Wally’s World and Aspen Groves – late June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One is pretty obvious–reddish stems and spotted flowers:

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

Two are tiny, easily overlooked or even stepped upon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 28, 2017

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

 

 

 

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Mid-June Blooms in Sage 2017

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

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

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

Two shrubs are blooming throughout much of the valley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY – June 25

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

 

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

Jackson Hole Flowers in Early June

With unseasonably high temperatures this past week, spring flowers are developing fruits and summer flowers are blooming strong throughout the southern end of Jackson Hole. These same species will have encores over the next week or so in the northern valley and into Yellowstone National Park.

Here are some of the most common and obvious wildflowers blooming in sagebrush dominated flats and hillsides.  We hope you will enjoy learning some plant names and how flowers are designed to attract pollinators. Enjoy the amazing diversity and beauty of plants.

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Yellow composites:

Arrow-leaf BalsamrootBalsamorhiza sagittata – is the big showy “composite” seen on hillsides and sageflats right now.  The large flower heads illustrate the typical features of the Aster or Sunflower Family.  This is one of the largest flower families in the word with 1000s of intriguing variations which have evolved for success.

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A cross-section of a Arrow-leaf Balsamroot flower head.

Around the outside of the so-called flower head, bright yellow “petals” are actually individual “ray” flowers with five fused petals flattened to one side. The “disc” flowers in the center are tiny flowers with 5 connected yellowish petals forming a flared tube.  Above each, a dark column of anthers wraps around an emerging stigma which arches into two parts, ready to capture pollen from visiting pollinators. (Note the outer disc flowers are in full bloom, the inner are still in bud.)  Hairy, silvery bracts surround the flat platform or “receptacle” holding the many individual flowers. (If this is too much information, just have fun looking closely!)

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Arrow-leaf Balsamroot has one flower head on each 1.5’ stem. The large leaves are arrow-shaped with silvery hairs and arise from the base of the plant.

Don’t confuse Balsamroot with the soon-to-flower Mule’s EarsWyethia amplexicaulis.

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Mule’s Ears have large, deep yellow flowers with smooth bracts, and 12-18″ oval, deep green leaves which can grow along the stems. They grow in heavier soils than Balsamroot.

Western GroundselSenecio integerrimus – has several yellow flower heads with both ray and disc flowers on single stems. The plants usually grow to 8-12”.   SeneInte_habfl_RKO_5.28.16_2_3x5

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In Groundsels, bracts are all the same length – like a palisade fence – and are black tipped.

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Along with these other features, cobwebby hairs on leaves and stem provide definitive ID of Western Groundsel.

At first glance, three other composites look like Common DandelionsTaraxacum officinale. They grow about 6-8” (or more) tall and have showy yellow heads with only ray or “ligulate” flowers. Look closely at bracts, number of flower heads, and the location and shape of leaves.

The fruits are very helpful in understanding why the taxonomists separate these genera. However, we have to wait until they ripen.  Practice by looking at dandelion fluff and fruits.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Common Dandelion has all “ligulate” or “ray” flowers. Notice the leaves are all at the base (basal).

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Note the two rows of bracts in Dandelions: bracts of the outer row fold down, those of the inner row are upright. Bracts are very helpful clues in ID of look-alike composite flowers.

False DandelionAgoseris glauca – also has only one head per plant. The bracts are variable. Leaves are all at the base or “basal.” Three varieties with different leaves and hairiness to the bracts are a challenge to botanists.

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Mountain DandelionAgoseris glauca – looks very much like a dandelion, but look closely….

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Mountain Dandelions have tidy, upward pointing bracts around each flower head. Some bracts can be hairy or smooth, depending on variety. Leaves vary, too.

Nodding Microseris Microseris nutans – is very similar to the above, but again look closely: there is often more than one flower per stem or plant and buds typically nod. Leaves are mostly basal, but one or two may attach to the stem, as well.

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 Observe how  Nodding Microseris differs from the other species. Note the nodding buds.

Coming into bloom are several species of HawksbeardCrepis sp.

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HawksbeardsCrepis sp. – are robust plants found in sageflats. The leaves bunch at the base but also grow up the branching 8-16” stems. The leaves are often sword shaped and variably pinnately toothed, lobed, or dissected.

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In Hawksbeards, the number of flower heads varies, as does the number of individual ray flowers per head. Some species have stiff hairs,which can be black. All these features are used for ID the 3-4 species common in Jackson Hole.

Don’t miss the blues:

Low or Nuttall’s LarkspurDelphinium nuttallianum – has been blooming for a while. It attracts queen bumble bees, solitary bees, and in some places hummingbirds as pollinators.

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Nuttall’s Larkspur is still blooming strong.

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Larkspur flowers are intriguing: 5 deep blue-purple sepals flare out at the sides. The upper sepal forms a long tube behind called a “spur.” Four petals are designed to guide the pollinator into the center of the plant. The two white upper petals are stiff and sport blue “nectar guides.” Each of these petals extends back into the sepal spur and holds nectar as a reward for savvy pollinators. The lower two hairy blue petals flop down, shielding the anthers while also providing landing pads for insect pollinators.

At the right time, anthers shed pollen upon pushy pollinators. The pollinators, after a drink of nectar, fly off to a similar flower and with luck (for the plant) knocks the transported pollen onto the three receptive stigmas. Pollination and, hopefully, the formation of seeds has begun!

Mountain BluebellsMertensia viridis/oblongifolia – often grow on grassy slopes and amidst sage plants. Pollinators – bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds – are attracted at first to the curved bunch of pink and blue flowers.

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Pollinators zero in on individual blue flowers, where they hang or hover while reaching down 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!

Long-leaved PhloxPhlox longifolia – grows taller and looser than earlier blooming white phloxes which are mat forming, such as Hood’s and Many-flowered Phloxes.

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Flowers of Long-leaved Phlox range in color from white to pink to bluish. The are often 4-6″ tall with 1″ leaves.

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A beguiling fragrance attracts small flies, bee flies, and butterflies to the bluish to pinkish 5-petaled flowers. Only the insects with just the right length mouthparts can reach down the long tube to nectar deep within. Coincidentally, the flower is pollinated.

Other dashes of color:

Prairie SmokeGeum triflorum – is a member of the Rose Family. The leaves are about 4-6” long, and are “pinnately” (like a feather) dissected–looking “fern-like (although ferns are a whole different order of plants). Leaves cluster plentifully at the base of the spreading plants.

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Prairie Smoke has many divided leaves and stalks dangling three flowers (hence the botanical name “triflorum“).

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Five fused maroon sepals (with extra bracteoles) surround the pale yellow petals of Prairie Smoke. Together they protect many anthers and pistils inside.

