very soon! and produce “hips” – the tough hypanthium with dry fruits/seeds inside.RosaSp_Fr_dis_CU_NER_11.11.18_1b_Q1_crp_5x3_200

More or less in order of bloom:

Serviceberry/SaskatoonAmelanchier alnifolia – has oval 1-1.5” leaves with a few teeth arrayed around the upper ½.  Flowers are arranged along a central stalk.  Being one of the earliest to bloom, it will also be the earliest to fruit.


ChokecherryPrunus virginiana – has 4-5” oblong, pointed leaves with fine teeth all along the edges.  The dozens of flowers are stiffly arranged on the long central stalk.  All the parts of the plant have a chemicals that can produce poisonous cyanide under certain conditions.  For instance, if cattle eat too many of the spring leaves they can become very sick.  Amateur entomologists have used the leaves and bark in jars to kill insect specimens.  On the other hand, western tent caterpillars thrive in their branches, and birds and other mammals will eat the fruits come fall (the particularly toxic pits pass on through).


Black HawthornCrataegus douglasii – are easy to ID with their ½-1” thorns.  The broad oval leaves are coarsely toothed.  The flowers are in branching bunches or cymes.  In August, the Moose-Wilson Road is often closed due to bears feasting on the berries.


Mountain Ash/Greene’s AshSorbus scoparia – begins to bloom in late June in slightly cooler locations.  The leaves are “compound” with many leaflets coming off a central stalk.  The stalk then attaches to the twig.  The tiny flowers form a great puff of creamy white flowers at the end of the stems.


NinebarkPhysocarpus malvaceus – is found in the southern part of Jackson Hole flowering at the end of June. Unlike other white bloomers above, it will have dry fruits.  Leaves are slightly lobed and toothed.


Yellow Members of the Rose Family Join In the Parade of Bloom:

Not all members of the very large Rose Family make luscious fruits.  While also having hypanthiums, the cups remain thin and brown cradling dry seed-like fruits (achenes) inside. For now enjoy the flowers.

Antelopebrush/BitterbrushPurshia tridentata – is especially abundant this year.  You can smell the sweet yellow flowers before you come over the rise of an open hillside.  Plants are often intermixed with sagebrush, growing about the same size.



The nutritious plants are valued wildlife browse throughout the year, but particularly in late fall and winter by moose.  Ants and mice relish the seeds.  Also these plants can fix their own nitrogen with the help of bacteria growing in the roots.  Therefore, these shrubs can grow in many tough conditions.  Note their small leaves are three-tipped like those of sagebrush, but they are greener overall, and the edges curl under.


Shrubby Cinquefoil –  Potentilla/Diasphora fucticosa/Pentaplylloides floribunda – is a favored landscape plant for its yellow flowers in early to mid-summer and its low maintenance.  It can grow in a variety of soils from sun to shade – but prefers a bit of moisture, especially when in sun.


Nurseries sell a range “cultivars” with white to deep orange flowers.  Our wild native is yellow.


More June Shrubs of Various Sorts –

These four shrubs prefer more or less moist and/or cool areas and grow into substantial plants.

SilverberryEleagnus commutata – has been flowering under the cottonwoods along the Snake and Gros Ventre Rivers from Wilson north. They are easily seen from the dikes and from Fall Creek Road.


The 2-3” silvery oblong leaves stand out in the shade on 6’-tall, erect colonial plants.  Hidden in the foliage are yellowish, highly fragrant tubular flowers.


Red ElderberrySambucus racemosa – looks at first glance like Mountain Ash with its white bunches of small flowers and compound leaves.  However, it is overall heftier with thicker stems and heavier leaves, and notably the compound leaves are opposite each other, not alternate up the stems.   Also, plants have a foul odor if pinched or crushed.  Its European relative – Sambucus nigra – is the source of sambucol, the anti-viral flu mediation.


TwinberryLonicera involucrata – is also a substantial shrub usually found near water. The 3-6” oval leaves are opposite on the stem, and the flowers are formed in pairs. (It is a relative of the early flowering relative Utah honeysuckle – see above.) Flowers are mostly yellowish and hairy with a “bract” at their base that can be greenish yellow but later turns deep maroon.  LoniInvo_FlCU_Lvs_7.6.16_2_Q1_5x3_180_blgKeep an eye out for caterpillars of Gillette’s Checkerspot butterfly (photo credit: Wikipedia) which require this species for their host.

