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

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

Along roads and low openings in the valley:  

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

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

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

Look closely at our two similar species of buttercups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parnassian butterfly species on Blacktail Butte 5.4.19.

 

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

Violets are flowering here and there:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Individual female flowers have stigmas…

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that fork to capture pollen.  No males in sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wetlands with catkins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your adventures into spring!

Frances Clark, Teton Plants 5.7.19

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Hike for Subalpine to Alpine Flowers before they Fade

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

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

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

Starting from the top:

HappSuff_SympFoliApr_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180

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

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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!)

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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.

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

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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).

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

PackStrecf_habfl_Rendv_8.11.18_1_fix_5x3_180

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

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

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

SympFoliApri_FlCU_RkSprLp_8.11.18_1b_Q1_crp_3x5_180

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

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

GentCaly_flhab_Rendv_8.6.18_1_Q2_5x3_180

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

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

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

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Other species are much easier to identify and appreciate:

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

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

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

AnemSp_frCU_Rendv_72415_1_5x5_180Some anemones are already setting seeds!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Corrections and comments welcome!

 

 

 

What Blooms in Wildfire Burns?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Meadow Flowers: Obvious Favorites of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silky Lupine - Lupinus sericeus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you guess what this is?

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

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

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

Have fun!

Frances Clark, Teton Plants

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

Spring Emerging – April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

4.22.18

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

 

 

Wally’s World and Aspen Groves – late June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One is pretty obvious–reddish stems and spotted flowers:

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

Two are tiny, easily overlooked or even stepped upon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 28, 2017

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

 

 

 

Mid-June Blooms in Sage 2017

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

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

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

Two shrubs are blooming throughout much of the valley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 25

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

 

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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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A Spring Parsely 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

Get High for Wildflowers

Hike high for the reward of fields of flowers.  BTNF_Rendv_Subalp_Mead_flwmix_8116_N_3_Q2_5x3Wildflowers are blooming strong at elevations between 8,500-10,000,’ such as Mt. Ely, above Ski Lake, Rendezvous Mountain, and other subalpine habitats of the Grand Tetons.  You can find lupines, little sunflowers, geraniums, stonecrops, milfoil, mountain dandelions, and mountain bluebells that we observed at lower elevations a few weeks ago, along with new flowers found only at these higher elevations.

Where to Look

Topography makes a difference as to the lushness of flowers. How the mountains collected snow over the winter and how fast it has melted is determined in large part by the shape of the land, as well as its aspect: which way the slope is facing.

Steep south-facing slopes and high ridge lines have less snow to begin with and face the hot sun.  Their flowers may be past bloom or be different species, as is seen south of Mt. Ely: Wyoming Paintbrush, Sedum, Milfoils, and Harebells are still blooming.BTNF_TetPsS_DrySlp_7.28.16_5_5x3North facing, bowl-shaped terrain—Cody Bowl and the bowl above Ski Lake–captures more snow and holds it longer. Lupines and Sulphur Paintbrush grow luxuriantly.BTNF_SkiLktrUp_CastSulp_LupiArge_7.27.16_2a_fixsm Areas of recently melted snow and streams coming down the north side of Rendezvous Mountain still have Mountain Bluebells and Fernleaf Lovage.BTNF_Rendv_vwCrk_FlwMix_8116_2_Q2_5x3Jackson Hole receives little predictable rain in summer—typically from spotty, if often intense, thunderstorms–so snow in winter is the main source of moisture for the growing season.

Below are some freshly flowering species frequently seen at high elevations later in the growing season.

Blue Composites Keep on Coming

The Daisy, Aster, or Sunflower Family—technically Asteraceae—flourishes. Traditionally, this large group has been called “composites” because each “flower” is in fact a “head” of many flowers on a platform. Individual flowers may be “ray”flowers—which look like petals or the rays of sun, and/or “disk” flowers, which are small flowers usually in the center. Each flower head is surrounded by protective, usually green “bracts.” These bracts help in separating out the different genera. Below are pictures of bracts!