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After pollination, each of many pistils mature into feathery fruits, to fly off in the breezes. The heads look like a “bad hair day.” Many fruits together provide the “prairie smoke” effect.

Puccoon, Stoneseed, GromwellLithospermum ruderale – is a robust plant in the Borage Family.

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Flowers of StoneseedLithospermum ruderale – are held in the axils of the 1-3″ linear leaves on 1-2′ stems.

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The pale yellow flowers have a delicate lemon-like fragrance, worth bending down for a  sniff. They attract bumblebees, hawkmoths, solitary bees, and flies.

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Later, flowers will form white fruits with very tough seeds inside…hence the botanical name, which translates into “stone seed.”  The seeds are readily predated by deer mice.

Many peoples have used this plant for a variety of medicinal purposes, a reason why it has so many common names.

Three particularly abundant species:

Wyeth Biscuit RootLomatium ambiguum – with its wide spreading “umbels” of tiny bright yellow flowers is still growing in abundance at the Sawmill Pond Overlook and along the inner park road.

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Wyeth Biscuit RootLomatium ambiguum – grows along dry, disturbed road sides in the park.

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The tiny bright yellow flowers are in umbels (think umbrellas) typical of the Parsley Family. The leaves are dissected into at least 9 segments of various lengths and width. Note the swollen leaf bases.

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The tuber-like roots were eaten by Native Americans and are sought after by rodents and bears.

It is easy at first to confuse Wyeth Biscuit Root with its more obscure relative. Nine-leaf Spring Parsley – Lomatium simplex var. simplex – has pale yellow flowers and leaves dissected into 9 long, thin segments of equal width and length.

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Note the grayish 9-parted leaves and the pale yellow flowers (which will spread into wider umbels) on Nine-leaf Spring Parsley.

Western ValerianValeriana occidentalis – appears in almost every habitat – grassy hillsides, near wetlands, and sage flats.  While some promote Valerian as a sleep aide, it contains very toxic chemicals.  Plants develop such chemicals for defense.  Always research carefully any “medicinal” herbs.

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Note the tiny flowers of  Western Valerian.  In the field, observe how the clusters are held in an “candle-arbor like” arrangement.

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Leaves on the stem are opposite and pinnately compound.  Those at the base are usually undivided ovals.

Bright white Field ChickweedCerastium arvense – is found often in disturbed habitats.

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Each petal of Field Chickweed is notched at the tip. Can you count the number of anthers and styles in the center?

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The sharp-pointed, needle-like leaves are opposite on the 6-8” stems and often have extra leaves in the axils, which help distinguish it from Bering Chickweed – C. beeringianum – of subalpine and alpine habitats.

Many more flowers are in bloom on dry knolls and hillsides and in relatively moist forest edges. And new flowers will continue to bloom in the flats.  We will post additional information soon.

Frances Clark

Wilson, WY – June 10, 2016

P.S.  Of particular note at this moment of writing, is the phenomenal amount of pollen being shed by Lodgepole Pines (and perhaps other conifers.)  The photo taken in the Lamar Valley three days ago is representative of what is happening all around us now.

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Pine pollen looks like a fire starting in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley on June 6, 2016. Expect a big cone year in fall 2017.

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In this photo, the stack of male pine “cones”  will soon shed thousands of pollen grains upon the wind and, with lot of luck, pollen will land on separate female cones.  However, pine seeds be ripe until 18 months from now. The green female cone shown here is from last spring’s pollen event.

 

Summer Falling in the Tetons

These last few days of summer hold memories of weeks past and expectations of weeks to come. Flowers are transforming into fruits and leaves are turning from shades of greens into hues of yellows, reds, and oranges.

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Shadows lengthen as days shorten upon the montane meadows of Ski Lake Trail, Bridger Teton National Park.

Aster Flowers and More:

Several wildflowers are still blooming, although they look rather ragged. Most are members of the Aster Family and sport many guises. The typical “aster” flowers attract the final, almost “desperate” pollinators, which are clinging to flower heads seeking remnant nectar and pollen. A few sunflower-like species still shine along roadways. Other flowers are individually very discreet, at least until they bloom together in such forces that you can’t fail to notice the yellow cast of pollen. And yet another species just stinks.

Note: Identification of Asters emphasizes “bracts”. These leaf-like structures surround the heads.  Heads consist of the bracts, a receptacle (platform), and many individual flowers whorled inside. Bracts are highly variable, beautiful, and helpful in ID. (also note in identification of any plant: look at several individuals to get full variation in size, color, features.)

The non-native, invasive, but forever fascinating and in fact beautiful, Musk ThistleCarduus nutans – represents the change of the season:

A bumblebee digs deep into the elongate violet blue flowers surrounded by the armour of stiff thick bracts.

A bee digs deep into the elongate violet-blue flowers surrounded by the armor of thick bracts.

Nearby, wind teases out the tuffs of fluff, which carry seeds into unknown adventures…likely to become pests on nearby lands.

Nearby, wind teases out tuffs of fluff, which carry seeds of Musk Thistle into unknown adventures…likely to become pests on nearby lands.

Two similar asters attract butterflies and bees:

Leafybract AsterSymphyotrichum foliaceum var. canbyi – is still blooming strong by seeps and streams or on higher elevation slopes. This species is relatively easy to separate from other aster species. (Another variety S. f. var. apricus is found in subalpine to alpine elevations.)

The bracts are loose, leaf-like shingles encircling the head.

The bracts are loose, leaf-like shingles encircling the head, hence the name Leafybract Aster. (Note these larger outer bracts may or may not be there.  Look at several flowers to see).

The elongate leaves cling while alternating up the 16”-30” stems.

The elongate leaves of Leafybract Aster cling more  and more closely while alternating up the 16”-30” stems. Note the many pale ray flowers and the relatively wide leaves which are typically <7 times as long as wide.

Pacific AsterSymphyotrichum ascendens – is a very common aster along roadsides and trails.

- is overall a smaller and bushier plant with the upper part of the 1-2’ stems covered with pale blue flowers.

Pacific Aster is overall a smaller and bushier plant than Leafybract Aster (above) with the upper part of the 1-2’ stems covered with pale lavender flowers.  The leaves are long and narrow >7x as long as wide.

The bracts are narrow, sharp pointed, and tightly held against the heads.

The bracts of Pacific Aster are narrow, sharp pointed, and tightly held against the heads.  The lower, outer bracts are much shorter than the inner upper bracts.

Two other aster species can be confusing:

The flowers of Thickstem AsterEurybia integrifolia – attract attention due to their larger size.

The relatively few ray flowers are an unusual intensity of violet-blue and the disc flowers are yellow turning purple. Looking closely, you can see that the flower heads and stems have many sticky glandular hairs.

