Time to Hike for Subalpine to Alpine Flowers before they Fade

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

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

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

Starting from the top:

HappSuff_SympFoliApr_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180

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

HappSuff_fllvs_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180

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

CirsTwee_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_fix_3x5_180

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTNF_Rendv_CodyB_VwNUp_8.7.18_1s_Q1_5x3_180

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

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

HedyOcci_fr_SkiLkTr_81413_4aQ2_3x5_180

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

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

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

PediCont_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_3a_Q2_5x5_180

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

CastSulf_habfr_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

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

BTNF_Rendv_vwRockSpLp_low_SeneCras_8.11.18_2_Q1_5x3_180

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

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

SeneCras_lf_PassTr_71615_1_3x5_180

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

PackStrecf_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_fix_5x3_180

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

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

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

SympFoliApri_FlCU_RkSprLp_8.11.18_1b_Q1_crp_3x5_180

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

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

GentCaly_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

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

SoliMult_habfl_CodyB_8.11.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

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

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

Liqu_Ample_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_4_Q2_5x5_180

Other species are much easier to identify and appreciate:

PrimParr_habfl_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_crp_3x5_180

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

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

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

AnemSp_frCU_Rendv_72415_1_5x5_180Some anemones are already setting seeds!

LloySero_fllf_GTarg_8.1.17_2_3x5_180

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Corrections and comments welcome!

 

 

 

Advertisements

What Blooms in Wildfire Burns?

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

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

IliaRivu_flst_AntFl_7515_2aQ2sm180

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TNP17_Burn_split_bark_8.17.17_1_3x5_180

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Meadow Flowers: Obvious Favorites of the Sun

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

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

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

34.B_GeraVisc_flCU_SkiLk_62613_1Q1_5x5_180

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

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

HeliUnif_flhab_PassTr_72714_1_crp5x5_180smfix.jpg

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

BTNF_Munger_vwdwb_HeliUnif_7.4.18_q1_5x3_180sm

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

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

HeliQuin_FlCU_TetPs_72412_1Q2

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

HeliQuin_lfcu_MWRd_7515_1Q2_3x4_180sm

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

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

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

ligufili_habfl_mung_6-24-17_1.jpg

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

Osha

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

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

B_AgasUtri_Fl_GrCanTr_62513_1

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

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

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

TNP17_vw_Tetons_Antflt_frTSSrd_6.19.17_1c_sm5x3_180

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

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

ErioUmbe_fl_BTTrHd_62215_3

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

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

Inv_Parnassius-Butfl_CraterLk_6.23.16_1_crp_5x5_180sm

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

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

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

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

Silky Lupine - Lupinus sericeus

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

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

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

A_PediBrac_flCU_SigMt_61613_1sm

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

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

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

CastMini_habfl_MWrd_72014_2_5x3_200

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

PoteArgu_fl_TetonPs_7.1.16_1_crp5x3

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

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

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

HackMicr_habfl_TetPsS_7.3.18_1_5x3_180_Sony.jpg

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

HackMicr_frcu_PassTr_62915_1CrpSm

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

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

TNP15_MWRd_Mead_Delp_Sene_7515_1Q2sm180.jpg

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

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

DelpOcci_fl_StrLk_7615_1sm180

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

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

A_SeneSerr_habfl_MWrd_72014_1web

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

A_SeneCrass_habfl_SkiLkTrHigh_Junc_72214_1Q2web

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

SeneTria_lfCU_StrLk_7615_1Q2_crp_3x3_180sm.jpg

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

Can you guess what this is?

HeraSpon_bud_PhlpsLkTr_6.20.18_1a_Q2_crp_3x3_180sm.jpg

 

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

A_HeraSpon_flhab_MWrd_7113_2crpWeb

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

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

Have fun!