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Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentale – is one of many composites which attract a range of pollinators.  Here the tiny disk flowers attract bee pollinators. It flowers from bottom to top. The bracts form a green whorl around the base.

Showy composite flowers attract different pollinators. At this time of year butterflies – particularly Fritillary –  find room to land and sip nectar from the cups of disk flowers. Flies and bees also poke and prod about the flower heads. Observing pollinators adds a new dimension to understanding the ecology of flowers and insects.

Fleabanes or DaisiesErigeron spp – (people use the names interchangeably) look like asters; however, their “involucral bracts” that encompass the heads of the composite flowers are more or less even in length and are arranged in only one, maybe two, rows like a palisade fence. Often, their ray flowers are thinner and more plentiful than in asters.

Two large fleabanes/daisies are in bloom right now:

Oregon DaisyErigeron speciosus -is frequent at lower elevations and very showy now at higher elevations. They grow to 1-2.5’ high, with elliptical leaves alternating up the stem to a cluster of purple flower heads.

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Like other fleabanes, the large blue Oregon Fleabane has many petals (actually ray flowers) and many thin bracts arranged like a palisade fence protecting the many flowers of the head.

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Oregon Daisy or Fleabane has many blue or lavender ray flowers and a large center of yellow disk flowers.

Subalpine DaisyErigeron peregrinus – is a bit smaller than Oregon Daisy and is limited to higher elevations. It also has many oval to elliptical leaves up the stem, but the lavender ray flowers are broader and fewer than in Oregon Daisy.

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Single heads with broad blue ray flowers are typical of Subalpine Daisy – Erigeron peregrinus.

Another look-alike, Alpine Leafy-bract AsterSymphiotrichum foliaceum – has a similar color and many relatively broad ray flowers. However, looking at the bracts beneath, you will see they are green and leafy looking. As the name indicates, these are also typically at high elevations.

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In Alpine Leafy-bract Aster the bracts are loose, leaf-like shingles encircling the head.

Thickstem AsterEurybia integrifolius – is about the same size as those species above. The thick, slightly zigzag stems are sticky hairy all the way up to the flower heads. Flowers have a few deep-violet ray flowers. The sticky bracts splay outwards. They grow at higher and lower elevations in meadows.

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The stems of Thickstem Aster are not only thick, but also sticky.

Englemann (Chaffy) AsterEucephalus engelmannii – stands tall to 3-4’. Unbranching stems are clad in large elliptical leaves alternating up the stem, with showy sprays of white flower heads near the top. White ray flowers are relatively long and few compared to daisy fleabanes. Look under the flower heads at the arrangement of bracts: they look like pointed shingles on a roof—one easy way to distinguish asters from fleabane daisies.

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Engelmann Aster stands tall on single stems with a few white flowers at the top. They can form large colonies in some areas.

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The shingled or “imbricate” bracts of Englemann Chaffy Aster – Eucephalus spp. – help separate it from Erigerons or fleabane daisies.  The rounded bracts are in several rows that overlap.

Nuttall AsterEucephalus elegans – is shorter than its cousin, but it too has the shingled effect of the bracts. The flowers are a lovely violet blue. This species is just coming into bloom and more sporadic in its appearance.

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Nuttall AsterEucephalus elegans –  has truly elegant bracts.

A third species Blue-leaf AsterEucephalus glaucus – has distinctly bluish leaves and grows in 1-2’ tall sprawling, rhizomatous patches. Flowers are light lavender.

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Blue-leaf Aster has a ghostly appearance.

Spiny-bracted Aster/Hoary Tansy AsterMachaeranthera canescens – grows on much drier slopes, such as along Teton Pass. Rarely a foot tall, the plants have relatively few stems,  with few leaves. The violet flowers catch the eye. Look for the spine-tipped, outward-arching bracts surrounding the flower head.