In Thickstem Aster the relatively few ray flowers are an unusual intense violet-blue. The inner disc flowers begin yellowish turning purple. Looking closely, you can see that the flower heads and stems have many sticky glandular hairs, a very helpful ID feature. Often these parts turn deep purple. The upper leaves clasp the thick, slightly zigzag stems. Overall the plants are heftier (and certainly stickier) than the two aster species described above.

Hoary Spiny AstersMachaeranthera canescens – are still blooming on sage flats and other dry sites.  The delicate looking plants are deceptively durable.

Silvery hairs on stem and leaves reflect back intense light, reduce wind velocity, and shade the surface of the plants, thereby keeping the plants from transpiring too much water on hot windy days. The spines on the tips of the slightly toothed,1-2” leaves and at the tips of the outward curved flower bracts give the plant its name.

The violet blue flowers of Hoary Spiny Aster catch the eye along Granite Canyon Trail.  Tiny silvery hairs on stem and leaves reflect back intense light, reduce wind velocity, and shade the surface of the plants, thereby keeping the plants from transpiring too much water on hot windy days.     

The spines on the tips of the slightly toothed,1-2” leaves and at the tips of the outward curved flower bracts give the plant its name: Spiny Aster

The spines on the tips of the slightly toothed 1-2” leaves and at the tips of the outward curved flower bracts give the plant its name: Hoary Spiny Aster

Two sunflower-like flowers persist along roadsides and trails.

Showy Goldeneye - Viqueria multiflora – continues to stare at you along portions of Ski Lake and History Trails near Teton Pass, as well as, roadsides of Grand Teton National Park. The 2-3” leaves are opposite and slightly arrow-shaped. The broad, golden ray flowers pale towards their tips. The plants average about 2’ tall.

Showy GoldeneyeViqueria multiflora – continues to stare at you along portions of Ski Lake and History Trails near Teton Pass, as well as, roadsides of Grand Teton National Park. The 2-3” leaves are opposite and have pinnately veined leaves. The golden ray flowers pale towards their tips. The wiry plants average about 2’ tall.

Curly Cup Gumweed—Grindellia squarrosa – is easy to recognize. Resinous bracts curl back and fuse together forming spiny cups beaming brilliant rays of sunshine. They thrive along dry, disturbed edges of the inner park road.

Curly Cup GumweedGrindellia squarrosa – is easy to recognize. Resinous bracts curl back and stick together to form spiny cups which beam brilliant rays of sunshine.  They thrive along dry, disturbed edges of the inner park road.

Two more very different members of the Aster Family with tiny flowers:

It is easy to overlook the fact that the Big Sagebrush – Artemesia tridentata var. vaseyana - is in full flower right now in parts of Jackson Hole.

It is easy to overlook the fact that the Big SagebrushArtemesia tridentata var. vaseyana – is in full flower right now in parts of Jackson Hole.

With Big Sagebrush, only a few individual flowers form the tiny flower heads, which are easily overlooked.

With Big Sagebrush, only a few individual flowers form the tiny flower heads, which are easily overlooked. Look carefully for the arching stigmas that will capture windblown pollen.

However, the tiny flowers arranged all along the slender stalks, add up to quite a show. They disperse millions of tiny pollen grains upon the wind. Such light and plentiful pollen is a source of allergies in humans.

While individually inconspicuous, the tiny flowers arranged all along the slender stalks add up to quite a show. They disperse millions of tiny pollen grains upon the wind. Such light and plentiful pollen is a source of allergies in humans.

Also, observe Big Sagebrush leaves. The larger ones produced when water was plentiful in spring are dying off, but the smaller leaves of early summer will remain through the winter.

Also, observe Big Sagebrush leaves. The larger ones produced when water was plentiful in spring are dying off, but the smaller leaves of early summer will remain throughout the winter.  The shrub is evergreen.  These leaves are essential to the survival of Sage Grouse.

A particularly odd ball member of the Aster Family:

The oddball Tarweed – Madia glomerata – is often crushed underfoot, releasing an intense smell reminding some people of tar. The glandular hairs containing the scent are a defense mechanism to deter grazing animals. It is interesting that some people like the fragrance while others find it pretty stinky, and in fact plants vary in their chemical arsenal. While many grazers avoid the plants, honeybees use the pollen and ground squirrels eat the protein-rich seeds. Tarweed is a native annual that is used in habitat restoration efforts.

Often only six inches high, TarweedMadia glomerata – is easily crushed underfoot, releasing an intense smell reminding some people of tar. The glandular hairs containing the scent are a defense mechanism to deter grazing animals large and small. It is interesting that some people like the fragrance while others find it pretty stinky. In fact plants vary in their chemical arsenal. While many grazers avoid the plants, honeybees use the pollen and ground squirrels eat the protein-rich seeds. Tarweed is a native annual that is used in habitat restoration efforts.

Schizocarps in the Carrot Family: A Quiz

Many of the members of the Carrot or Parsley Family (Apiaceae) are now in fruit. Below are photos of “schizocarps” – the uniquely designed fruits of this family: they split in half and are arranged in umbrella-like structures. Can you determine which species they belong to (hints provided): Wild LicoriceOsmorhiza occidentalis; Cow-parsnipHeracleum spondylium; Fernleaf LovageLigusticum filicinumSharp-tooth AngelicaAngelica arguta, Common YampaPerideridia montana? (Answers at end.)

Look closely: the fruits are flatted top to bottom and have 3 ridges as well as wings.

A. Look closely: the two sides of the horizontally splitting fruits are each flat with 3 ridges on the back and wings to the sides.

A. The umbels of fruits stand 5-6' feet high on smooth stems in moist locations.

A. The umbels of fruits stand 5-6′ feet high on smooth stems in moist locations.

These plants bloomed late this summer predominantly in the sage flats. Fruits are short and relatively smooth. (see closeup below),

B. These plants bloomed late this summer predominantly in the sage flats. Fruits are almost round and relatively smooth. (see closeup below),

Another hint: the roots of this plant are favored by bears.

B. Another hint: the roots of this plant are favored by bears. Note the splitting of the individual fruits. Also the stylopodiums: the swollen, persistent bases of the stigmas.

Elongate fruits with a bit of a point are flavorful.

C. Two to three-foot plants of forest edges and meadows hold up elongate smooth, purple black fruits.  Note the beige central stalks (lower left) that held the two sided fruits which were flavorful when younger.

This slightly curved, ridged schizocarps are rounded.

D. These slightly curved, ridged schizocarps are more or less oblong.  The large compound leaves are finely dissected.

These fruits are very flat with two to three decorative lines.

E. These fruits are very flat with two to three decorative lines.  The plants are very large, coarsely hairy, and grow in moist areas.