Euphydryas gillettii - Wikipedia

Red-stemmed DogwoodCornus stolonifera – is loved by moose, other wildlife, and landscapers.  In fact it is an appealing “ornamental” plant for its tidy oval leaves set opposite each other on the red stems, bunches of white flowers,  and later white berries.  Red winter twigs are a cheerful contrast against snow. “Cultivars” have been selected with brighter red stems, variegated leaves, bigger flowers and berries.  The moose relish it as is, and the birds will carry off the fruits when ready. A great plant for a “wildlife friendly” garden.



Junipers are evergreen conifers.  The tree-like Western Juniper –  Juniperus scopulorum – grows in all shapes and sizes on our dry buttes.


This species has scale-like leaves.

JuniScop_lvfrCU_GameCrk_9.20.19_1a_Q1_5x3_180 The sprawling Common JuniperJ. communis – has sharp needles that are in whorls of 3 and grows here and there in sunny spots.  JuniComm_stfr_MWRdN_11.29.1_Q1_crp_5x3_180_blgBoth produce “berries” which are technically fleshy cones that are relished by Townsend’s Solitaires and Cedar Waxwings.  However, few realize that the cones take 18 months to form, starting in June, and only on “female” plants.

Not to get into the complications of “naked seed” plants and their evolution, suffice it to say that pollen is released from tiny structures,

JuniScop_flM_GameCrk_6.10.20_3_Q2_crp_5x5_180_blgand with luck land on females cones of a different plant.  You need a microscope to really see what is going on, but with a handlens, you can observe the first bulge of reproduction.


Others shrubs not mentioned: The gooseberries/currants – Ribes sp., various huckleberry relatives – Vaccinium sp., and a few inconspicuous wind pollinated species.  We save those for later.

Enjoy the shrubs of spring…more to come this summer!

Frances Clark, Program Coordinator

Wilson, WY

June 26, 2020

Spring Flowers Mid-May 2020

As the valley greens up and we need a respite from the world of Covid-19, many of us are out and about looking for flowers.  DryKnoll_NendNER_5.14.20_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180As I write, some of our regular haunts in Grand Teton National Park are still closed (but about to open!).  However, there are many other places for botanical forays.

Bridger-Teton National Forest has various accessible habitats such as more south-facing grassy slopes mixed with sagebrush and dry rocky slopes where the snow melts early.   Josie’s Ridge, Cache Creek, and the lower slopes of Munger Mountain are all good jaunts.  Dry hills to the north and east of Flat Creek Road; Crystal Butte near Jackson; Game Creek south of town; and Poison Creek southeast of Hoback are other accessible points.  Please always respect boundaries and watch your step—many of the plants are small and fragile.

Many common flowers are presented here.   Go to past posts of “What’s in Bloom?” for additional and different details.

Earliest flowers found to the south of Jackson a month ago are now fading but are still visible farther north: 

Turkey PeasOrogenia linearifolia – have the tiniest of white flowers and skimpy linear leaves.  The cluster if often smaller than the size of a penny.OrogLin_FlSt_Pen_WilBrk_41012_1bsm

Two early look-alike buttercups perk up the dried grasses:  Sagebrush Buttercups – Ranunculus glaberrimus –  have simple leaves—although when they stretch out they can have two lobes. 

Utah Buttercups leaves are 3-lobed from first emergence.  RAnJov_flCU_MurCtr_41112_1b_fix_5x3_180

Steer’s-headsDicentra uniflora – are easily overlooked until you get the search image of the leaves…then look for the  flowers which have an obvious western motif. DiceUnif_fllf_CrystBut_5.5.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Slightly later or in different locations Spring BeautiesClaytonia lanceolata – are sprinkled about in light shade or sun where snow has just melted. Leaves are opposite, and the flowers are pinkish with delicate, pinker veins that lead pollinators to the center of the flower.ClayLanc_flhab_MuriRch_4.21.18_1_crp5x3_180fix

Ever-popular YellowbellsFritillaria pudica – grace hillsides and sageflats with their charming bells.FriPudi_fl_SchwLd_bench_fl_52011_1a_5x3_180fix

As we move into mid-May, species found on grassy slopes and amidst sage brush include:

Yellow violets – Viola nuttalii varieties – have a range of leaf shapes and sizes which confuse exact identification to variety.    ViolNuttVallcf_flhab_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_2b_Q2_crp_5x3_180Goosefoot VioletViola purpurea – is easy to ID because of its distinctive webbed-foot leaves.ViolPurpVen_HabFl_DMansB_52113_1_5x3_180

Oblongleaf Bluebell – Mertensia obtusifolia – flowers dangle, changing color from pink to blue when ready to attract pollinators. MertOblo_habfl_GameCrk_5.9.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Shooting StarDodocatheon conjugens – folds back its petals and has little knobs for bees to cling to—it is “buzz” pollinated. A bee lands, hangs, vibrates its wing muscles and  then pollen grains sift out of the purple anthers and land on the bee’s belly.  The bee flies to another flower with a stigma sticking out which then tags the pollen. DodoConj_flhab_CrystBut_5.5.20_2_Q2_crp_3x4.5_180