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Spiny AsterMachaeranthera canescens – grows sparsely along the trail south of Teton Pass.

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The bracts around this violet head point outward and are sharp, giving Spiny Aster its name.

A Few Yellow Composites

Thickstem GroundselSenecio crassulus – is adapted to a variety of moist to dry meadows, varying its height according to level of moisture – taller to 3’ with more water, or stunted at 8” or less. The slightly succulent, elliptical leaves may be toothed. The lower ones are stalked, the upper sessile. The shiny green bracts are neatly aligned in one row and are black tipped. A few ray flowers surround the yellow disk flowers.

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Thickstem Groundsel varies in height depending on underlying moisture.  Leaves are sessile to clasping the stem and toothed.

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Groundsels have a single row of even-sized bracts surrounding the flower heads, often with black tips. This is Thick-leaved Groundsel.  Note the disk flowers are in full bloom.  You can see the  female stigmas arching outward.

Low GoldenrodSolidago multiradiata – is common in rock edges and along trails at many elevations. The tiny flower heads have about 13 ray flowers each and the heads are held in clusters mostly near the top of 6-12″ stems. To distinguish this species from look-alikes, find the ciliate – stiff hairy – margins to the elongate leaves at the base of the plants.

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Low Goldenrod has about 13 tiny yellow ray flowers per head. Flowers heads are clustered together.

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The lower leaves of Low Goldenrod have stiff hairs on their petioles, which is very helpful in identification.

Paintbrush Complex

BTNF_SkiLktr_Cast_flwrmix_7.27.16_1_5x3Q2Paintbrushes are intriguing and confusing members of the Orobanche or Broomrape Family (formerly placed the Figwort or Schropulariaceae Family).  Species in the genus Castilleja have unique attachments to other plant species, depending more or less on their hosts for extra carbon, water, nutrients and even chemical defenses. As such, they are termed hemiparasites.  They can survive on their own but grow larger, produce more flowers and seeds, and have less predation if they attach to their host’s roots using special haustorium.  Plant hosts include grasses, sagebrush, lupines, and larkspurs.

Paintbrushes have wide variation in color and shape due to polyploidy and hybridization. For identification pay attention to the shape of the leaves and shape and color of bracts–colored leaf-like appendages below each flower. In paintbrushes, sepals are fused to form a lobed tube and are colorful like the bracts.  The petals are relatively inconspicuous. They are fused to form a tube called a galea which hides and protects the stamens and stigma within.

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Paintbrush flowers have a colorful bract (shown to right) under each flower. Each flower (center) 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 top of the green and red galea.

Here are four species you can see up high right now. Hopefully the description and the photos will help you distinguish to species—never easy.  Once identified you can find more information on their hosts and their predators.

Wyoming Indian PaintbrushCastilleja liniarifolia – is the most angular of the species we see right now. Its bright red to orange calyx splits to the side and back but most deeply in front where the green galea extends way out. The bracts and leaves are also often deeply lobed and linear and widely spaced on the stem.

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The state flower Wyoming PaintbrushCastilleja liniariifolia – is found on dry slopes at all altitudes. It has a lean appearance to the plant, leaves, and flowers.  They obtain up to 40% of their carbon from their host plant Big Sagebrush – Artemesia tridentata.

Scarlet PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – is blooming at mid to subalpine elevations. It is common along the trail south of Teton Pass right now. It is often two feet tall and branching with wands of bright red flowers. The bracts and calyx are often lobed and sharply pointed. They cover the green corolla or petal tube (galea) which extends out when mature. Overall flower color ranges from red to scarlet to orange. This is our most wide ranging and variable species. Polyploidy and occasional hybridization with C. rhexifolia and C. sulphurea confound strict identification.

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Scarlet Paintbrushes come in a range of colors. Most are tall and often branching.