Answers: A: Smooth-toothed Angelica B: Common Yampah C:Wild Licorice or Sweet-Cicely D: Fernleaf Lovage E: Cow-parsnip

Fleshy Fruits:

Last and not least, especially for the birds, bears, and small mammals of Jackson Hole, are the fruits of the Rose Family. When investigating the wild fruits, first consider your cultivated apples, cherries, peaches, plums, etc, which are relatives.  The flesh you are eating is actually the swollen base of fused sepals and petals and even anthers surrounding an inferior ovary in which seeds (pits or individual seeds) form, e.g. you are eating the ripened “hypanthium”. This fleshy juicy part is what most birds and mammals consume as well, although some rodents chew upon the hard coated seeds. The tasty fruit is the “reward” for dispersing the seeds.

Mountain Ash – Sorbus scopulina - decorates the beginning of Ski Lake Trail and various canyons. Note the shiny compound leaves, as well as the clusters of orange fruits.

Mountain AshSorbus scopulina – decorates the beginning of Ski Lake Trail and various canyons. Note the shiny compound leaves, as well as the heavy clusters of orange fruits.

Hawthorns – Crataegus douglasii – are filled with bunches of dark fruits protected (supposedly) by 1-2” long thorns. No wonder people are seeing black bears along the Moose-Wilson Road where this plant is particularly abundant. Do be careful hiking around berries of any kind right now.

Hawthorn trees – Crataegus douglasii – are filled with bunches of dark fruits protected (supposedly) by 1-2” long thorns. No wonder people are seeing black bears along the Moose-Wilson Road where this plant is particularly abundant. Do be careful hiking around berries of any kind right now.

Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana – Arranged in a raceme, several fruits dangle on short stems from a central stalk. Chemicals in the pits and leaves convert to hydrocyanic acid in the stomach of humans and livestock, which inhibits cellular respiration and the ability to use oxygen: in short they are poisonous. On the other hand, the fruits, are relished by many animals and numerous insect species overcome the defense systems. This plant is important for sustaining biodiversity.

Fruits of ChokecherryPrunus virginiana – are arranged in a raceme, e.g. fruits dangle on short stems from a long central stalk. If ingested by humans or livestock, chemicals in the pits and leaves convert to hydrocyanic acid which inhibits cellular respiration and the ability to use oxygen: in short they are poisonous. On the other hand, the fruits, are relished by many animals (which excrete the pits) and numerous insect species overcome the defense systems. Plants may or may not be poisonous to different species, and in different life stages.  This plant is very important for sustaining biodiversity.

Serviceberries – Amelanchier alnifolia – still retain some blue-purple fruits, although many birds such as robins, cedar waxwings, western tanagers, have already consumed them to fuel their migration south.

ServiceberriesAmelanchier alnifolia – still retain some red-blue-purple fruits, although many birds such as American robins, cedar waxwings, and western tanagers, have already consumed them to fuel their migration south.

Wood’s Rose - Rosa woodsii – holds several fruit at the tips of twigs. Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C, perhaps as much as 60x as much as lemons….but who eats a whole lemon? These fruits will last on the plants through much of the winter, providing food when other resources are short.

Wood’s RoseRosa woodsii – holds several fruits at the tips of twigs. Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C, perhaps as much as 60x as much as lemons….but who really eats lemons?
These fruits will last on the plants through much of the winter, providing food when other resources are scarce.

Fireweed Finale:

FireweedChamerion/Epilobium angustifolium – is the traditional harbinger of autumn.

 Fireweed is almost finished blooming, with bumblebees garnering the last bits of pollen and nectar.

Fireweed is almost finished blooming, with bumblebees garnering the last bits of pollen and nectar.

The elongated seeds have burst in a whirlwind dance of dispersal.

The elongated fruits of Fireweed have burst into a whirlwind dance of seeds dispersing.

The crimson leaves provide an encore before the hard frost.

The crimson leaves provide an encore before hard frost.

Enjoy the fall:

Plants can be enjoyed in all seasons for their flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, structure. Observe closely and celebrate the cycle of the year.

Aspen groves on Munger Mountain are full of fall treats.

Aspen groves on Munger Mountain are full of fall treats.

Some cultures revere the beauty of aging. Here is a dignified, grizzled head of the statuesque Five-nerved Helianthella – Helianthella quinquenervis.

Some cultures revere the beauty of aging. Here is a dignified, grizzled head of the statuesque Five-nerved HelianthellaHelianthella quinquenervis.  

Happy botanizing!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

August 31, 2015

P.S. This blog is designed to encourage further exploration into the wonders of our native plant world.  As always, we appreciate you comments, additions, and corrections.

Big Favorites Found Mid Summer in the Tetons – July 2015

Moose-Wilson Road has an array of tall forbs (wildflowers) - Tall Larkspur, Butterweed Groundsel, and Canada Goldenrod.

Moose-Wilson Road has an array of tall forbs (wildflowers) – Tall Larkspur, Butterweed Groundsel, and Canada Goldenrod.

As one drives along the Moose-Wilson Road or up to Two Ocean Lake, or hikes through montane meadows, several tall 3-6’ wildflower species may divert your attention. Most of these thrive in relatively moist and/or cool situations where they can take up sufficient moisture to support their large bodies of stems and leaves, along with plentiful, showy flowers.

Moose Pond Trail has a small meadow with Cow Parsnip, Giant Hyssop, Sticky Geranium and more!

Moose Pond Trail has a small meadow with Cow Parsnip, Giant Hyssop, Sticky Geranium and more!

Giant Hyssop - Agastache urtifolia - is a member of the Mint Family.  And is occasionally pollinated by hummingbirds,

Giant HyssopAgastache urticifolia – is a member of the Mint Family.   Feel the square stem, smell the fragrant leaves, and observe what comes to the “irregular” flowers. Occasionally it is pollinated by hummingbirds, probably attracted by the reddish pink bracts.  The stamens protrude beyond the fused petals, bonking pollen on the heads of pollinators.

Pause and take a close look and think about what is happening: What do the flowers look like: are they simple or complicated; all they all the same color or highly variable; what are their pollinators? Unseen variations may be that some species are extremely poisonous. Other species display an extraordinary abundance of flowers this year due to unusual environmental triggers last year. Many factors: environmental and biological–affect what grows where in Teton County and well beyond. Below are a few species to ponder.

Tall Larkspur - Delphinium occidentale - comes in a range of colors from white to deep blue.

Tall LarkspurDelphinium occidentale– comes in a range of colors from white to deep blue.