Nuttall LarkspurDelphinium nuttallianum – will soon become more abundant and attract hummingbirds.DelpNutt_fl_SkiLakeTr_73111_3aQ1Sm

Dry slopes are some of my favorite spring botany spots:BTNF_FltCRkHills_vw_spring_5.8.20_4a_fix_%x3_180

Wonderfully fragrant Hood’s PhloxPhlox hoodii – has tight needle-like leaves with cobwebby hairs that help distinguish it from the later blooming Multiflora Phlox.  Flowers can range from light to dark blue on different plants of the same species.PhloHood_habfl_CU_NendNER_5.14.20_1_5x3_180_Q2

Low pussytoesAntennaria dimoprha – are often overlooked even when in flower – its tiny composite flowers are all male or female on separate plants.  Flowers are wind pollinated or females can produce seeds without a male around.AnteDimo_flCU_CrystBut_5.5.20_1a_Q1_5x3_180

Pursh’s milkvetchAstragalus purshii – has typical pea-like flowers emerging beyond a clump of compound ladder-like silvery leaves.  The flowers are creamy white. The genus of the Pea Family can be IDed, in part, by the two “wing” petals being longer than the “keel”, which here is purple tipped.AstrPurs_flhab_rock_CrystBut_5.5.20_1_Q2_crp_5x3_180


Bessey’s LocoweedOxytropus besseyi – has elegant fists of flowers above similar leaves to milkvetch.  The pea-like are very similar (except for its color!); however, the “wing” petals are shorter than the pointy “keel” in this genus of the Pea Family.OxytBess_flhab_NendNER_5.14.20_1a_Q2_53_180


Whitlow GrassesDraba sp.- were abundant on a very dry slope.  ID of this confusing genus of mustards requires the fruits to ripen.  Hairs also help!DrabSp_fhab_rock_NendNER_5.14.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Mountain RockcressBoechera sp. – is another Mustard Family member awaiting full ID.  All mustards have 4 sepals, 4 petals, 6 stamens – 2 shorter than the other 4, and a single pistil.  The pistils of the family grow into fruits of various shapes—the key ID feature needed. (photo by Susan Marsh)BoecSp_FlCU_rockcress_by SM5.14.20_crp_5x5_180

Desert PaintbrushCastilleja chromosa – is the first of several paintbrushes that will bloom over the next several months.  Its orange-red, day-glow flowers decorate dry hillsides amidst colorful rocks.CastChrom_habfl_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Below are some of the plants, which for some reason, have been given less prominence in past posts—not sure why:

PasqueflowersAnemone patens – are an early spring favorite for obvious reasons!AnemPate_flhab_CrystBut_5.5.20_1a_Q2_5x3_180

Diamondleaf SaxifrageSaxifraga rhomboidea – is often overlooked.  The basal rosette of rhomboid leaves gives rise to a single 2-9” stalk with a cluster of several white flowers. SaxiRhom_budlvs_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_2_Q1_crp_5x3_180SaxiRhom_flCU_ant_JosieRidge_52311_2_crp_3x3_180

Oregon GrapeMahonia repens – is common in many habitats, but we often forget to get down and sniff the wonderfully fragrant flowers!  But watch your nose on the spiny, tough evergreen leaves.MahoRep_fl_DinNM_513112_2_5x3_180

Wyoming KittentailsBesseya wyomingensis – have no showy petals.  The color comes from the purple-blue stamens that unfold to yield white pollen.BessWyom_habfl_NendNER_5.14.20_3a_Q2_crp_3x4.5_180

Best to get out now to see these early spring flowers before you are distracted by so many more flowers to come, such as Balsamroot!BalsSagi_habfl_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_1_fix_5x3_180Happy Spring.

Frances Clark, Teton Plants Program Coordinator

P.S. As always, we appreciate any corrections, suggestions, or other comments!

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. 


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. 


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


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


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


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


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.



D—! Yellow Composites:

Two spreading yellow composites can form large patches of yellow:


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.  


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.


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


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.


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:



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.


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.


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!


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


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


than Oregon DaisyErigeron speciosus (above).


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.


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.


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


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 :



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


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.


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. 


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


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


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.



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:




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:

OreoAlpi_flhab_Rendv_ 7715_1_Q1_5x3_180.jpg

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


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


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


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



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.



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.


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:



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



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


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


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.



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



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.



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



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

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