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Tricky to ID due to hybridization and genetic polyploidy, this photo of Scarlet PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – shows the bracts with sharp pointed lobes as well as a relatively sharply lobed, fused calyx. The green galea protrudes revealing the stigma.  Research has shown that all  parts of the plant and flower except the galea and nectar have poisonous alkaloids when connected to its host Lupine –  Lupinus argenteus.  The alkaloids deter herbivory.

Alpine or Rosy PaintbrushCastilleja rhexifolia – puzzles me often, especially in comparison to Scarlet Paintbrush. References say they are crimson, rose-red to pink. Bracts are relatively broad and rarely lobed.  Calyx lobes are relatively blunt. Often the parts are quite hairy. Plants are typically about one foot or less and rarely branch. They grow only at high elevations.

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Rosy Paintbrush – Castilleja rhexifolia – has relatively broad bracts, often hairy, and the lobes of the calyx are blunt. They are host plants for an elegant looking plume moth – Amblytidia pica  – look it up!

Sulphur PaintbrushCastilleja sulphurea – Although yellow, this species is very similar and closely related to Rosy Paintbrush – C. rhexifolia. Look for broad, only slightly lobed, colorful bracts. The bracts and calyx lobes are rounded, not sharp. It is also sticky hairy. Look for larkspurs and lupines nearby. Sulphur paintbrushes are often connected, obtaining carbohydrates and alkaloids from their hosts.

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Sulphur Paintbrush is similar in flower form to C. rhexifolia with wider bracts and rounded lobes.  It grows at high elevations as well. They can hybridize.

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Sulphur Paintbrush can have many stems. It is a hemiparasite on Tall Larkspur – Delphinium occidentale – and Lupine.

Hosts Plants of Paintbrushes

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Silvery Lupine – Lupine argenteus var. depressus – above Ski Lake serves as a host plant to a hybrid paintbrush.

LupineLupinus argenteus – is a proven host plant of several species of paintbrush. Lupine is a source of carbon, water, and nutrients.  It also provides a toxic alkaloid which helps protect the paintbrush from herbivory, such as from larvae of the plume moth – Amblyptilia pica. This chemical defense in not found in the petals or nectar of paintbrushes, therefore,  allowing their pollinators, such as broad tailed and rufous hummingbirds to proceed unharmed.

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Tall Larkspur – Delphinium occidentale – is a host plant for Sulphur Paintbrush.

Two Creamy, Coiled Louseworts

Louseworts are also in the Orobanche or Broomrape Family.  They have highly evolved flowers. Bumblebees pollinators  just fit amidst the lower lip and upper coil. The stigma, protected by the upper petal, sticks out when ready and tags the pollen from where the bees can’t glean it. Flowers contain no nectar reward.

Louseworts, like their relatives paintbrushes, also have hemiparasitic relationships with nearby host plants.

Parrot’s BeakPedicularis racemosa – grows 8-20” high. The leaves are lance-shaped with small teeth and are arrayed up the stem. The lower lip of the flowers is three lobed, and the upper lip is arched into a beak.

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Parrot’s Beak has evolved to fit their pollinators perfectly:  Bumblebees  This coiled flower is designed to wrap around the bee and tag the pollen on its back.  Looks a bit like an elephant trunk!

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Parrot’s Beak has linear, finely toothed leaves. At high elevations leaves can be reddish.  Pedicularis racemosa  has been discovered to be an alternate host to white pine blister rust, a non-native fungus devastating 5-needled pines such as White-bark and Limber pines.  Parrot’s Beak is a hemiparasite on lupines.

White-coiled Lousewort – Pedicularis contorta – looks very similar to Parrot’s Beak but the leaves grow mostly from the base and are deeply, pinnately lobed.

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White-coiled Lousewort is a higher elevation species with leaves mostly near the base.

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Leaves of White-coiled Lousewort are pinnately divided or lobed.

A Few More Subalpine Specialties

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Splashes of lavender purple on subalpine meadow hillsides are likely Western SweetvetchHedysarum occidentale. Look for the pea-like flowers, and later dangling flattened pea pods or loments.