Tall LarkspurDelphinium occidentale – Many have noticed the 4-6’ tall, deep blue, pale blue, to white spires along the Moose-Wilson Road and meadows of Two-Ocean Lake and near Goodwin Lake Trail. The reason for the three color variations of our Grand Teton populations was studied by Ron Scogin in 1993. While he didn’t come to any direct conclusions, the researcher found that all plants had similar number of flower stalks (inflorescences) although the albino stalks had many fewer flowers/stem. All had similar seed results per flower indicating that the pollinators–bees and hummingbirds–visited them without discrimination. Furthermore, over time, the proportion of each color morph has remained pretty much the same. The proportion was likely dependent on the original number of seeds per morph and are result of the “founder effect”. So far the colors remain separate and in the same approximate proportions. A follow up study, with new genetic understanding, would be interesting.  For more details on the work 20 years ago: http://repository.uwyo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1792&context=uwnpsrc_reports

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

Tall Larkspur – Delphinium occidentale – has trumpet shaped flowers that require pollinators to push deeply into them to receive their rewards. (And an esoteric taxonomic note:  According to the expert Holmgrens, we have only D. occidentale, not D. glaucum here in Wyoming.  It comes down to hairy, not smooth, follicles or fruits.)

MonkshoodAconitum columbianum –The genus name Aconitum comes from the Greek akoniton: Theophrastis used this name to indicate “poisonous plant”, which indeed it is!

Monkshood - Aconitum columbianum - is related to the similar looking Tall Larkspur.  both are in the Buttercup Family and have complicated flowers.  It is also deadly poisonous.

MonkshoodAconitum columbianum – is related to the similar looking Tall Larkspur (see above). both are in the highly variable Buttercup Family and have complicated flowers. It is also deadly poisonous.

Monkshood is pollinated by both queen and worker bumblebees, as well as moths and hummingbirds. Observe the structure of the flower. The five sepals (not petals) form a complex purple flower.

Aconitum columbianum

Monkshood sports a “hood” that covers two petals and nectaries. Four additional sepals: two side, two bottom, surround the many anthers and three stigmas. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Found in wet meadows.

The two lower and two side sepals encase and then expose the numerous anthers, while the hood covers two greatly altered petals which contain a stiff coiled spur terminating with nectar glands. Observe when the anthers open and release their pollen (then fade), and when the 3 hidden stigmas become available amidst the anthers: the timing of the male and female reproductive parts is separate to facilitate out-crossing.

Sharp-tooth AngelicaAngelica arguta – A member of the Parsley Family – as one can tell by the umbrella arrangement of their tiny flowers, this plant typically grows to 4-5’ in moist montane situations.

Angelica is in the Parsley Family, same as the similar Cow Parsnip.  But Angelica has more divided leaves and is smooth, not hairy.

Sharp-tooth AngelicaAngelica arguta – is in the Parsley Family, same as Cow Parsnip (see below). But Angelica has more divided leaves and has a smooth, not hairy, stem.

Sharp-tooth Angelica can be mistaken for the more robust Cow Parsnip, but notice the large, toothed leaves are divided into numerous, smaller leaflets. The stem is smooth and slightly bluish. Angelicas have been used for medicines by many indigenous people, but note the species also resembles Water Hemlock – Cicuta maculata – called “suicide plant” by the Iroquois – which also grows in moist to wet sites! Always make sure you know the ID of any plant you use!

Water Hemlock - Cicuta maculata - grows in similar places and can be mistaken for Angelica.  The Iroquois called this plant

Water HemlockCicuta maculata – grows in similar wet places and can be mistaken for Angelica. The Iroquois called this plant “suicide plant” for a reason. Here it is in a ditch in Wilson.

Water Hemlock - Cicuta maculata - looks very similar to Angelica, but it is not an angel.  It is deadly poison.  Note the veins go to the junctions of leaf.  Know your plants before you touch or eat them!

Water HemlockCicuta maculata – looks very similar to Angelica, but it is not an angel! It is deadly poison. Note the side veins end at the indentations of the teeth of the leaf. Know your plants well  before you touch or eat them!

Cow Parsnip Heracleum spondylium – One of the largest and most obvious members of the Parsley Family, this giant is found in wet meadows. The inflorescence is the size of a dinner plate. The stems are very hairy (hairs may cause a rash) and the giant leaves are divided into three large, jagged lobed leaflets.   Many pollinators take advantage of the numerous tiny flowers.

Cow Parsnip - Heracleum spondylium - has large jagged leaves, plate-sized flower clusters, and is hairy.

Cow ParsnipHeracleum spondylium – has large jagged leaves, plate-sized flower clusters, and very hairy stems.  The hairs can cause a rash in some people.

Butterweed Groundsel – Senecio serra – This tall, 4-5’ yellow composite plant is frequent in moist to wet meadows. The leaves are 4-5”, oblong to lance-shaped, with many teeth (unlike the similar S. triangularis whose leaves are elongate triangles.) Senecios typically have a “palisade fence” of waxy, even-sized bracts surrounding the flower head. In this case, each bract is black tipped. The showy ray flowers are few—here about 6-8, and the disc flowers several. Combined, the head provides a platform for many pollinators—including butterflies–which can crawl over and sip nectar from each of the tiny goblet- shaped disc flowers. The fruits (achenes) will have a tuft of white fluff to help send them on their way. “Senes” = old man. Ragwort is another common name.

Butterweed Groundsel - Senecio serra - is common along road sides and in meadows right now.

Butterweed GroundselSenecio serra – is common along road sides and in meadows right now.  The 5-6″ elongated, serrated (like a saw) leaves help separate it from other large Groundsel species.

Butterweed Groundsel has shiny bracts, often black-tipped, surrounding each head of flowers.

Butterweed Groundsel has shiny, even sized bracts, often black-tipped, surrounding each head of flowers.

Five-veined Little Sunflower/Helianthella –Helianthella quinquenervis –  Not so little, this 3-4’ robust plant is closely related to One-flowered Sunflower (H. uniflora) seen throughout the valley these past few weeks. This species is larger, the flower heads are bent at right angles to the stalk—they appear to glare straight at you, and the lower leaves have 5 strong veins. It prefers more moist conditions than H. uniflora.

Five-nerved Helianthella - Helianthella quinquenervis - appears to stare right at you!

Five-nerved HelianthellaHelianthella quinquenervis – appears to stare right at you!

Five-nerved Helianthella is named for its 5 strong veins on the lower leaves.

Five-nerved Helianthella is named for its 5 strong veins on the lower leaves.

Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentalis – This member of the Sunflower Family never looks quite in bloom (compare to Helilanthella above). We expect yellow “ray flowers” to whorl around the outside of each “head”.  However, in this species, there are no flashy ray flowers, only a whorl of green bracts.  There is a “cone” of tiny “disc” flowers which begin to bloom from the base and gradually, with time, spiral up to the tip.  The bees know it is ready for pollination somehow and are often seen crawling around, dipping their mouth parts into the tiny maroon cups for nectar and collecting pollen.