Frances Clark, Teton Plants

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

Spring Emerging – April 2018

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

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

FHC_smellingRanuJovi_4.2018byM_5x3_180

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

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

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

Daffodill_Hm_4.22.18_5x3_180fix.jpg

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

OrogLin_FlSt_Pen_WilBrk_41012_1bsm2

7aOroLin_bulbCU_WilBrk_4912_1Q2-34x34

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

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

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

RanuJovi_flhab_Cluster2_MuriRch_4.21.18_1aQ2_4x3_180fix

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

RanuGlab_fl2_BltB_4.13.17_1_crp5x3_180sm

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

RanuJovi_flowBee_4.2018byML_5x3.3_180

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

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

ClayLanc_fllv_JosRdg_2614_1crp180sm

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

FriPudi_fl_SchwLd_bench_fl_52011_1a_5x3_180fix.jpg

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

DiceUnif_habfl_FllCrkRd_4316_3_Q2_crp2.jpg

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

CoryAure_habfl_GameCk_42915_1_5x3_180

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

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

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

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

AlnInc_fl_MWrd_51711_1csm

AlnInc_Flfm_MWrd_51311_1sm

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

12b. PopTrem_fmFl_MosCrk_42814_3b_crp_5x3_180sm

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

WyPl_PopuSp_BudMCU_AntFl_42415_6Q2sm

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

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

SaliSp_Bee3_GranCan_42815_1_4x3_180.jpg

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

SaliSp_st_Color_10813_1_crp4x4_180

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

4.22.18

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

 

 

Wally’s World and Aspen Groves – late June 2017

BTNF_Mung_WalWld_VwS__WyetAmpl_fl_6.18.17_1_Q2_5x3_200

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

BTNF_Mung_WalWld_Vw_PursTrid_fl_6.18.17_1_Q2_5x3_200

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

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

CastMini_flCU_GrCtr_73116_4_Q2_crp_3x5

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

CastAnguAng_ArtTri_WalWld_6.18.17_1_5x3_200a

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

CastAnguAng_flst_Mung_6.22.17_1_crp_3x5_200.jpg

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

CastLini_fl_PassTr_62915_1crpsm

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

 

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

LiguFili_flhab_TetPsTr_7413_1Med

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

OsmoOcci_flhab_LSR_6312_2_5x3

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

A_OsmoOcci_fr_PassTr_71714_1_crpPPT.jpg

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

PediBrac_habfl_Mung_6.24.17_1_5x3_200

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

PediBrac_flst_Mung_6.24.17_1_3x5_200

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

PediProc_flCU_mung_62115_3Q2_5x3_180

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

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

A_LupiArg_habfl_MWrd_62514_2Q2_5x3

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

A_LupiArgeRub_flcu_SigMt_61613_Q21sm

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

CastMini_habfl_MWrd_72014_2_5x3_200

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

B_GeraVisc_flCU_SkiLk_62613_1QWeb

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

Geranium richardsonii

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

GeraRich_st_GrdVwTr_7813_1_crpsm

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

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

AquiCoer_fl_PassTr_62915_2crpsm

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

Thalictrum occidentale - male flowers

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

A_ThalOcci_FlFm_PhlLk_6413_1acrpsm

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

ThalOcci_fr_WallyWld_6.14.16_1a_crp_5x3

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

ClemOcci_habfl_PhlLk_6413_1sm.jpg

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

ActeRubr_fllv_TrCk_6.12.16_2_3x5_200

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

ActeRubr_Fr_PhlLkTr_72114_1sm.jpg

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

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

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

One is pretty obvious–reddish stems and spotted flowers:

CorrMacu_fl_WalWld__612115_1CrpSm

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

Two are tiny, easily overlooked or even stepped upon!

MiteStau_flCU_PhlLk_6413_2crpsm_5x3_200

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

ListCaur_habfl_BlkRkTr_6.22.16_1a_Q2_3x5

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

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

ListCaur_inflCU_BlkRkTr_6.22.16_4_Q2_crp_3x5

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 28, 2017

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

 

 

 

Mid-June Blooms in Sage 2017

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

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

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

Two shrubs are blooming throughout much of the valley:

PursTri_fllv_TNP_61514_1crpSmWeb

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

SympOreo_flCU_TNP_61815_1fixSm

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

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

ErioUmbe_fl_BTTrHd_62215_3

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

LupiSeri_FlCU_BlkTBut_8711_crp_3x3

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

B_LupiSeri_habfl_AntFl_7513_2sm

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

LupiPoly_flSt_Cu_LupMea_6.17.17_1a_crp_5x3_180.jpg

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

IpomAggr_flst_AntFl_6.19.17_1_crp_3x5_240.jpg

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

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

PhloLong_flst_Mung_6.24.17_1a_Q2_crp_5x3_240

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

PhloLong_FlCU_Schw_8.16_1_x53

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

AgosGlau_fl_AntFl_71111_med

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

B_AgosGlauLac_fr_AntFl_7513_1aSm

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

2a.CrepcfAcum_habfl_AntFl_63013_1bQ2_3x5sm

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

B_GeraVisc_fl_SkiLk_62613

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

 

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

EregCong_fl_AntFl_62415_1

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

SeduLanc_flCU_ChitTr_YNP_72111_2CrpMed

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

SeduLanc_lvs_ChitTr_YNP_72111_crp3x3

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

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

PeriBola_flhab_MWrd_61413_2_Crp_5x3_200

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

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

AnteLuzu_Flst_LupMea_6.17.17_1_Q2_3x5_200

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

AnteLuzu_Fl_LupMea_6.17.17_1a_Q2_crp_5x3_200

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

MicrNuta_fr_AntFl_6.19.17_1_Q2_crp_5x3_200

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

MicrNuta_frCU_AntFl_6.19.17_1b_Q2_crp_5x3_240

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

BTNF_Mung_WalWld_VwS_WyetAmpl_PursTrid_6.22.17_5_Q2_5x3_180.jpg

WyetAmpl_flCU_191GrosVrd_71111_1v

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 25

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

 

Earliest of Spring Flowers

TNP17_BlkTBt_Sslope_4.13.17Spring is arriving at its own pace here in Jackson Hole. We are all eager to see flowers!

Early spring flowers hug the warm ground:

Best to hunt along south-facing slopes or sagebrush spots where snow has recently melted and sun has had a chance to warm the ground long enough to encourage both flowers and insects to emerge.

Glistening yellow saucers of Sage Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) are held just above the ground where sun adds extra warmth beneath the wind.   Often one can see large colonies. The north end of Moose-Wilson Road just west of the Murie Center road will soon be aglow.

RanuJovi_WBrk_4.12.17_1crp_rota_3x5_180

There are two look-alike species of spring buttercups.  This one is Utah Buttercup.  Can you tell why?

WyPl_RanuJovi_fllv_AntFl_42415_1_crp_5x3_180sm

Utah Buttercup (Ranunculus jovis) has 3-5 parted, lobed to divided leaves.  These plants were found in a remnant patch of sagebrush in Wilson.

RanuGlab_fl2_BltB_4.13.17_1_crp5x3_180sm

Sage Buttercup (Ranunuclus glaberrimus) has whole leaves.  Note the many yellow anthers surrounding a slightly conical set of pistils in the center.  These plants were nestled into the dry slopes of Blacktail Butte.

Tiny Orogenia (O. linearifolia) or Turkey Peas is barely visible amidst withered vegetation from the year before. This member of the parsley family has miniature umbels of dingy white flowers and narrow leaves. Hard to spot.

OrogLin_FlSt_Pen_WilBrk_41012_1bsm2

The flowers of Turkey Peas or Orogenia are truely tiny. Note the leaves are slender like grass.

7aOroLin_bulbCU_WilBrk_4912_1Q2-34x34

The underground corms store food over winter – appealing to “turkeys” or– here in Jakcson Hole — sandhill cranes and other critters.  These are indeed pea size. (Corms are swollen stems – note the roots come out of the base of the bulge, a clue that all above is stem.  Crocus is a corm as well.)

Steer’s-heads (Dicentra uniflora) are also a spring favorite which requires sharp eyes to see.  If you are lucky, you may find a stampede of Steer’s-head.

DiceUni_flCU_nrMurieCtr_52111_2a_5x3_180sm

This truly western flower — aptly named Steer’s head – nods just above its bluish-green, divided leaves (two leaves in this picture).  Pollinators push in from the sides. The plant is about 1-2″ tall.

Twin Bladderpod (Physaria didymocarpa) — featuring 4 yellow petals typical of the mustard family — is scattered in bunches on south-facing dry slopes, such as Blacktail Butte and above Kelly Warm Springs.

PhysDidy_flhabtop_BltB_4.13.17_1_crp5x3_180

The silvery tough leaves, which are shaped like a spade, are wholed into a rosette. The flowers are in clusters on longer stems.  Later they will form pairs of balloon-like fruits.  Hence the name Twin Bladderpod.

Several other members of the mustard family bloom early.

AllyAlly_flhab_BlkTB_4.13.17_1_crp5x3_180sm

A somewhat weedy native mustard, Pale Alyssum (Alysum alyssoides) has tiny 4-petaled yellow flowers clustered at the top of 1-2″ stems.  As spring goes on, these annuals, perhaps biennials, grow a bit taller and can form colonies in disturbed places.  In fact, there are two close look- alikes determined only by their fruits (fruits are important in mustard ID!).  A. desertorum has smooth fruits, A. alyssoides hairy fruits.

Earnest botanists and pollinators alike can be “fooled” into thinking a fungus-infected mustard (typically rockcress) is in flower.

ArabFung_vwflhab_BlkTB_4.13.17_1_crp5x3_180sm

Pseudo-flower — looks like this rockcress is in bloom….but not. Look closely.

Arabfungi_flCU_BlkTB_4.13.17_1a_crp_5x3_180sm

A rust fungus (Puccinia sp.) causes the mustard to look like it is in flower, deceiving pollinators into spreading spores to other plants.  The fungus gets its nutrients from the young plant.

The rust fungus causes the young plant to form pseudo-flowers. Growing into the leaves, using the plant’s nutrients, the fungus causes the leaves to yellow and produce a sugary substance and even fragrance similar to flowers. The yellow pigment, which reflects strongly within the UV spectrum, is particularly bright to the eyes of insects. Attracted, pollinators land and crawl around looking for rewards of pollen or nectar and “disappointed,” depart carrying spores on feet and bodies to more mustard plants. The fungus is spread to benefit the fungus, not the plant or insect. In another twist of the story, at a later stage the fungus on the same plant may produce another type of spore that can infect nearby grasses….and the story is even more complicated than this! We can learn much from our mistakes!

BoecSp_flhab_BlkTB_4.13.17_1_drp_3x5_180

Rockcress  (Boechera sp) is often a host plant of the rust fungus.  Here the plant is blooming without infection.

Hood’s Phlox (Phlox hoodii) is just beginning to bloom in sagebrush and grassy habitats on slopes. Its fragrant flowers are worth getting down on hands and knees to sniff.

PhloHood_flhab_BltB_4.13.17_1_5x3-180sm

Hood’s Phlox (Phlox hoodii) just beginning to bloom on Blacktail Butte 4.13.17.

Others plants to look for:  Spring Beauties, spring parslies (Lomatium and Cymopteris), Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica), pussytoes (Antennaria sp.), and more.

ClayLan_fllv_JosRdg_2614_1crp180sm

Spring BeautyClaytonia lanceolata – has 5-petaled, pinkish to white flowers in clusters atop stems with two, opposite, oval leaves.

CymoLonp_habfl_kws_42614_3Q1_crpsm

A Spring Parsely 

FriPud_FlHab_FallCrRd_41312_2fixSm

Yellowbells is a member of the Lily Family: count the 6 tepals and 6 anthers.

Let us know what you find!

Wind-pollinated flowers are stretching out on shrubs and trees.

WYHab_WL_MWRd_OWAlder_4.24.15Q2_5x3_180sm

Wetlands such as those found along Moose-Wilson Road are habitat for two wind-pollinated species in flower now.

Wind pollinated flowers are not fancy.  There is no reason to show-off to the wind which cannot see.  Instead, flowers are often very inconspicuous with male and female flowers often on different plants or different parts of the same plant to avoid inbreeding. Often wind-pollinated plants grow in colonies, to better the odds for catching pollen. Pollen is abundant, again placing more bets in the gamble for successful wind pollination. It is fascinating to look very closely at the many tiny flowers arranged in “catkins.”  See if you can tell which catkins are males, which females.

AlnInc_fl_MWrd_51711_1csm

At first rusty brown, then stretching to yellow, male catkins of alder (Alnus incana var. tenuifolia) dangle in breezes near wetlands. Each dangle or “catkin” includes dozens of flowers.

AlnInc_Flfm_MWrd_51311_1sm

A bit back on the same branch, separate, stouter female catkins cluster in 3-4s.  The female stigmas stick out beyond scales which protect them.

AlnInc_fr_41414_MWRd_1_cpsm

Later these structures will harden into brown “cones” which will open to relsease seeds in the fall. They persist into the next year, helping to identify this wetland shrub as an alder.

Willows (Salix spp.) produce upright “pussies” or male and female catkins, which are on separate plants to assure cross-pollination.

Salboo_Flm_CU_FallCrRd_41312_2_3x5_180sm

Some willows rely on wind to carry pollen to a nearby female plant–a chancy bet.  Others feature nectar glands and colorful stigmas and anthers to attract pollinators to do the job.

In the same family as willows (Salicaceae), Aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) appear “fuzzy” with long silvery catkins. Resembling furry gray caterpillars, 3-4” catkins have anthers tucked within small scales with tufts of hairs. See if the anthers have released yellow pollen yet. Can you find the smaller female catkins with red stigmas on separate trees nearby?

12b. PopTrem_fmFl_MosCrk_42814_3b_crp_5x3_180sm

Female aspen catkins.  Note the silvery white hairs which are attached to the greenish scales.  The marroon protrusions within are female stigmas.  Each scale protects the delicate fertile parts. There are dozens of flowers in each elongated catkin.

Enjoy investigating the flowers of spring. It is only the beginning of botanical adventures to come.

Frances Clark

April 14, 2017