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Related to phlox, Nuttall’s Gilia – Leptosiphon nutallii – forms soft mounds on rocky slopes. The leaves are almost needle-like and form whorls on the stem. Flowers are fading on Teton Pass but still flowering on Rendezvous Mountain.

Found often in shade or meadows where snow melts late at high elevations, Mountain Bog GentianGentiana calycosa – is a treat to find. Leaves are egg-shaped and paired up the 5-12” stems. Flowers are deep blue and are decorated to direct pollinators deep.

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Mountain Bog Gentians appear out of rocks and shady moist crevices in subalpine zones.

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Mountain Bog Gentian has spots and lines to lure insects deep inside.

Many other flowers are blooming high.  Go in search! Let us know what you find at tetonplants@gmail.com.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

July 31, 2016, update Aug. 2 after hiking down from Rendezvous Mountain via Granite Canyon.

Note: What we once called “asters” and were in the Aster genus have been sorted by scientists into many new genera: Eucephalus, Eurybia, Symphiotrichum, Oreostemma, etc. However, the common name of “aster” remains attached to many.  Indeed “Aster” is much easier to remember than the new scientific names.  If you are frustrated by all this, just enjoy looking at the remarkable, if confounding, variation of this group of composites.

 

 

More flowers blooming in Jackson Hole early July 2016

Flowers keep unfurling this Fourth of July week. Here is a quick post ofTNP_GrCanTr_Asp_BJM_7.3.16_1a_Q1_5x3 wildflowers you may see hiking or driving throughout Jackson Hole. Enjoy skimming through the photos for their names. And if you have a moment, read the captions to find out a quick fact you can share with a friend.

Sunny dry habitats, such as sage flats and south facing slopes:

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Silky LupineLupinus sericeus – has fine silvery hairs covering most of the 2’-2.5’ plants.

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Both sides of the “palmate” leaves and the back of the “banners” of the blue pea-like flowers are silky —good identification features. Hairs on plants help keep plants from drying out in hot, open spaces: they reflect back the sun and shade the leaf surface, cut the velocity of drying winds, and reduce abrasion by wind-swept soil particles. These hairy adaptations are found in many desert and alpine plants, too.

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Scarlet Gilia – Ipomopsis aggregata –is blooming strong. The 1-3’ stems wave in the wind like red wands. The red, 1”, trumpet-shaped flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are attracted by the red color (most insects can’t see red) and hover as they insert their long beaks and even longer tongues down into the tough flower tube. While the hummingbird is lapping (not sipping) high-test nectar, it gets doused by pollen, which it distributes to the next flower if the sticky female stigma is stretched out to collect it from the hummingbird’s forehead.

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Growing only a few inches high, Lance-leaved StonecropSedum lanceolatum – is related to hens and chicks, popular garden and house plants. The pudgy leaves are succulent, designed to hold water in reserve in dry conditions. If knocked off the plant, the leaves can grow roots and start whole new plants, which is one way stonecrops can move around the neighborhood.

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If pollinated, the bright yellow, star-shaped flowers of Lance-leaved Stonecrops form seeds, which is the other way plants can get out of the shadow of their parents.

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Sulphur BuckwheatEriogonum umbellatum var. majus – has umbels of creamy yellow flowers often with a blush of pink held above a whorl of leaves.  Below the 12″ stems, small oval leaves and creeping stems form large mats upon the ground, out of the wind.

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In mostly dry locations, delicate clumps of Ballhead SandwortEremogone congesta – are scattered among more robust plants.  ‘Congesta’ in the botanical name refers to several small white flowers grouped tightly together in a head at the top of each wiry stem.

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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.

 Three blues: Stickseed, Bluebells, Flax

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Jessica Stickseeds grow to 3’, have several 3-6” leaves around the base and up the stem, and are found in a variety of habitats with a bit of moisture.

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Jessica Stickseed flowers look similar to “For-get-me-nots” – Myosotis –  with 5 sky-blue peals in a pinwheel around a “yellow eye”.

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However, the four nutlets (fruits) have 2-barbed prickles which will stick to you—you become the vector for its seed dispersal–hence the name Stickseed.

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Mountain BluebellsMertensia ciliata – are in the same family as the Stickseeds (Borage Family) and have a similar sky-blue color. The 5 petals form a  tube and flowers dangle together at the tips of 2-3’ stems. Plants grow along stream edges and in wet meadows.

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Pollinators zero in on individual blue flowers, where they hang or hover while reaching into the tube for nectar. Watch the color changes of the flowers as they ripen and then fade in the course of pollination and for what insects show up!

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Lewis’ FlaxLinum lewisii – named after Merriweather Lewis the explorer, is common along roadsides and in meadows. Each saucer-shaped flower appears to reflect the sky. Many kinds of insects can land and pollinate the flowers. Each flower lasts only a day.

Particularly showy and popular: Paintbrushes, Cinquefoils, Penstemons

BTNF_TetonPs_Send9_Cast_63015_1Found in a variety of habitats, Paintbrushes – Castilleja spp. – come in different colors and shapes. They hybridize, thereby forming intermediates, making ID difficult. Paintbrush flowers are complicated: most color comes from bracts and sepals, not from petals which are often green. Bracts are modified leaves found just below each flower. Each flower has 2-4 sepals fused together. The petals form a long tube with a lip, and are often hidden inside the bracts and sepals until the flower is in full bloom. This “galea” protects the anthers and stigma until pollination.

Here are a two common paintbrushes which are relatively easy to ID.

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The state flower – Wyoming Indian PaintbrushCastilleja liniarifolia – stands out.  The green petals form a narrow tube beyond which extends the stigma (seen here on the right). This tube or  “galea” arches beyond the bright red sepals and flaring red bracts.  Red elongate flowers appeal to hummingbird pollinators. Stem leaves are dissected into 2-3 narrow segments. Plants can be 2-3’ tall.

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Mostly mingling in meadows, Scarlet Indian PaintbrushesCastilleja miniata – are usually red but range into orange. Green and red bracts are broad and pointed.  Sepals are red, pointed, and fused, concealing the green tubes (“galea”) of petals until fully mature. This species is found at lower elevations, such as along Moose-Wilson Road, than the look-alike C. rhexifolia which is subalpine.

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Potentilla or Cinquefoil flowers are 5-petalled with many anthers circling a cone of many pistils. White Cinquefoil – Potentilla arguta – is the most commonly seen species at this time and has mostly yellow, not white, flowers. For precise ID (using a hand lens helps!), 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.  They look very similar to Sticky Cinquefoil  – P. glandulosa – which holds its flowers a bit more broadly.  Some plant experts say both should be the same species.

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The leaves of this cinquefoil are “pinnately” divided into 7-9 coarsely toothed leaflets.

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Graceful CinquefoilPotentilla gracilis – is common along trails, leaning out and shining up at you.

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BeardtonguesPenstemon spp. – are fascinating puzzles. Most have opposite oval to elongate leaves going up the stem. The lower 3 petals form a landing pad and all 5 petals fuse together to form a tunnel sized for specific pollinators. The name “Penstemon” refers to the false fifth stamen- staminode – which lies like a tongue (say ahh!)  at the base of the flower and is often hairy or “bearded”. There are 4 true stamens, each with two divergent anther sacs, which curve over the bodies of pollinators—bumble bees in this instance.

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Right now at least four beardstongues stand out in patches along roadsides or on dry slopes. One representative is Wasatch PenstemonP. cyananthus – seen hiking south from Teton Pass.

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Another common species is Smooth PenstemonP. subglaber – 3’ wands of blue, often found along roadsides in gravelly soils.

Two sizable plants of meadows and aspen groves: Giant Hyssop and Little SunflowersBTNF_PalmC_AgasUrti_fl_7415_2_5x3

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Looking closely at Nettle-leaf Giant HyssopAgastache urticifolia – you can see the “irregular” whitish flowers (with five fused petals ) with long anthers sticking out. The surrounding pointed sepals are pinkish. The egg-shaped, toothed leaves are aromatic and sit opposite one another, each pair set at 90-degree angles from the one below. The 2-4’ stems are square. These are characteristics of the Mint Family.

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One-flower Little SunflowersHelianthella uniflora – are big bright spots on dry slopes and ridge lines. This species usually has 1-3 flowers per stem and only 3 veins on its leaves.

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The more robust Five-nerved HelianthellaHelianthella quinquenervis – appears to stare right at you! The large lower leaves have 5 distinct nerves and the 4-5′ plants usually have only one big 3-4” flower per stem.

 Particularly impressive: Monument Plant, Cow Parsnip, Elk Thistle 

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This is a great year for Monument Plants or Green GentiansFrasera speciosa. Once upon a time, botanists thought these plants grew like biennials or short-lived perennials in the garden…a rosette of leaves one year, a tall stalk of flowers a year or two later. However, a long-time researcher in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado determined that these plants don’t in fact flower until they are 40 to even 60 years old!

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This stage of growth–a rosette of leaves–can last dozens of years before Green Gentian or Monument Plant shoots up its flower stalk.

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With a fresh rosette of leaves each year, Green Gentian continually stores energy into its deep tap root until it has sufficient fuel for its final, tremendous act. Flowers buds are triggered four years before the spring when each stalk stretches up to 4-5’, arrayed with dozens, even hundreds, of flowers.

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Once pollinated by myriad insects, the plants form fruits which split open to scatter thousands of seeds.  The plant then dies. Snow depth appears to be the stimulus for flower bud set for the individuals old enough to bloom. Consequently, plants bloom in cohorts, overwhelming the ability of predators to eat all the seeds.

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Flowers of Cow ParsnipHeracleum spondylium – unfurl from huge buds into dinner-plate sized umbels of tiny flowers.   How did all that stuff fit into one bud?

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Cow Parsnip grows under aspens and in moist meadows where there is enough water to supply the very large leaves on 4-6’ plants. It is the largest member of the Parsley Family here in Jackson Hole.

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Elk ThistleCirsium scariosum – is almost as impressive as the two large plants above. The first year, it forms a flat rosette of leaves which store energy into the tap root before the winter. The second year a 1-3’-tall, thick stalk arises with elegant elongate, spine-tipped leaves. The plants are covered in fine cobwebby hairs. The large flower heads are nested in the top.  Elk Thistle is a native thistle which supports a diversity of insects and is indeed eaten by elk and should be treated with respect.

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Teton County Weed and Pest is targeting this monstrous alien Musk ThistleCarduus nutans – before it overwhelms pastures, hayfields, and meadows.  Let them know if you have these scarey plants on your land.

Surprises: Cactus and Sego Lily

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Flowering in a small rocky cleft across from Kelly Warm Springs is Brittle Prickly Pear CactusOpuntia fragilis. The waxy, thickened stems contain chlorophyll to manufacture food and to hold extra water. Spines are actually modified leaves, which help shade the plant and provide defense. The spines coupled with fragile stem joints help spread the plants vegetatively—they attach to your shoes or worse your flesh. Do not touch!

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Along Old Pass Road, we spied a Sego LilyCalochortus nuttallii – an elegant flower which grows from a bulb in dry locations. Sego Lily was voted by school children as the state flower of Utah in 1911. Between 1840-1851 Mormon settlers dug and ate the soft bulbs when the plague of crickets ravaged crops.

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At another location near Bryan Flats, we spied White Mariposa LilyCalochortus eurycarpus – with elegant goblet-like flowers which attract a variety of insects including bees, wasps, bee-flies and several kinds of beetles. One can imagine quite a pollinator party!

 

Please, enjoy these beautiful days looking at wildflowers up close.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Julyl 4, 2016