Western Coneflower - Rudbeckia occidentale - Tiny disc flowers attract bee pollinators.  It flowers from bottom to top.

Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentalis – Tiny disc flowers with yellow pollen attract bee pollinators. It flowers from bottom to top.

Mountain or Wild HollyhockIliamna rivularis – Many people notice this pink plant popping up here or there along the park road or main highway, as well as in meadows or woodland edges.

Mountain Hollyhock - Illiamna - pops up along highways, in the woods, and especially in areas after forest fires.

Mountain or Wild HollyhockIliamna rivularis – pops up along highways, in the woods, and especially in areas after forest fires.

The stems are lined with many large 2-3” flowers. The stamens form a tube in the center with 5 roundish stigmas sticking out. The leaves are like maple leaves.

The fruit of Mountain Hollyhock - Iliamna rivularis -  looks like a hairy tangerine.

The fruit of Mountain Hollyhock – Iliamna rivularis – looks like a hairy tangerine.

The hairy fruit will look like a somewhat compressed 1” tangerine which divides into several sections. This plant in the Mallow Family (Malvaceae) is related to garden hollyhock, marshmallow, okra, and cotton.

Mountain BluebellsMertensia ciliata – Colonies of 2-3’ bluebells inhabit wet seeps and meadows at high elevations.

Mountain Bluebells - Mertensia ciliata - colonizes wet meadows at high elevations.

Mountain Bluebell – Mertensia ciliata – colonizes wet meadows at high elevations, for instance above Ski Lake.

The 2-4” oval, bluish green leaves alternate up the stems which often arch over stream sides. The dangling tubular flowers start out pinkish and then turn blue when ready to attract bumblebee pollinators. The anthers have small pores at their tips. The frequency of buzzing bee-wing muscles shakes out the pollen onto the bee!

Mountain  Bluebells are buzz-pollinated.  Bees vibrate their wings at a certain frequency, and pollen falls onto their bellies!

Mountain BluebellsMertensia ciliata – are buzz-pollinated. Bees vibrate their wings at a certain frequency, and pollen falls onto their bellies! Note the flowers go from pinkish purple to light blue, signaling to the bees when to visit.

Mountain Bluebells are self-compatible—they can receive their own pollen and make seeds, although the resultant off-spring often are not as strong – inbreeding depression.

Monkey FlowerMimulus lewisii – These cheerful brilliant pink flowers with splashes of yellow on their lower petals ornament rivulets and seeps in the cool mountains. The leaves of Monkey Flower, which have three strong veins, are arranged opposite to each other along 2-3’ stems. They are pollinated by bumble- and mason bees.

Lewis' Monkey Flower - Mimulus lewisii - graces seeps with its cheerful blooms.

Lewis’ Monkey FlowerMimulus lewisii – graces seeps with its cheerful blooms.  You can see the nectar guides attracting bumble- and mason bees into the center of the flower.

Some of you may have seen a very similar species in the Sierras – M. cardinalis – whose red flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. In the laboratory, the species will interbreed; however, in nature where the ranges of the two species overlap they do not exchange genes: the pollinators are different. Therefore, the two species maintain their integrity and continue to evolve in their own way.

False Hellebore - Veratrum californicum/tenui - is having a

False HelleboreVeratrum californicum/tenuipetalum – is having a “mast” year. This profuse stand is growing the west end of Phelps Lake.

False Hellebore – Veratrum californicum/tenuipetalum – This is a very poisonous plant in the Lily family (now split off into the Bunch-berry Family-Melanthiaceae) which grows in very damp soils. It has formed a very large, 6’-7′-tall colony along the west end of Phelps Lake this year. This is a display of “masting”—when a plant species produces many, many flowers and fruits synchronously in one year. The overabundance attracts many pollinators: flies during the day, moths at night, and the plentitude makes it difficult for all the seeds to be consumed.

The abundance of flowers and then hopefully seeds first attracts many pollinators, and once pollinated produces an abundance of seeds--too many to be eaten by hungry predators.

The abundance of flowers of False Hellebore first satiates pollinators, and then once they are pollinated, hopefully flowers produce an abundance of seeds–too many to be eaten by hungry predators.

Research indicates that “masting” of False Hellebore is cued by cool July temperatures the previous year, a trigger which could be affected by warming of climate change. Observe the flowers near the top of the bountiful flower stalks: they are typically male and female, while the lower flowers are only male.  See if you can find the difference.

Look at the flowers closely.  Apparently the upper flowers are

Look at the flowers of False Hellebore closely. Apparently the upper flowers are “perfect” with both male and female parts. The lower flowers have only male parts. Hard to tell which this example is.

Information on dispersers and fate of the seeds of False Hellebores was not readily available in a web search. However, there is great information on the masting biology of these plants: http://www.amjbot.org/content/100/3/519.full

These are just a few of the fascinating flowers in bloom right now.  A future posting will discuss some of the smaller species that are beginning to flourish.  In any case, keep on hiking, observing, and enjoying the bounty of flowers we have this summer!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

July 23, 2015

P.S. As always, this blogger appreciates comments, corrections, additions to the information provided here.

9:50 p.m.

Late June Blooms in Jackson Hole!

Throughout Jackson Hole native plants are flowering in abundance due to plentiful May rains and now the unseasonably hot weather.  We have picked only a few highlights. There is much more to observe.

Snowbrush on the Moraines:

Snowbrush Ceonothus- Ceonothus velutinus – covers the burn area of the 1999 Alder Fire located south and west of String Lake.  You can also see Snowbrush in another burned forest on the way to Bradley and Taggart Lakes.  Not only are the flowers showy, but also the fragrance is heavenly.

Seeds of Snowbrush - Ceonothus velutinus - can remain in the soil for decades, ready to sprout after a fire.

Seeds of Snowbrush CeonothusCeonothus velutinus – can remain dormant in soil for decades, ready to sprout after a fire.  Mature plants cover the moraine by String Lake, Grand Teton National Park.

Smokebrush has elegant clusters of white flowers and leaves with three strong veins and a glossy texture on the surface. Buds can be sticky with resin.

Snowbrush Ceonothus has elegant clusters of white flowers and 3-4″ leaves with three strong veins and a glossy texture on the surface. Buds and leaves can be sticky with resin, which provides a different fragrance.

Mulesears on Mountain Sides

Another big show is Mulesear Wyethia (Mulesear for short).  Mulesear looks to many people like the popular and plentiful Balsamroot because of its big yellow sunflower-like flowers and its large leaves. However, Mulesear has darker yellow ray flowers, glossy green elliptical leaves that grow up the stems compared to paler yellow flowers and arrow-shaped, gray-green leaves that grow only from the base of Balsamroot.  Importantly, Mulesear grows in heavier clay soils vs. the well drained soils where we find Balsamroot.

Mulesears have large, dark yellow flowers, 12-18

Mulesear Wyethia – Wyethia amplexicaulis – has large, dark yellow flowers and 12-18″ elongate, deep green leaves (the size and shape of mule’s ears!). It grows in heavier soils than the look-alike Balsamroot.

Cliff Creek drainage in the Bridger-Teton National Forest south of Hoback was magnificent last week.

Cliff Creek drainage in the Bridger-Teton National Forest south of Hoback was magnificent last week. These mountains consist of sedimentary rock which breaks down into clay particles, forming heavier soils.  Note in the distance the mist of pine pollen wafted on the wind.

Wally's World trail off Fall Creek Road near Munger Mountain was full of wildflowers June 20.

Wally’s World trail off Fall Creek Road near Munger Mountain was full of wildflowers June 20.

You can also see stands of Mulesear along the highway near Antelope Flats Road and up by Cattleman’s Bridge near Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

Sulphur Buckwheat and More on Sage Flats

The glacial outwash plains of Jackson Hole within Grand Teton National Park are in full bloom.  Amidst the silvery Big Sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata var. vaseyana), is a tapestry of color: creams, blues, yellows, reds, maroons.  The plant composition varies but the following species are typical at this time.

Sulphur Buckwheat - Eriogonum umbellatum - has mats of small oval leaves, and umbels of creamy yellow flowers which are often tinged with pink.  They are blooming throughout the valley.

Sulphur BuckwheatEriogonum umbellatum – forms mats of small oval leaves and clouds of creamy yellow flowers which are often tinged with pink. Sulphur Buckwheat is  blooming throughout the valley. Note the whorl of leaves just below the inflorescence or flower cluster.

Sulphur Buckwheat, grasses, and Sedum are common at the beginning of the Bradley Taggart Trail Head.

Sulphur Buckwheat and Lance-leaved Stonecrop are overtopped by many grasses at the beginning of the Bradley-Taggart Trail.  Grasses seem more abundant this year compared to 2014.

Several species of grasses overtop the low-growing, showy flowers.  Melica -Melica spectabilis - has elegant egg-shaped spikelets.

Several species of grasses are in full bloom, although the flowers are naturally inconspicuous. Grasses count on the wind for pollination and the wind cannot see or smell, so no fancy colors , patterns, or  scents are necessary.  Even so, close up, Melicgrass –Melica spectabilis – has elegant, dangling spikelets of individual flowers.  Light, wind-dispersed pollen is causing hay-fever (hay comes from grasses!) in many people right now.

Lance-leaved sedum - Sedum lanceolatum - has succulent 1/2

Lance-leaved Stonecrop – Sedum lanceolatum – is tucked below the taller plants.  They have succulent 1/2″ leaves on 6-8″ stems and bouquets of 5-parted, star-shaped yellow flowers. Members of this desert-adapted plant family have a very different metabolism than most other plants.  Look up “CAM- Crassulacean acid metabolism” on the internet to find out more!

Scarlet Gilia - Ipomopsis aggregata - attracts hummingbird, it main pollinator.  Birds see red (insects don't) and the stiffly arrayed tubular flowers enable hummingbirds to hover while lapping up nectar deep within.

Scarlet GiliaIpomopsis aggregata – attracts hummingbirds. Birds see red (insects don’t) and the stiffly arrayed tubular flowers enable hummingbirds to hover while lapping up nectar deep within.  In the process of drinking the high-test nectar, the forehead of the bird bumps the protruding yellow anthers, collecting pollen.  Upon the bird’s next visit, the next flower may have a long stigma to which the pollen will stick.  With luck, the pollen tube grows and fertilizes the egg deep inside the plant….fertile seeds then form!

The south end of the inner Park Road includes dashes of Scarlet Gilia as well as swaths of rusty Dock.

The south end of the Park Road includes tall accents of Scarlet Gilia, as well as plumes of creamy Sulphur Buckwheat.  

Silky Lupine - Lupinus sericeus

Silky LupineLupinus sericeus – is typical of sage flats and dry hillsides.  It has hairs on the backside of the “banner” of the pea-like flowers and very hairy palmate leaves.  As of this posting, I have seen few plants flowering compared to last year. Are you finding it?

Sheep Sorel - Rumex acetosella - adds another color to the tapestry.  A plant of more disturbed soils it is a non-native species.  Plants grow as either males or females.  Take a close look for pollen (male) or stigmas and ovaries (female).

Sheep-sorrrelRumex acetosella – adds another color to the tapestry. A plant of disturbed soils, it is a non-native species. Plants have tiny either males or female flowers . Take a close look to find anthers (male) or stigmas and ovaries (female). Sheep-sorrel happens to be in the same family – Polygonaceae – as Sulphur Buckwheat – Eriognoum spp.

Look for the brightly colored Rocky Mountain Groundsel - Packera (formerly Senecio) streptanthifolia - pops up in odd corners of the sageflats: Here it is in Lupine Meadows. The leaves vary greatly in their shape and incisions.

Bright yellow Rocky Mountain GroundselPackera (formerly Senecio) streptanthifolia – pops up in odd corners of the sage flats, such as Lupine Meadows. The leaves vary greatly in their shape and incisions.  The “flowers” typically have only 8-10 “petals” or ray flowers, per head.

Hawksbeard - Crepis aggregata - is common along the Gros Ventre Road. Note the sword-shaped leaves at the base of the plant.

This species of HawksbeardCrepis aggregata – is common along the Gros Ventre Road. Note the sword-shaped, deeply lobed leaves at the base of the plant.  The dozens of flower heads have only a few ray flowers each.

Little Sunflowers - Helianthella uniflora - are big bright spots on dry slopes surrounding the flats, and occasionally on the flats.

One-flower Sunflowers  or HelianthellasHelianthella uniflora – are 2- to 3-foot tall bright spots in the sage flats along Gros Ventre Road.  They also are found along dry river benches and lower slopes of the buttes. It’s more robust relative – Five-nerved Helianthella – H. quinquenervis – blooms here and there. Look for the 5 strong nerves on the large lower leaves to help distinguish the two.

These last three yellow species are all members of the Aster or Sunflower Family.  It is fun to compare their flowers, leaves, and habit (size, shape, and posture) of these relatives.

Aspen Groves on Rolling Hills 

Aspen stands are particularly welcome oases.  The dappled light created by the shimmering deciduous leaves and the more alkaline soils compared to the pine forests nurtures a rich array of flowers.  The trees themselves are homes to many woodpeckers which in turn create holes for nesting House Wrens, Mountain Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows.

Aspen stands feature a rich array of flowers and birds.  The species vary from place to place. This shot is taken on the west slope of Munger Mountain.

Stands of AspenPopulus tremuloides – feature a rich array of flowers and birds. The mix of species varies from place to place. This shot is taken on the west slope of Munger Mountain. Aspen are easily seen at Cascade Canyon Trail Head, Oxbow Bend, and Two-Ocean Lake Road in GTNP.

One of the most common flowers in aspen groves, meadows, and sage flats is the Sticky Geranium.

Sticky Geranium is common throughout the valley.  Its wide open flowers with obvious nectar guides form landing pads available to many types of pollinators.

Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscossissimum – is common throughout the valley. Its wide open petals with obvious nectar guides form landing pads available to many types of pollinators. 

Two members of the Parsley Family are found in open forests. Can you figure out from the pictures below why it was once called the Umbelliferae Family?

Fernleaf  Lovage - Ligusticum filicinum - is a tall - 2-4 foot plant with ferny, greatly dissected leaves.  The white flowers held on wide umbels are equally as delicate.

Fernleaf LovageLigusticum filicinum – is a tall – 3- to 5-foot plant with ferny, greatly dissected leaves.  The white flowers held on wide umbels are equally as delicate.

Related to the lovage is Western Sweetroot, Wild Licorice - Osmorhiza occidentalis - also has delicate flowers in umbels, but the compound leaves are much less divided.

Related to Fernleaf Lovage, Western Sweetroot, Wild LicoriceOsmorhiza occidentalis – has delicate yellow-green flowers in umbels.  The compound leaves are much less divided and have the fragrance of anise or licorice, as does the root.  True licorice comes from a member of the Pea Family, not the Parsley Family.

Wild Licorice or Sweet Cicely - Osmorhiza occidentale - is a member of the Carrot or Parsley Family.  As with many members of this family - anise, caraway, dill - the seeds are filled with flavor.  Take a taste!

Note the elongate, ribbed, smooth fruit.  Western Sweetroot or Wild LicoriceOsmorhiza occidentalis – is a member of the Carrot or Parsley Family.  As with many members of this family – anise, caraway, dill – the seeds are filled with flavor. Try a taste!

Two members of the Orchid Family can be discovered along trails in aspen groves and elsewhere if you are lucky.  Both are small plants with only a few 1-2′ stems of a reddish to fleshy hue.  They have no chlorophyll but depend on a fungal relationship to nourish the plants. Coralroots get their names from their knobby roots.

Spotted Coralroot - Corallorhiza maculata - is variable in its decoration. However 2 lobes on either side of the base of the lowest petal (lip) and a bump (spur) under the throat of flower help in ID.

Spotted CoralrootCorallorhiza maculata – is variable in its decoration. However, a lobe on each side of the base of the lowest petal (lip) and a bump (spur) under the throat of the flower help confirm ID.

Striped Coralroot - Corrallorhiza striata - The largest of 5 species of Coralroot, this reddish plant has no chlorophyll, but rather depends on a fungus to relay nutrients from other plants nearby.

Striped CoralrootCorrallorhiza striata – is the largest of 5 species of Coralroot in Teton County.  This reddish plant has no chlorophyll, but rather depends on a fungus to relay nutrients from other plants nearby.

Shrubs of Note

Several shrubs are coming into bloom right now.  Serviceberry, Hawthorn, and Chokecherry are beginning to develop fruits that will be favored by bears, birds, and small mammals in the fall, particularly in such places as along the Moose-Wilson Road.  Antelopebush is also fading in the sage flats.  However, Mountain Ash and Elderberry are coming into bloom in the canyons.  Here are three other shrub species that are obvious in their habitats:

Rosa Woodsii - Wood's rose

Woods RoseRosa woodsii – flowers in abundance along roadsides. Many pink flowers are clustered together at the tips of twigs.  Another rose species with sparsely prickly branches bares flowers individually: Nootka Rose – R. nutkana.

Snowberry - Symphiocarpus oreophilus - a 2-3 foot shrub with opposite oval leaves, is blooming in both shade and sun throughout the valley.

Mountain Snowberry Symphiocarpus oreophilos – a 2-3 foot shrub with opposite oval leaves is blooming in both shade and sun throughout the valley.

Red-stemmed Dogwood - Cornus sericea - is a favorite food of browsing moose, as my ornamental plantings attest.  This wetland shrub is easy to identify with its opposite oval leaves with parallel veins and clusters of 4-petaled white flowers.

Red-stemmed DogwoodCornus stolonifera – is a favorite food of browsing moose, as my ornamental plantings attest. This wetland shrub is easy to identify with its opposite oval leaves with parallel veins and clusters of 4-petaled white flowers.

Odd Species:

The following are a few discoveries in particular habitat niches:

Streamsides and ditches:

White Bog Orchid - Platanthera dilatata - is found in wet spots.  The details of the small white flowers and the lovely fragrance help to identify it.

White Bog OrchidPlatanthera dilatata – is found in wet spots. The small white flowers have a lip or lower petal that is expanded near the base, and a spur extending underneath.  The lovely fragrance clinches its identity as White Bog Orchid.

Twisted Stalk - Strepotopus amplixifolia - graces the edges of streams.  The kinked stalk to the flower gives it its name.

Clasping Twisted StalkStreptopus amplixifolius – graces the edges of streams. The kinked stalk to the flower gives it its name.

Hot spot:

Now in bloom on the ledges by Kelly Warm Springs, this flower is gorgeous.  The pad-like stems break off to help in dispersal.  They attach readily to you!

Prickly PearOpuntia fragilis – is in bloom on the ledges by Kelly Warm Springs.  The flower is gorgeous. The pad-like stems break off easily (fragile) to help in dispersal. They will attach readily to you: do not touch!

Beneath my foot:

Hiking up Cliff Creek, by chance we didn’t step on this 3-4″ wonder.

Broomrape - Orobanche uniflora - is a mysterious species of an odd family.  Scientists don't even know if it is an annual or perennial.  Perhaps it lives more than one year, but after it flowers it dies.  Without chlorophyll, the plant is attaches to other species for its food.  Apparently it is not picky as to its host.

One-flowered Broomrape, Ghost PlantOrobanche uniflora – is a mysterious species of an odd family. Scientists don’t even know if it is an annual or perennial. Perhaps it lives more than one year, but after it flowers it dies. It is unclear what pollinates it, or if it pollinates itself.  Without chlorophyll, the plant attaches to other species for its food. Apparently it is not picky as to its host plants. It is a rare species in several states.

There is much more to see, but only so much time to write.  Hopefully, this posting will provide incentive for you to go and see for yourself what is in bloom.  We appreciate your photos (between 500k to 2-3 mb–please not larger) and any identification questions or pointers of where to see them–tetonplants.org.  We can post them too!

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY