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.

TNP15_AntFl_vwBTBut_52915_1_5x3

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.

A_BalSag_FlCU_CurCan_6711smWeb

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!)

2. A_NER_BalsSagHab_52013_1Q2_5x4sm

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.

WyetAmpl_flCU_191GrosVrd_71111_1v

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

SeneInte_flst_AntFl_5.27.16_1a_3x5

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

SeneInte_stCU_AntFl_5.27.16_1_crp_3x5

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).

TaraOffi_flside_YNP_6.9.16_1_crp5x3

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.

AgosGlau_fl_AntFl_71111_med

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

AgosGlacG_flCU_DMansB_52113_1Med

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.

MicrNuta_habfl_BTTh_61514_4Q2_3x5

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

Coming into bloom are several species of HawksbeardCrepis sp.

2a.CrepcfAcum_habfl_AntFl_63013_1bQ2_3x5sm

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.

2b.CrepModo_fl_AntFl_52814_1crp180Q2_3x3sm

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.

2.A_DelpNutt_Hab_AntFl_51712_2a_5x3sm

Nuttall’s Larkspur is still blooming strong.

2b.A_DelpNutt_FlCU_AntFl_51613_1aQ2_5x3_sm

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.

A_MertObl_FlCU_JosRdg_2614_2acrp180sm

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.

9b.PhloLong_fl_AntFl_51712_1b_5x3sm

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

PhloLong_FlCU_Schw_8.16_1_x53

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.

GeumTrif_Flhab_AntFl_52814_1crpmed

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

GeumTrif_FlCU_YNP_6.6.16_1a_Q2_crp3x5

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

GeumTrif_frCU_BNR_6.2.16_1a_Q1_5x3

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.

LithRude_habfl_antFl_52613_2_5x3

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

LithRude_fl_MWrd_5.27.16_1a_5x3

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

LithRude_frSt_RKO_81813_3Q2_4x3sm

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.

LomaAmb_habfl_BTTh_61514_1web

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

LomaAmbi_habfl_MWRd_5.16.16_2a_Q2_5x3 copy

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.

LomaAmbi_Rt_SpauBayRd_6811_1Q2_3x5

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.

LomaSimp_lfstfl_DmBar_5712_2Q2_5x3

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.

ValeOcci_Fl_GameCrk_5.24.16_1_crp_5x3

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

ValeOcci_Flhab_GameCrk_5.24.16_3_crp_3x5

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.

CeraArver_FLCU_MWOL-5.28.16_1Q2_crp_5x3

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

CeraArve_lfAxil_YNP_6.6.16_1_Q2_crp_5x3

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.

YNP16_Lamar_Pollen_6.6.16_1_crp_5x3

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

PinuCont_BrMale_YNP_6.9.16_1_crp_5x5

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.

 

Advertisements

Teton Pass Blooms – early July 2015

This past week flowers have become spectacular in the mountains.  For instance, the trail south from Teton Pass to Mt Elly (upper part of Black Canyon Trail) in the Bridger-Teton National Forest display an array of flowers thriving between elevation 8,431’ up to 9,275’. Other high elevation routes, such as Ski Lake Trail, have similar species.  With the heavy snow pack, colder temperatures, and late snowmelt, flowers bloom much later in the mountains than in the valley floor at approx. 6400’. And they bloom all at once!

Trail south of Teton Pass is in full bloom in early July.

Trail south of Teton Pass is in full bloom in early July.  Sticky Geranium, Fern-leaf Lovage, Silver Lupine, and Bracted Lousewort are just a few flowers covering the slopes.

Last week one could see plants of early spring – spring beauties, low larkspur, multiflora phlox–with plants that have just finished blooming on the sage flats and aspen groves – balsamroot, hawksbeard, louseworts–with summer bloomers: columbine, Wyoming paintbrush, sweetvetch. Furthermore, the more alkaline, sedimentary soils of mountains south of the granite Tetons provide for some specialties. A walk 1.5 miles south of Teton Pass takes you through montane meadows, spruce-fir forest, subalpine talus and three months of bloom!

The trail south from Teton Pass travels through some limey talus--hot and dry--with interesting plants!

The trail south from Teton Pass travels through some limey talus–hot and dry–with interesting plants!

Specialties of the first part of the trail include several low growing oddities:

Hood's Phlox is still blooming up on Teton Pass!  It was blooming the the valley in early May.  Its fragrance is remarkable.

Multiflora PhloxPhlox multiflora – was still blooming on Teton Pass last week! It was blooming the the valley in early May. Its fragrance is remarkable.

Nuttall's Gilia - Leptosiphon nuttalii - is related to phlox and also to Gilia. They are all in the same family.

Nuttall’s GiliaLeptosiphon nuttalii – is related to phlox and also to Scarlet Gilia (see below). They are in the same family with tubular 5-parted flowers. It forms mounds on dry edges of forests or rocky areas, both south of the pass and on the way to Ski Lake.

Nuttall's Gilia forms soft mounds on rocky slopes.  The leaves are almost needle-like and form whorls on the stem.

The flowers of Nuttall’s Gilia remind one at first of Phlox, but the leaves appear needle-like and whorled. (Actually they are deeply dissected opposite leaves.)  Nuttall’s Gilia – Letosiphon nuttalii – is frequent on the Teton Pass Trail and on the way to Ski Lake.

One of the smallest and oddest plant is the Opine Stonecrop - Sedum debile.  Unlike the Lanceleaved Stonecrop, the succelent leaves are rounded and opposite.  The flowers however are similar.  The fleshy leaves of succulents are designed to hold water through droughts.

One of the smallest (maybe 2-3″ high) and oddest plants is Opine Stonecrop – Sedum debile. Unlike its cousin Lanceleaved Stonecrop – Sedum lanceolatum, the succulent leaves are rounded and opposite and have a rosy color. The 5-parted yellow flowers are similar. The fleshy leaves of succulents are designed to hold water through droughts. Often, they can start new plants from the leaves — some of us may remember propagating Jade Plants (a popular houseplant) the same way.

Another specialty of the limestone talus, this very delicate Nuttall Sandwort - Minuartia nuttallii - forms low mounds on dry sites.

Another specialty of the limestone talus, delicate Nuttall SandwortMinuartia nuttallii – forms very low mounds on dry sites.  It may look a bit similar to the Nuttall’s Gilia, but the single neeedle-like leaves are opposite and the 5 white petals are separate, not fused into a tube.  Nor are they as fragrant.

Rocky Mountain Groundsel - Packera (Senecio) streptanthifolia - is highly variable in its size and shape of lower and upper leaves.  It is frequent orange composite in meadows and canyons at this time.  While it may be 18" tall in some places, here the tough growing conditions support only l6-8" plants.

Rocky Mountain GroundselPackera (Senecio) streptanthifolia – is highly variable in its size and shape of lower and upper leaves. It is a frequent orange composite in meadows and canyons . While it may be 18″ tall in some places, here the tough growing conditions support only 6-8″ plants. Note the leaves are somewhat succulent, a good adaptation to dry situations.(Note: this could possibly be P. cana–correction welcome.)

Scarlet Gilia - Ipomopsis aggregata - is another adaptable plant.  Found in sage flats or mixed into mountain meadow it raise its slender 2-3' stems above many surrounding flowers.  The red, sturdy, trumpet shaped flowers are perfectly designed to attract hummingbirds for pollination.

Scarlet GiliaIpomopsis aggregata – is another adaptable plant in dry sites. It is still blooming in sage flats in the valley, as well as now in high mountain meadows.   It raises its  sturdy, elegant, 2-3′ stems above many surrounding plants. Note the finely dissected leaves.  The red, trumpet-shaped flowers are perfectly designed to attract hummingbirds for pollination.

Also tall and red--here orange red, is the state flower Wyoming Paintbrush - Castilleja liniariifolia.  The flowers are oddly structured.  The red color comes from bracts below each flower and red sepals. Sepals are usually green.  And here the petals are actually green.  Note the yellow-green tube of petals protrudes well beyond the rest of the flower parts.  Like scarlet gilia, it is pollinated by hummingbirds.

Slightly similar to Scarlet Gilia with tall slender stems and finely divided leaves, the state flower Wyoming PaintbrushCastilleja liniariifolia – holds out a cluster of red-orange flowers (color ranges widely). Look closely: the flowers of all paintbrushes are oddly structured. Typically, the color comes from leaf-like bracts below each flower.  (Here you can see the 3-4 lobed bracts holding the flower above) .  The sepals,  which are usually green, are also orange-red. They are fused at their base and then split into 4 sharp teeth.  In this species, there are 4 pointed teeth and a deep split down the front of the tube. The petals form a yellow-green tube which leans well beyond the rest of the flower parts. The pistil, with its sticky knob at the end, protrudes out the end, ready to receive pollen.  The most red Wyoming Paintbrushes are pollinated by hummingbirds, other shades typically by bees.

At the south end of the trail, Indian Paintbrush creates a remarkable display remeniscent of an Impressionist painting.

At the south end of the trail, Wyoming Paintbrush – Castilleja liniariifolia – and companions create a remarkable display reminiscent of an Impressionist painting.  Other flowers include yellow Rocky Mountain Goldenrod, Sulphur Buckwheat; blue Harebells and a  small Penstemon; and deep purple Silky Phacelia, to name a few.

In locations where snow accumulates to greater depth and melts slowly, a taller more profuse collection of species grow.

Some parts of the trail collect more snow and consequentlyl have a greater profusion of flowers.

Some parts of the trail collect more snow and consequently have a greater profusion of flowers.

At least three cinquefoils are common on our trails right now.  All have five yellow-hued petals that form wide platforms for a variety of pollinators to land upon.  Rewards of nectar are hidden in the center.  In this species: Potentilla gracilis there is an extra daub of orange at the base--part of the signal for pollinators.

Three cinquefoils – Potentilla arguta, P. glandulosa, P. gracilis – are common on our trails right now. All have five yellow-hued petals that form wide platforms for a variety of pollinators to land upon. Rewards of nectar are hidden in the center. In this species: Showy CinquefoilPotentilla gracilis – there is an extra daub of orange at the base of each petal–to help guide pollinators.

On the other hand, many louseworts have evolved to fit their pollinators perfectly.  Bumblebees often visit, get pollen on their backs, comb it off and stow it into sacs on their hind legs. However, they can't reach the crevice between head and thorax.  The stigma of the lousewort, however, curls perfectly to reach remaining pollen, and fertilization occurs.  Pretty neat!  This coiled flower is Pedicularis racemosa.  Looks a bit like an elephant trunk!

On the other hand, some flowers have evolved to fit specific pollinators perfectly. In louseworts – Pedicularis spp., bumblebees are key pollinators.  They seek both nectar and pollen. When they visit a flower, the bee squeezes in at an angle created by the petals, the bee gets pollen on its hairy back. A pair of its 6 legs has combs to groom off the pollen and stow it into baskets on its hind legs. However, the bee can’t reach the crevice between head and thorax, leaving some pollen behind. The stigma of the lousewort, however, curls perfectly to reach this remaining pollen, and fertilization occurs. Pretty neat! This coiled flower belongs to Parrot’s Beak – Pedicularis racemosa. However, it looks a more like an elephant trunk!

Splashes of lavender purple on meadow hillsides are likely Western Sweetvetch - Hedysarum occidentale.  Look for the pea-like flowers, and later flattened pea pods.

Splashes of lavender purple on meadow hillsides are likely Western SweetvetchHedysarum occidentale. Look for the pea-like flowers and, later, flattened pea pods.  The 12″ leaves are pinnately divided with raised veins.

Here are the pea-like flowers of Western Sweetvetch.

Here are the pea-like flowers of Western Sweetvetch – Hedysarum occidentale.  The Pea Family was historically called the Legume Family (Legumosae Family – now Fabaceae).  Members of the Pea Family have nodules in their roots that harbor bacteria.  These bacteria can absorb nitrogen from the air in the soil and convert it to a form easily used by the plant.  Legumes, therefore, can grow in many poor soils, and have for centuries been cultivated to “add fertilizer” to fields.

A common plant that looks like for-get-me not is Stickseed - Hackelia micrantha.  There are 2-3 species, but this one is a native blue perennial growing 2-3' tall.

A common plant that looks like For-get-me-not – Myosotis sp. –  is Stickseed –  There are 2-3 species in Teton County, but Meadow Stickseed –  Hackelia micrantha  – is a native, blue perennial growing 2-3′ tall.

Look closely at the barbs on these fruits.  You can see why they are called stickseed - Hackelia sp.

Look closely at the barbs on these fruits. You can see why they are called StickseedHackelia sp.

A few more favorites can be seen in mountain meadows right now.

Colorado Columbine - Aquilegia coerulea - is a favorite.  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.

Colorado ColumbineAquilegia coerulea – is a favorite. 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.

Scarlet Paintbrush - Castileja miniata - grows in high meadows.  The reddish bracts and sepals are highly variable in  color.  The petals are fused and hidden inside until they finally extend out to pollinator. Leaves are simple.

Scarlet PaintbrushCastilleja miniata – grows in high meadows. The reddish bracts and sepals are highly variable in color. The greenish petals are fused and hidden inside until they finally extend out to a pollinator. Leaves are simple.

Sulphur Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja sulphurea – is similar in design to C. miniata (see above); however, the bracts are yellow instead of red.  Stems 8-22” often branched. Subalpine to Alpine.

Sulphur PaintbrushCastilleja sulphurea – is similar in design to Scarlet Paintbrush – C. miniata (see above); however, the bracts and sepals are yellow instead of red. Stems 8-22” often branched. Subalpine to Alpine.

A truly elegant plant which stands up tall to 2-3 feet in crowds of flowers or alone on trail edges.  Stems are trimmed with coils of royal purple flowers, each with elongate, gold tipped anthers.  The leaves swirling around the base of the stem are neatly lobed.

Silky PhaceliaPhacelia sericea – is truly an elegant plant which stands up tall to 2-3 feet in crowds of flowers or alone on trail edges. Stems are trimmed with coils of royal purple flowers, each with elongate, gold tipped anthers. The leaves swirling around the base of the stem are neatly lobed.

Continue to hike higher to see the flowers.  Your effort will be generously rewarded with bouquets strewn at your feet.  Enjoy!

Trail south of Teton Pass is in full bloom in early July.

Looking north mid-way along the trail south of Teton Pass.

Frances Clark, botanist

Wilson, WY

July 6, 2015

Early Spring – 2015

If you haven’t already been out scouting for early spring wildflowers, now it the time!Time to go looking for wildflowers--Its spring!

Over the past three weeks, native plant enthusiasts have been exploring Munger Mountain, the south end and now the north end of Grand Teton National Park. Here are some discoveries:

Trees and Shrubs:

Cottonwoods (Populus spp.) are expanding their buds.

Cottonwoods (Populus spp.) are expanding their buds.

Buds of Cottonwood trees (several confusing species of Populus) are swelling and in some places the male catkins are ready to shed their pollen onto the winds.  Look closely at the black frills on individual flower bracts. The anthers are maroon.

Cottonwood male catkin is exploding out of it confining bud scales.

Cottonwood male catkin is exploding out of its confining, resinous bud scales.

Willows (Salix spp. ) – “Pussies” are emerging from their single bud coverings. In the same family as Cottonwoods and Aspens, willows also produce male and female catkins usually on separate plants. Most flowers are wind pollinated.

Willows (Salix spp) of many kinds are expanding their catkins (pussies) out of their single scale covering. Elegant!

Willows (Salix spp) of many kinds are expanding their catkins (pussies) out of their single bud scale covering. Elegant!

Going going going – the earliest flowers:

Turkey Peas or Orogenia (Orogenia linearifolia) has umbels of flowers, smaller than ant toes.  This is a rare pink form.

Turkey Pea or Orogenia (Orogenia linearifolia) is only an inch or two high and has minature umbels of flowers. This is an unusual pink form found near the base of Munger Mountain.

Turkey Pea or Orogenia (Orogenia linearifolia) – Dingy-white to rarely pink flower clusters are hard to find unless you are really looking. The individual flowers are smaller than ant feet!   Take a close look at the deep purple stigmas. The leaves are divided into grass-like segments, further confounding the search.

Turkey Peas has a bulb-like storage root.

Turkey Pea has a bulb-like storage root.

The “pea” part of the name comes from the underground bulbs relished by bears to sandhill cranes. Some were still blooming along Pacific Creek Road on April 26, but others were beginning to set fruit.

The fruits of Turkey Peas or Orogenia are tiny, as are the flowers.

The fruits of Turkey Pea or Orogenia are tiny, as are the flowers. Note the red “stylopodium” below the two white stigmas and above the smooth developing “schizocarp” – a dry fruit that will split in two.

Steer’s-head (Dicentra uniflora) – The single flowers are smaller than a thumbnail and the whole plant with its dissected leaves is less than an inch high. Once you spot the flower, look carefully at its intriguing flowers so emblematic of the West!

Steer's-head (Dicentra uniflora) - is a quintessentially Western plant.

Steer’s-head (Dicentra uniflora) – is a quintessentially Western plant.

Coming out now!

Buttercups: The saucer-shaped yellow flowers gleam back at us from only an inch or two above the ground. The glossy yellow flowers are especially structured to provide this intense signal to pollinators: a smooth petal surface; yellow (carotenoid) pigments in the epidermal cell layer; a special air layer; and then another cell layer with white starch granules which reflect the light back at you (or the bee).   Go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3350741/ for the marvelous story.

Two low, early buttercups are blooming:

Sage Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus var. ellipticus) grows in slightly drier habitats as the common name implies. The lower leaves and many of the stem leaves are elliptical (not lobed). The petals are falling off in the southern end of the park around Antelope Flats, but go north and you will still find flowers shining in colonies between sage shrubs.

The lowest leaves of Sage Buttercup are not lobed.

The lowest leaves of Sage Buttercup are not lobed.

Utah Buttercup (Ranunculus jovis) – Typical of more moist sites, this species has three-(to five-) lobed basal leaves. And if you dig down (not in the park!) you would see that the roots are swollen. Carbs for wildlife.

Utah Buttercup (Ranunculus jovis) - has lobed basal leaves and fattened roots.

Utah Buttercup (Ranunculus jovis)  sports lobed basal leaves and fattened roots.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) – Delicate bouquets of white to blush flowers are true harbingers of spring around sage flats. Look closely at the deep pink nectar guides on the petals and find the nectar glands in the center which direct and reward pollinators.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) are sprinkling  sage flats in the park

Spring Beauties  (Claytonia lanceolata) are sprinkling sage flats in the park

Yellowbells (Frittilaria pudica) – These dangling yellow, lily-like flowers are readily spotted along park roads: Moose-Wilson, Antelope Flats, and Pacific Creek. The 3-5” plants arise from bulbs just like lilies.

Yellowbells (Frittilaria pudica) are like miniature yellow lilies gracing sage flats with Spring Beauties.

Yellowbells (Frittilaria pudica) are like miniature yellow lilies gracing sage flats and hillsides.

Yellow Violets (Viola nuttallii var.) – Most of us can identify a violet by its unique bi-lateral flowers that guide insects into the nectaries hidden deep inside a spur formed behind the petals. The precise identification can be complex, but for the most part “yellow violet” will do for now.

Yellow Violet (Viola nuttallii var) - has oval leaves and a spur that holds nectar for pollinators to find.

Yellow Violet (Viola nuttallii var) – has oval leaves and a spur that holds nectar to entice pollinators into the sexual parts of the flowers. Leaf shape and color on the back of the petals are some ID features used to determine species or variety.  However these features are highly variable and confuse even experienced botanists.

Another yellow violet, Viola purpurea - has leaves shaped like webbed duck feet. Here it is with spots of hail.

Another yellow violet, Viola purpurea – has leaves shaped like webbed duck feet. Here it is with spots of hail.  This is easy to ID compared to other “yellow violets”.

South-facing, dry slopes: 

On slopes around Blacktail Butte and Kelly Warm Springs, one can find three mat-forming species:

Some of the earliest flowering plants are found on south-facing dry slopes.

Some of the earliest flowering plants are found on south-facing, dry slopes.

Common Twinpod (Physaria didymocarpa) – The four-petaled yellow flowers, which indicate its a member of the confusing Mustard family, are held just above a rosette of paddle-like silvery leaves. The fruits and starred hairs are used in positive identification.

Twinpod (Physaria didymocarpa) grows on dry slopes of Blacktail Butte.

Twinpod (Physaria didymocarpa) grows on dry slopes of Blacktail Butte.

Pursh’s Milkvetch (Astragalus purshii) – The creamy to bluish pea-shaped flowers are held in clusters. The silvery leaves are pinnately compound e.g. are divided into segments like a feather. Later the fruits will become plump pea pods hairy all over.

Pursh's Milkvetch (Astragalus purshii) - has elegant pea-like flowers. Fruits will be furry broad pea-pods (see last years by flower).

Pursh’s Milkvetch (Astragalus purshii) – has elegant pea-like flowers. Fruits will be furry, broad pea-pods. (Last year’s fruit lies just in front of the flower cluster).

Less conspicuous are flowers of Low Pussytoes (Antennaria dimorpha). The 4-6” broad mats of tiny silvery leaves obscure the flower heads. As with most pussytoes, separate plants bare either female or male flowers. This is a female plant as seen by the stigmas pushing out in the center of the delicate goblet-like flowers. See if you can find plants with only pollen producing parts.

Low Pussytoes (Antennaria dimorpha) forms mats on dry slopes.

Low Pussytoes (Antennaria dimorpha) forms mats on dry slopes.

In the Aster family, individual flowers are grouped into heads.  These are female flowers.

In the Aster family, individual flowers are grouped into heads. These are female flowers.

Hood’s Phlox (Phlox hoodii) – Like small patches of snow, these plants are scattered around Antelope Flats and elsewhere. The flowers are bright white, tubular, and very fragrant! Note the tiny pointed leaves have “cobwebby” hairs between them. Later in the season, another low phlox (P. multiflora) blooms with slightly larger flowers and no cobwebs.

Hood's Phlox (Phlox hoodii) is low growing and very fragrant!

Hood’s Phlox (Phlox hoodii) is low growing and very fragrant!

Hoods Phlox also has

Hoods Phlox also has “cobwebby” hairs which help separate it from the slightly different Multiflora phlox.

Why are so many leaves silvery hairy? In exposed locations, leaf hairs reflect sunlight and help shade leaves from too much intense sun.  They prevent leaves from being sandblasted by soil particles. Finally, hairs hold in transpiring moisture to prevent desiccation.

And an early parsley:

Cous Biscuit-root (Lomatium cous) – The delicately divided leaves, which look like sprawling parsley leaves, and the umbels (think ribs of an umbrella) of yellow flowers with broad bracts at the base are all good clues to identification. These plants are blooming along the Gros Ventre Road just east-southeast of the highway intersection.

Cous Biscuit-root (Lomatium cous) is closely related to the plants that Lewis and Clark observed Native Americans using for food. The tuberous roots were ground and used for a bread.

Cous Biscuit-root (Lomatium cous) is closely related to the plants that Lewis and Clark observed Native Americans using for food. The tuberous roots were ground and used for a bread. 

The broad bracts at the base of the flower, as well as the parsely like leaves help in ID.

The broad bracts at the base of the flower, as well as the parsley-like leaves help in ID.

Much more to come:

If you haven’t signed up yet for our email list: tetonplants@gmail.org please do so.  Then you will be alerted to more information, including our impromptu hikes!

Frances Clark

Wilson, WY

Late autumn botanizing: it’s still out there!

Who would have imagined it possible to find so many species of wildflowers in bloom late in the season? Actually it isn’t that unusual, and we probably walk right past some of them because we don’t expect to find them. Now that the leaves have mostly fallen we can start looking down instead of up.

In addition to the late-bloomers that are still producing flowers, the long season has encouraged some to bloom a second time. On a recent hike along the dry south-facing slope in Cache Creek’s Crystal Butte area, I found the following plants blooming away:

Long-leaf phlox – especially near the trailheads and along the lower trail. Lovely drops of bright pink in a sea of straw.

Yarrow – often seen blooming late, and the foliage is still fresh and green.

 

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Sticky geranium – stunted stems that have already gone to seed once, foliage bright with fall reds and oranges, yet another bloom or two rises to the sunlight. So sweet.

Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum)

Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum)

Harebell – Another not-so-unusual fall bloomer, but a delight to find along the trail.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Foothill daisy, Pacific aster and hoary aster continue to bloom, green rabbitbrush keeps producing yellow blossoms (pollinators, where are you?), and the other day I spotted a few I had not seen in bloom in fall before—stemless goldenweed and mat buckwheat.

Foothill Daisy

Foothill Daisy

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus)

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus)

Non-natives still blooming include common dandelion and a few salsify.

 

Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Until the snow flies or the temperatures fall below the mid-20s, we can continue to catch these last unexpected bit of bloom on the mountainsides and valley. What have others seen lately?

Susan Marsh, Jackson

Late August blooms still coming in the Tetons

A_BTNF_TabMt_3VwFlBowl_81614_1Q1fixwebOne is continually surprised by how many new plants are coming into bloom: in high meadows, along wetlands, sage flats, and roadside edges.   Many of them are “composites” or members of the aster, daisy, or sunflower family: Asteraceae.  Many are yellow, others- mostly “asters”- are blue, and some you may not know are in bloom at all: sagebrushes.  A few other unrelated odd species pop up as well, such as elegant gentians and inelegant broomrape.  Below are a few wildflowers that you might notice on your hikes and drives around the valley.  Plus a quiz plant!

Yellow Composites:

Western ConeflowerRudbeckia occidentalis – The purplish brown cone-shaped receptacle never looks quite in bloom until you notice the bees working them over.

Western Coneflower - tiny flowers attract bee pollinators.

Western Coneflower – tiny flowers attract bee pollinators.

Looking closely, you may see a row or two of tiny “disc” flowers with pollen being pushed up.  They start blooming at the base and gradually continue row by row up to the tip.  These 5’ plants with large 6-8”, rough, oval leaves are found in moist meadows.

Curly Cup GumweedGrindelia squarrosa – A relative newcomer to Jackson Hole from its surrounding native range, it has now migrated in along dry roadside edges, mostly in the south end of the valley.   GrinSqu_fllv_NER_81714_2crpWebLook carefully at the bases of each head to see the distinctive bracts curling back from the center.

The curly sticky bracts give the plant its name: Curly Cup Gumweed.

The curly resinous bracts give the plant its name: Curly Cup Gumweed.

These one-of-a kind heads are very resinous: sticky and pungent.  The 1”  leaves are toothed, and often clasp the stems.  Sage grouse chicks 5-8 weeks old relish gumweed in Montana, and maybe here as well?

Showy GoldeneyeViguiria multiflora – Also found along roadsides and trails in the sun to partial shade, these cheerful 1-3’ high plants catch your eye.  Flowers are borne loosely atop wiry stems.

ViquMult_flhab_2OL_8814_2crpWeb

Showy Goldeneye catches attention along roadsides and trails with its cheerful flowers and tidy opposite leaves.

The 2”-3” long, neat, oval leaves with pinnate veins are held opposite each other.  The flower heads are surrounded by tidy rounded bracts, and you may notice the 8-10, broad, petal-like ray flowers are slightly darker toward the center.  In bee vision, this slight change in hue creates a bull’s-eye pattern.  Pollinators have a perfect landing pad from which to gather nectar and honey.

Parry's or Rayless Arnica is the odd-ball of the popular Arnica genus.  It has no sunny ray flowers, only disc flowers.

Parry’s or Rayless Arnica is the odd-ball of the popular Arnica genus. It has no sunny ray flowers, only disc flowers.

Parry’s/Rayless ArnicaArnica parryi – This odd-ball arnica grows 1-2’ tall on the edges of high meadows and coniferous forests.  Unlike its sunflower-like cousins, this species has rusty yellow flower heads with disc flowers only bunched together in 1” heads.  However, the bracts beneath are all the same size;  the leaves, although small, are opposite each other in 2-4 pairs on the stem; and the seeds will have fluffy parachutes (pappus)—all typical of Arnica.  This plant is sticky hairy.

Several yellow composite shrubs brighten sageflats.  This is Rabbitbrush.

Several yellow composite shrubs brighten sageflats. This is Rubber Rabbitbrush – Chrysothamnus nauseosus.

Three sunny composite shrubs: Three shrubs add yellow splashes and swaths of color along roadsides, sage flats, and disturbed, dry habitats. Their genus names have been debated for years as the scientists sort out who is related to whom.  Each species has several varieties, further indicating a range of often confusing characteristics.

Rubber RabbitbrushEricameria/Chrysothamnus nauseosa – This 3-4-foot shrub adds panache to the grey-green hues of sagebrush habitats.  The broad, rounded crown is colored by many narrow flower-heads clustered  together on the ends of upright woody branches.  The very narrow long leaves (1/8” wide to 4+” long) stick out from a grayish, furry stems (tomentose).  The twigs have a milky latex sap which gives it its name.

Rabbitbrush has felt-like gray hairs on the stem and long, flattish leaves, as well as bright yellow flowers.

Rubber Rabbitbrush has dense felt-like gray hairs on the stem and long, flattish leaves, as well as bright yellow flowers. Look for butterflies nectaring on these profuse flower heads.

Douglas RabbitbrushChrysothamnus visidiflorus – Similar at first glance to Rubber Rabbitbrush and sometimes placed in the same genus, this shrub differs in being generally shorter 1-2’ shrubs; green, not gray, hairy young stems; and 2-3” oblong, usually twisted leaves which are a bit sticky (viscid).

Douglas Rabbitbrush has bunches of yellow flowers at the ends of brittle, greenish stems.

Douglas Rabbitbrush has bunches of yellow flowers at the ends of brittle, greenish stems.

The leaves of Douglas Rabbitbrush are usually twisted, and the stems are not densely gray hairy.

The leaves of Douglas Rabbitbrush are usually twisted, and the stems are hairy, but not felt-like.

Hairy Golden AsterHeterotheca/Haplopappus/Chrysopsis villosa – The lowest growing of the three late-summer blooming shrubs, this somewhat woody species grows  6-12 ” in dry disturbed sites and road edges, often with blue Pacific aster.  The leaves are hairy and slightly wavy, only about ½-1” long.  The ½” flowers are a soft yellow.  This genus remains a muddle taxonomically.HaplVilp_habfl_TNPrd_81514_3Q2crpweb

The genus for Golden Aster has been in dispute.  Two rows of pappus hairs is one clue.  Yikes!

The genus for Hairy Golden Aster has been in dispute. Two rows of pappus hairs is one clue. Yikes!

Blue to White Aster-like flowers:  Taxonomically Aster is no longer Aster as scientists around the world have shared and refined their knowledge of this confusing group of plants.  The Europeans claim the old Aster name.  Our genus “Aster” is split now into several new groups with hard to spell and pronounce names.  Below are the common names (still aster) listed with the new botanical names.  Differences are based on growing habit, flower-head bracts, obscure pappus hairs, and invisible DNA.  Luckily, some kinds are quite easy to tell apart once you look. Pollinators of aster flowers are typically bees and butterflies.

Thickstem AsterEurybia integrifolia – Common in meadows, these 1.5-2’ plants have thick, often purplish-red stems coated with sticky hairs. Stems branch mostly near the top, holding out deep-violet flower clusters.  Each flower-head has loose, leaf-like bracts that are also very sticky.  The glandular hairs form a gluey forest that deters small insects from creeping up the stems to lay their eggs in the larder of fattening seeds.  The oval leaves clasp the upper stem, the lower leaves can be petioled.

The stems of Thickstem aster are not only thick, but also sticky.  A forest of glandular hairs deter crawling insects from laying eggs in the developing seeds.

The stems of Thickstem Aster are not only thick, but also sticky. A forest of glandular hairs deters crawling insects from laying eggs in the developing seeds heads.

Chaffy AstersEucephalus sp. The three Wyoming species of Chaffy Aster typically sport a few upright stems which are trimmed bottom to top with many alternating, oval to elongate leaves. The plants branch like candle-arbors near the top where a few sparse flowers are arrayed.  Flower-heads have relatively few (6-12) showy ray flowers.  The receptacle is elongate, covered with 3 rows of broad, dry (chaffy), triangular bracts arranged like shingles on a roof.  These three species are often found growing among one another.

Nuttall AsterEucephalus elegans (Aster pereglans) –This species is the shortest and most elegant of the three, averaging 1-1.5’ or so.  The flower-heads display 5-7 violet-purple ray flowers.  The tightly arranged bracts are hairy, especially around the edges, and are often traced with purple. The oblong 2” leaves are neatly arranged up the stem.

Flowers of Nuttall's Aster exhibit fine features of the genus: the broad bracts in several rows, and a few ray flowers.

Flowers of Nuttall’s Aster exhibit fine features of the genus: the broad bracts in several rows and only a few ray flowers.

EuceEleg_habfl_PhiPs_8914_1Q2web

The leaves of Nuttall’s Aster, as with other members of the genus, alternate up the whole stem, gradually becoming smaller.

Engelmann’s AsterEucephalus engelmannii –This  aster stands up to 3-5’ tall and tends to lean out from the shade of forest edges or above other robust meadow plants.  The large bright white, slightly ragged flower-heads cluster near the tips of the sparse branches. The straight stems are covered with many 3-4” oblong leaves.

Engelmann's Aster is the largest of the three chaffy asters.

Engelmann’s Aster is the largest of the three chaffy asters.

For comparison:  Engelmann's Aster left, Nuttall's Aster right.

For comparison: Engelmann’s Aster left, Nuttall’s Aster right.

Blue-leaf AsterEucephalus glaucus – Look for colonies of 1-2’ stems covered with gray-blue leaves. The flowers are white to pale lavender and the bracts are pale, smooth, and thin-textured. The overall appearance is rather ghostly.  It lurks in relatively dry and high, often sunny, locations.

Blue-leaf Aster has a ghostly appearance on rocky high elevations.

Blue-leaf Aster has a ghostly appearance on rocky high elevations.

American Asters – Symphyotricum spp. – There are several truly aster-like asters that now have an impossible botanical name: Symphyotrichum (Sim-fee-o-trick-em).  In case you really want to know, here are three (out of about 7) common showy species:

SympAsce_habfl_home_81414_1aQ2crpWeb

Pacific Aster is the most common aster: it tolerates a wide range of conditions and ranges greatly in height, but it always has lots of flowers!

Pacific AsterSymphyotrichum ascendens –One of the most common and tolerant asters, Pacific aster  started blooming a few weeks ago and continues to do so along roadsides: from 6” where it may have been mowed or grazed, to 2+ feet where there is extra moisture.  The light blue flower-heads grow along much of the stem.  The bracts on the underside are shorter at the base and longer on the inside (ascending).  The leaves are elongate and if you look closely, the venation is elongate too—these characteristics help us know it for sure.

The leaf of Pacific Aster has elongate venation and is a key to identification.

The leaf of Pacific Aster has elongate venation: a key to identification.

Another key to ID of Pacific Aster are the bracts:  the lower ones are definitely shorter the the upper ones.

Another key to ID of Pacific Aster are the bracts: the lower ones are definitely shorter the the upper ones.

Bracted AsterSymphyotrichum eatonii – Found on stream edges with wet feet, this 2-4’ aster can at first be confused with Leafy Aster (below) as the blue flower heads have leafy bracts.  However, the leaves of Bracted Aster are narrow and long ( >7x longer than wide), and the habitat is definitely wet.  Flowers cover much of the plant and the stem is usually slightly hairy all over.

Bracted Aster is found along streamsides and wet meadows.  Note the long leaves and many flowers along the stem.

Bracted Aster is found along streamsides and wet meadows. Note the long leaves and many flowers along the stem.

Bracted Aster also has leafy bracts, which can be confused with the species below: Leafy Aster.  ID depends on several clues.

Bracted Aster also has leafy bracts, which can be confused with the species below: Leafy Aster. ID depends on several clues.

Leafy AsterSymphyotrichum foliaceum – Just coming into bloom in moist meadows, near streams, and high elevations, this aster has broad oval leaves that often clasp the stem and several blue flower-heads with many ray flowers, which together create quite a show.  Looking under the flower-head you can see the leaf-like bracts that give it its name.  There are several varieties with different details of leaves, bracts, etc., but just “Leafy Aster” is fine.

Bracted Aster usually has leaf-like bracts and long broad leaves.

Leafy Aster usually has leaf-like bracts and long broad leaves.

Sagebrush Artemisia spp.  –  Many people don’t realize that our common sagebrushes are wind pollinated members of the Aster family: they don’t have showy flowers but rather produce pollen in tiny composite heads with no ray flowers and only a few disc flowers.

This Low Sage plant is in full bloom - not showy as it is wind pollinated

This Low Sagebrush plant is in full bloom at Lupine Meadows.  It is not showy as it is wind pollinated.

Low SagebrushArtemisia arbuscula –  A 1’ shrub that dominates Lupine Meadows in the park is now in bloom: 6-8” narrow stalks with tiny flower heads, each with about a dozen disc flowers, wave like wands and shed pollen to the wind—magic that any pollen meets a stigma surface to initiate seed formation.  Its 1/4-1/2″  leaves have 3 lobes–like Big Sagebrush – held close to tough woody stems.

The composite flowers of Low Sagebrush are tiny.

The composite flowers of Low Sagebrush are tiny.

Soon our Mountain Big Sagebrush – Artimesia tridentata var. vaseyana — will wave about pollen too.

In full flower: Mountain Big Sagebrush

In full flower: Mountain Big Sagebrush.  You can see the curved stigmas of the flowers, ready to catch the falling pollen.

And other special plants:

Naked BroomrapeOrobanche uniflora – Rare to find, this peculiar plant has no chlorophyll but rather depends on its roots to connect it to other living plants for food.  Saxifrages, sunflowers, and goldenrods are often its “host” plants.

This weird rare plant, broomrape, does not have chlorophyll, it connects to other host plants for food.

This weird rare plant, Broomrape, does not have chlorophyll, it connects to other host plants for food.

Mountain Bog Gentian –Gentiana calycosa. – These deep blue, 6-8” plants with egg-shaped, opposite leaves unfurl their pleated petals to attract late flying pollinators such as bumble bees. Look for it blooming at high elevations .

Mountain Bog Gentian graces high elevations with its pleated, speckled blue flowers.

Mountain Bog Gentian graces high elevations with its unfurling, speckled, blue flowers.

What is this?What is this?*

Quiz plant*:  This is the flower of a tall plant that is considered the harbinger of autumn.  It colonizes abundantly after  ____, a behavior that gives it its name. Answer below.

Enjoy hiking higher to see more showy blooms or looking closely with a hand lens at many wind pollinated plants.  And don’t forget to look for fruits: berries, pods, capsules, etc. Fall is coming!

Lupines, groundsels, Indian paintbrush are now blooming over 9000'.

Lupines, groundsels, Indian paintbrush are now blooming over 9000′.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

*Quiz answer: Fireweed – Chamerion/Epilobium angustifolium – The 8 anthers open sequentially releasing pollen. Pollen grains are linked by microscopic hairs which become entangled in the hairs of its bee pollinators.  These same micro-strings attach readily to the 4-parted stigma which has little bumps. In each flower, the anthers develop first, then the 4-lobed stigma expands, to avoid self-pollination.  The plants bloom from bottom to top.

Late July Wildflowers in Jackson Hole

The sage flats are subtly colorful, mostly with yellow, cream, and rose hues of persistent and pervasive sulphur buckwheat flowers and fruits (Eriogonum umbellatum varieties). Lupines still flourish, sage is extending its silvery flower stalks, and the grasses wave gracefully in the breeze.   For fresh blooms and splashy color you have to go higher and higher.

Walk through the meadows up to Ski Lake, and beyond.

Walk through the meadows up to Ski Lake, and beyond to find flowers.

Cool canyons and high meadow slopes feature floral bouquets.   What we think of as spring flowers: Spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata) may be blooming in recently melted snow patches.  On dry slopes, late summer bloomers may be out already, such as Engelmann Aster (Eucephalus engelmannii).  On any given slope, flowers will mix in different combinations of pink sticky geranium, red to yellow paintbrushes, blue lupines and asters, lavender erigerons, yellow sunflowers, white columbines, to name a very few!

Mid-elevation hikes are good for botanizing.  Trails south from Teton Pass and north to Ski Lake exhibit extraordinary diversity of bloom.

A_BTNF_PassTrMid_Flws_71714_2crpWebMoose-Wilson Road and hikes to Phelps Lake are also great right now.  You may want to visit Goodwin Lake, Two Ocean Lake, and other mid elevations at the north end of the valley as well.  This list does not include the incredible alpine and subalpine flowers found at 9,500’ and above.

Keep scrolling down to discover what is in bloom now and to identify what you may have already found.  Also reference past “what’s in bloom” pages:

Longtime Favorites:

Colorado or White ColumbineAquilegia coerulea  var. ochroleuca– The delicate “talons” or spur-like petals extend 2” beyond the rounded sepals (which look like petals) and contain nectar for long-tongued pollinators: hummingbirds and hawkmoths.A_AquCoe_flb_GraCanTr_62912_1crpWeb

Not to be confused with the lemon-yellow to bluish color Yellow Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) which flexes shorter, stubbier spurs.  Long-tongued bees are more likely pollinators.A_AquFla_flCU_SawTmtUT_8911_4crpWeb

Harebell Campanula rotundifolia – The dangling blue bells are long-time favorites of locals, blooming from mid summer to the end of autumn.

Harebell - a longtime favorite

Harebell – a longtime favorite

A_CampRotu_habfl_MWrd_72014_3Q2crpWeb

The leaves at the base are more or less round, but the stem leaves are linear in Harebell.

Paintbrushes – Castilleja spp.  These members of the Snapdragon family have complex flowers. Often the fused petals (galea) hide amidst colorful sepals and bracts. The species often hybridize or double their chromosomes, making it difficult to identify the species precisely.  For instance, color can be highly variable. Below are samples of the more obvious and beautiful, common species.

Wyoming PaintbrushCastilleja liniarifolia – The state flower inhabits sagebrush habitat and dry slopes.  Unlike many other paintbrushes, the “galea”, the beak of fused petals, is green and sticks out well beyond the tube of colorful orange-red sepals which split deeply on the back. Colorful forked linear bracts (leaf-like structures) are held beneath each flower adding to the show.  Alternating down the 2-foot stem, the leaves are thin and often forked.  The plants have a wild, lean elegance.

Wyoming Paintbrush - our state flower

Wyoming Paintbrush – our state flower. Note the stigma sticking out beyond the flower, ready for pollen borne on the heads of hummingbirds.  The green galea leans out beyond the colorful calyx tube.

Other paintbrushes in the mountains include the Scarlet Paintbrush –  Castilleja miniata.  Stems  are up to 3’ high.  Colors vary from pink, to salmon, to whitish to scarlet.

Scarlet Paintbrush is highly variable in its color.

Scarlet Paintbrush is highly variable in its color. Note the leaves and bracts are not lobed.  The green galea of fused petals is almost hidden by the colorful sepals and bracts.

Also look for the very similar, shorter Alpine PaintbrushC. rhexifolia – in subalpine to alpine locations. The bracts are slightly lobed at their tips.  Distinction by color, unfortunately, is in the eye of the beholder.

Note the lobed tips of this species.

Note the lobed tips of the bracts and leaves of Alpine Paintbrush, which otherwise looks a lot like Scarlet Paintbrush (above).

Sulphur PaintbrushCastilleja sulphurea –  The “galea” barely pokes out beyond the sepals and bracts which are both usually pale  yellow (but there are color variations!) with many long, often sticky hairs.  The leaves, like the bracts, are usually more or less entire, not divided.

Sulphur Paintbrush can grow in clusters.

Sulphur Paintbrush can grow in multi-stemmed clusters.

Mountain BluebellsMertensia ciliata – The sky-blue flower clusters drip over mountain streams at this time of year.  This is the only bluebell species of this large 3-4’ size.

Mountain Bluebells is often along streams or wet meadows.

Mountain Bluebell often grows along streams or in wet meadows.

Western SweetvetchHedysarum occidentalis   – The violet pea-shaped flowers dangle in stiff racemes above 1’ foliage.  Look for the flattened fruits that hang down in chains later in the summer.

A_HedyOcci_flCU_SkiLk_62613_1web

Note the “keel” and “banner” of Western Sweetvetch are longer than the side “wings” of the pea-like flowers.  The green calyx of fused sepals at the base of the petals has uneven teeth–looking like a scoop.

Standouts:

A_IliaRivu_Flhab_PhlLkTr_72114_1Q2CrpWeb

Mountain Hollyhock is in cool canyons and long sunny roadsides.

Wild HollyhockIlliamna rivularis – stands out along sunny dry roadsides as well as in shady canyons.  The 4-6’ plants are hard to miss with their large lobed leaves and lavender to pink hollyhock-like flowers.

A_IliRiv_flCU_ShadMtnRd_8411_1crpWeb

Look inside the 1.5” petals of Mountain Hollyhock: dozens of anthers form a tube and down inside are 5 separate styles with nobs on their ends (capitate).  The 1” fruits look like very hairy wheels of cheese.  Each section (carpel) encloses 2 or more seeds. These features make it different than your garden Hollyhock (Malva sp).

Pinedrops – Pterospora andromeda – One- to four-foot singular stalks grow in dry coniferous woods.  The rusty red stems have no green leaves.  Instead of photosynthesizing, the plant roots are surrounded by mychorrhizal fungi that draw upon another unknown host for carbohydrates to benefit the pinedrops.  Much is still mysterious about this species.

A_PteAnd_Fl_TNP_8511_2web

The dangling bell shaped flowers of Pinedrops will each produce a dry capsule containing 1000s of tiny seeds, easily scattered by wind deep into the duff to co-join with fungal threads.

Western LarkspurDelphinium occidentalis – Growing 5-6 feet in moist meadows, this plant has complicated flowers perfect for specific bee pollinators to puzzle out.  The smart bee’s reward is nectar at the end of the “spur”.

The tall Western Larkspur presents interesting puzzles to pollinators.

The tall Western Larkspur presents interesting puzzles to pollinators.

Aster Family – Asteraceae:

A_BalSag_FlCU_CurCan_6711smWeb

This flower head of balsamroot shows the ray flowers on the outside and smaller upright disc flowers clustered on the inside–each will produce a fruit. Note the fuzzy bracts surrounding the whole.  So each flower head can have many, many flowers, hence the old family name Compositae

The Aster Family is one of the largest plant families in the world.  The basic plan of several tiny flowers sitting on a receptacle making each cluster or “head” look like a single flower is universal.  However, the variation in “involucral bracts” surrounding the “head”; the receptacle shape; outer and inner flower types—ray vs. disc; color; pappus -bristles or scales; seed shape and size are technical aspects that place  “asters”,  “ daisies”, and “sunflowers” into different genera.  Common names add to the confusion.  Regardless, it is fun to investigate the plants:  Can you see similarities and differences between flowers?  Pollinators know which is which, if not by name.

Subaplpine Erigeron – Erigeron peregrinus – Flower heads are usually one per stem and the petal-like rays are 2-4 mm wide (relatively broad), usually bluish lavender.  Plants can grow 2+ feet tall.  The upper leaves may or may not be reduced.

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

Single heads with broad, blue petal-like ray flowers are typical of Subalpine Erigeron.

Oregon Erigeron – Erigeron speciosus – Rays .5-.2 mm., narrower and more plentiful (75-150)  than Subalpine Erigeron.   Each stem may have 1-10 flowers.   Upper leaves are gradually reduced and usually egg-shaped (ovate), the lower leaves are more elongate.  Leaves are typically smooth with some stiff hairs along the margin (ciliate).

Erigerons have many small rays.

Oregon Erigeron has  several flower heads with many small rays, egg-shaped leaves near the top, and longer leaves with side hairs near the bottom of 2-2.5′ plants.

Little Sunflowers or HelianthellasHelianthella spp.– This genus has sunflower-like heads, e.g. yellow petal-like ray flowers around the outside, and small disc flowers on the inside.  The large elliptical leaves are arranged opposite near the base to sub-opposite higher on the stem. Leaves are sandpapery rough.  Unlike dandelions, the “pappus” is scale-like, not fluff-like. This genus has flattened achenes (frutis) with thin edges vs. not flattened of a true sunflower (Helianthus sp. –think of the sunflowers seeds you shell and eat!).

A_HeliQuin_FlCU_TetPs_72412_1crpWeb

Five-nerved Helianthella – Helianthella quinquenervis – stands up tall to 4 1/2’, and stares straight at you. The lower leaves may be 1’ long, with 5 obvious nerves. Basal leaves may be present. Flower heads are 3-5” across, solitary or with a few smaller below.  The bracts on the back are broadly triangular and often have hairs along the outer edges.  Found in moist woods in the mountains.

One-flowered Helianthella - Helianthella uniflora - is shorter 2-3' tall, and more demure in its posture.  Lower leaves have 3-veins,  Flower are 2-3" across and the bracts are narrowly triangular.

One-flowered HelianthellaHelianthella uniflora – is shorter 2-3′ tall, and more demure in its posture. Lower leaves have 3-veins, Flower are 2-3″ across and the bracts are narrowly triangular. It grows in sage flats and up relatively dry slopes.

Groundsels  – Senecio spp. – This genus has yellow ray flowers plus disc flowers.  The involucral surrounding each flower head is made up of one row of narrow, equal bracts, like a palisade fence. (Occasionally, a few smaller bracts can be seen at base.)  The plants are typically smooth or cobwebby, never rough with stiff hairs as in look-alike sunflowers or sticky-hairy as in arnicas.   The silvery white pappus (fluff) gives it its Latin name Senecio meaning  “old man”.  The following three species are large, leafy, and common in the appropriate habitat.

groundsels have a single row of even-sized bracts surrounding the flower heads.  This is Thick-leaved Groundsel or Senecio.  

Groundsels have a single row of even-sized bracts surrounding the flower heads. This is Thick-leaved Groundsel or Senecio.

Toothed Senecio or Butterweed GroundselSenecio serra – The large leaves are linear or lanceolate, with pointed tips.  The margins are saw-toothed.  Plants grow to 4-5 feet, with multi-branching, rounded clusters of flowers.   Common in meadows along open areas of Moose-Wilson Road and elsewhere.

A_SeneSerr_habfl_MWrd_72014_1web

Butterweed grows in large colonies along Moose-Wilson Road.

Thick-leaf or Bracted SenecioSenecio crassulus – Smaller than the Toothed Senecio, this species is approx 2’-3 tall, with thickish leaves often rounded near the base.  They alternate up stem.  Edges smooth (entire) or with very small teeth.  Involucral bracts are thickened, waxy, with black tips.  Seen in high elevation meadows.

A_SeneCrass_habfl_SkiLkTrHigh_Junc_72214_1Q2web

Thick-stemmed groundsel height varies but can be 4′ tall in moist areas. The leaves are usually toothed, often broad at base and clasping the stem.

Arrow-leaf SenecioSenecio triangularis – Leaves several up the stem to 2-6” long, elongate, obviously triangular and toothed. Found in wet areas such as seeps, stream-sides, and wet meadows. (no photo)

A_SolcfCan_flCul_BtLkTr_82311CrpWeb

Goldenrods do not cause hayfever. The pollen is too heavy to be carried by wind.

Goldenrods – First, goldenrods are not the cause of hay fever.  Their pollen is way too heavy to be tossed on the wind and up your nostrils.  Strong bees and flies are needed to carry pollen, it is so heavy.  These pollinators are attracted to the yellow clusters of flowers.  Look closely.  The flower heads are tiny: 1/8-1/4” wide.   Each of these flower heads has both yellow ray and disc flowers.  Often these tiny flower heads are arranged along one side of the branching inflorescence.  Leaves are simple, alternate, smooth edged or slightly toothed.  Low growing species — less than a foot or so –typically have basal clusters of leaves and then small leaves which reduce in size up the stem. Tall growing species typically have many, mostly same sized, leaves up the stem, and no basal leaves.

Rocky Mountain or Low GoldenrodSolidago  multiradiata – About 1-1.5’ tall, these tufted plants are often wedged into rocks or along sides of trails.  Look for approx. 13+ ray flowers per head and ciliate hairs along the petioles of basal leaves.

Low Goldenrod has "bursts" of flowers at the top, each head with many tiny ray flowers.

Low Goldenrod has “bursts” of flowers at the top, each head with many tiny ray flowers.

Canada Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis – 2-3+’ tall stems with leaves of similar size.  Canada goldenrod has pointed, 2-4” leaves with sharp teeth and three strong veins.  The tiny flowers are arranged along one side of the arching flower stems.  The plant is finely rough hairy along much of its stem.

Canada Goldenrod can look a bit like a tall groundsel, but the individual flowers are tiny.

Canada Goldenrod can look a bit like a tall groundsel, but the individual yellow flower heads are tiny.

Parsley/Carrot family – Apiaceae.

This family used to be called the Umbelliferae because the tiny flower are arranged at the ends of umbrella-like ribs—e.g. stalks arising from a central point.  Each flower has 5-tiny petals and an interesting fruit that splits in two called a schizocarp.   These fruits can be the key to identification and are fun to compare.

Cow parsnip Haracleum spondyleum – This floral giant is hard to miss in moist areas and aspen groves: the flat flower clusters are the size of dinner plates.  The inch thick stems are bristly hairy and the huge compound leaves are divided into three broad leaflets each with 3 pointed lobes.  Overall the plants can be 4-5’+ tall.A_HeraSpon_flhab_MWrd_7113_2crpWeb

Fern-leaf Lovage – Ligusticum filicinum – The white flower clusters are salad-plate size and are held 1-2’ above large finely dissected leaves—reminiscent of giant carrot leaves.   Fruits will be 1/4″ oblong schizocarps.LiguFili_habfl_TetPsTr_7413_1crpfxweb

Fernleaf Lomatium/Spring Parsley – Lomatium dissectumRemember the large pale yellow spring parsley with fern-like leaves, similar to lovage,  that bloomed in spring?  Most of the plant has dried up, but the fruits are held up at eye height on umbrella ribs to disperse by wind or bird.A_LomaDiss_fr_PhlLkTr_72114_1aWeb

Sweet Cicely or Western Sweetroot – Osmorhiza occidentalis – This 3’ species is the largest of three local members of this genus.  Note few “umbrella” ribs compared to some other members of this family.  The tiny yellow-green flowers have turned into inch-long, elongate, smooth fruits that taste a bit like licorice or anise.

The elongate fruits of western sweetcicely have a tangy, anise flavor.

The elongate fruits of western sweet cicely have a tangy, anise flavor.

Two other species can be hard to distinguish as both have elongate fruits with downward pointed hairs. Both are be found in shady, moist locations. Again it is just fun to observe and taste the differences!

A_Osmchil_Fr_BTNF_8313_3crpWeb

Note the stiff hairs, sharp tip of the fruit of this Sweet Cicely. The fruit will split and stick to clothes and fur.

Sweet CicelyO. berteroi/chiliensis – Flowers borne on approx 1.5 feet stalks which may stretch to 4’ high in fruit.  The narrow, pointed fruits with stiff hairs attach to hikers and wildlife for dispersal.

 Bluntseed SweetrootO. depauperata – 10” or less tall with elongate, club-shaped fruit with a blunt tip held on wide spreading stalks.

Depauperate Sweet Cicely is most delicate.  The club-shaped fruits are held at wide angles.

Bluntseed Sweetroot is most delicate. The club-shaped fruit with blunt ends are held at wide angles.

Common Yampa –  Perideridia montana – Look for the tiered lacey white inflorescences 3-4” wide just beginning to bloom in sage flats and meadows.   The leaves are very skimpy: only 1-3 on the 1-2’ bluish gray stems, each with maybe 4-5 pairs of linear leaflets that fizzel quickly.  The swollen roots are relished by bears and other wildlife.

Yampa root is cherished by bears, ground squirrels and even people.

Yampa root is cherished by bears, ground squirrels and even people.

These are just a few wildflowers you may find while out hiking mid-summer.  It is fun to try to recognize a plant family and compare its members’ flowers and fruits.  Slowly, the plant varieties will become familiar friends, and with practice you may remember their names!  In any case, you have had a good “conversation”.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

Note: Measurements are approximate.  Using the scientific names you can look up precise details and more about each species.  Also, there may be other look-alikes than are compared here.

A_BTNF_PassTr_VwN_72714_1web

Roadside “Weeds” in Teton County – Early Summer 2014

Driving down our roads, over a dozen rambunctious plants – “weeds”– catch the eye in early July.

"Weedy" plants proliferate along disturbed edges of roads, ditches, etc.

“Weedy” plants proliferate along disturbed edges of roads, ditches, etc.

Barley is easy to recognize at this time of year.

Foxtail Barley is easily recognized. It is a tenacious local or “native”growing along road edges.

With a bit of practice, even from a distance, you can identify the big patches of plants: windshield botany.

Different terms help describe their origins.  Many “weeds” are introduced to this area from afar–these we call “non-native” species.  Some non-natives are beautiful and benign—spreading slightly beyond our human landscapes—“naturalized”; other non-natives may be beautiful (or not) but are terrors—they spread in large numbers from roadsides into neighboring natural and agricultural areas altering their quality–these we call “invasive exotics”.

“Noxious weeds” are those listed by various agencies for control.  A few roadside plants are wonderfully resilient “natives”—locals that know how to get along in particularly tough, transient circumstances.  “Weed” is a loose term used by gardeners for plants out of place and by the public for those untidy, rampant interlopers—e.g. plants we don’t want around.  Wherever they are from, these common roadside species are interesting plants to investigate.

All the plants described here adapt well to disturbance.  Human disturbances are created during road, bikeway, and ditch construction and maintenance; utilities installation; and overgrazing.

Weeds_Mixed_Rdside_62914_3aFixWebMed

Natural disturbances include landslides and flood-scoured shorelines.  Most “weedy” plants grow and propagate profusely in full sun, extreme wind, heat, and poor soils.

Many newcomers spread from nearby gardens, vehicle wheels, bird or cow poop, and muddy shoes or paws.  They are often annuals or biennials: plants that grow, set seed, and die within in a year or two.  They typically disperse 1000s of seeds per plant—their genetic survival strategy.  Perennial weeds have extensive root systems that enable them to form dense colonies, out-competing other species for resources. Invasive exotics and noxious weeds affect the productivity of our agricultural fields and the natural diversity of our native habitats.

Note: The plants with a (*) are targets for control by the Teton County Weed and Pest District and Grand Teton National Park Service.   For more information, please to go to: http://www.tcweed.org

Yarrow – Achillea millefolium – Yarrow grows in temperate zones around the northern hemisphere—circumboreal.  It has medicinal qualities historically used by Achilles during the Trojan War (hence the latin name: Achillea) and by our Native Americans, and still today by herbalists.  The flat “cymes” of white flowers and soft, fern-like leaves have made this plant distinctive for millennia.

AchiMil_infl_hm_62824_2aCrpWeb

Yarrow is a member of the aster family and grows around the northern part of the globe.

Blue FlaxLinum lewisii –These sky blue flowers open wide to the morning sun, thereby attracting bee and fly pollinators. Their many skinny, 1” leaves are arranged alternately on slender, 2-3’ delicately branched stems that bend with the breeze. It is related to the European Flax (L. usitatissimum), still used for making linen. This is a beautiful native found along roadsides and into sagebrush and montane communities.

Lewis' Flax is named during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Its sky blue flowers catch the eye.

Lewis’ Flax was named during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Its flowers reflect the blue sky.

Dalmatian Toadflax*Linaria dalmatica – Related to garden snapdragons, this persistent invasive exotic has yellow flowers with long spurs born arranged at the tops of straight, 2-2.5’ stems.  Each plant can produce 500,000 seeds that can live in soils for ten years!

LinaDal _fl_Rdside_62914_2aQ2web

Dalmatian Toadflax looks like our garden snapdragon. The yellow flowers with long spurs born at the tops of straight 2-2.5’ stems. Blue-green, stiff, arrow shaped leaves clasp the stems.

Each plant can produce 100,000 seeds and last 10 years in the soil.  Here the offspring are spreading.

Each Dalmatian Toadflax plant can produce 500,000 seeds and last 10 years in the soil. Here the offspring are spreading.

Oxeye Daisy* Chrysanthemum leucanthemum/C. vulgare – Introduced as a garden ornamental for its showy flowers, the wavy-lobed, 2-3” long leaves are unpalatable and irritable to both wildlife and livestock. Oxeye Daisy invades readily into pastures and up mountain slopes by seed and root.  While it is tempting to keep a few plants for flower arrangements, their side effects are not worth it!

Beautiful bucolic Oxeye Daisies are not not benign and need to be removed from gardens and pastures.

Bucolic Oxeye Daisies are not not benign and need to be removed from gardens and pastures.

Dame’s Rocket*Hesperus matrionalis – This attractive plant from Eurasia is a garden escape often found in our subdivisions.  Note the 4 purple (sometime white) petals that flare at the ends.  This is a large-flowered member of the Mustard Family and releases 1000s of seeds in a year.  The fruits ripen into elongated siliques.  These short-lived plants extend their roots quickly into new habitats, affecting wildlife values of aspen groves and the like.

Dame's Rocket spreads from our gardens into natural areas.

Dame’s Rocket spreads from our gardens into natural areas.

Foxtail BarleyHordeum jubatum – Not quite waving amber waves of grain, this shining blond-to-rose-colored grass festoons road edges.  While the 8-12” plants look soft and silky, their grains are encased in stiff spears (awns and glumes) that deter grazing animals.  The barbed seeds easily attach to passing tires, shoes, and fur. This is a tenacious native.

Barley feels silky until it dries it's spine.  It is a very tenacious local.

Foxtail Barley feels silky until it dries it’s spines.

Cheat Grass, Downy Brome*Bromus tectorum  – The scourge of grasslands throughout the West, this quickly growing annual is unpalatable to livestock or wildlife due to its sharp, hurtful awns.  It crowds out nutritious native grasses and changes the ecology of shrublands and grasslands by altering the fire regime: the fast-curing plants provide tinder for fires from spring to fall.  Look for the purplish to brown patches spreading from roads up the slopes of our buttes.

Another grass, cheat grass is the scourge of our native grasslands, altering the beauty and ecology of our ecosystems.

Another grass, cheat grass is the scourge of our native grasslands, altering the beauty and ecology of our ecosystems.

Cheat grass spreads like wildfire--in fact it spreads wildfire:  The annuals dry up by early summer providing tinder for any spark.

Cheat grass spreads like wildfire–in fact it spreads wildfire: The annual plants dry up by early summer providing tinder for any wayward spark.

Yellow Sweet CloverMelilotus officinalis – A member of the pea family hailing from Europe, this 2-5’ plant. can fix its own nitrogen, enabling it to grow on the poorest of soils. The tiny, yellow, pea-like flowers have a sweet fragrance from the presence of coumarin.  In moist hay, coumarin can be converted by fungi into a poisonous anticoagulant, called dicoumarol—toxic to cattle.  Natural area managers target Yellow Sweet Clover for its aesthetic and ecological alteration of our beautiful grassland and shrub habitats. In Jackson Hole it is well established along roadsides and buttes.

MiliOff_infl_rdside_62514_1smW

Yellow Sweet Clover is identifiable by its three-parted leaves and pea-like yellow flowers on 3-4′ stems.

Sweet Yellow Clover is colonizing our roadsides and buttes.

Sweet Yellow Clover is colonizing our roadsides and buttes.

Bladder CampionSilene latifolia – Introduced from Europe, this naturalized species is a delight to investigate.  The fragrant white flowers bloom at night into the next morning, attracting moth, bee, and fly pollinators.  Plants proffer either male or female flowers.  The 5 sepals (outer whorl) form a sac and the five white petals flare out above it.  Male flowers have only anthers which barely reach beyond the petal tube.  Females have 5 extended, curling stigmas ready to grasp the pollen relayed by a visiting pollinator. Once fertilized, over 100 seeds may form inside a dried capsule, to be shaken out by the wind, like grains of salt from a salt cellar. Females extend curled stigmas and have a more pregnant looking calyx than the male flowers.

Bladder Campion is naturalized from Europe.  A given plant produces male or female flowers, which are typically pollinated by moths at night.

Bladder Campion is naturalized from Europe. A given plant produces male or female flowers, which are typically pollinated by moths at night.

Male flowers of Bladder Campion have a relatively narrow calyx and the anthers reach just beyond the flared petals.

Male flowers of Bladder Campion have a relatively narrow calyx (“bladder”) and the anthers reach just beyond the flared petals.

Female flowers of Bladder Campion have curled elongate stigmas ready to adhere pollen from visiting moths.

Female flowers of Bladder Campion have curled, elongate stigmas ready to adhere pollen from visiting moths.  The bladder looks more pregnant.

Tumble Mustard – Sisymbrium altissima – This 3-4’ tall, airy plant has ½”, 4-petaled yellow flowers and 3-4” very narrow fruits (siliques).  The stem leaves are pinnately divided into narrow segments while the basal leaves are much broader and larger overall.  This is a very invasive plant, which dries quickly, breaks from its roots, and tumbles its seeds across open spaces.

It is hard to image the extensive impact these delicate looking plants of Mustard Tumbleweed have on our environment.

It is hard to image the extensive impact these delicate looking plants of Tumble Mustard have on our environment.

Tumble Mustard break off their bases, and tumble their tough seeds across the landscape.

Tumble Mustards break off at their bases and tumble with the wind, releasing seeds across the landscape.

Salsify or GoatsbeardTragopogon spp.  The giant dandelion-like flowers are seen here and there along roadsides and fields. Right now their flower heads are ripening into fluffy but often dingy, 3- 4” spheres. Each elongated seed has its own elaborate parachute.  Take a close look!  We host 3 species naturalized from Europe.

Goatsbeard look a bit like giant dandelions in bloom.

Goatsbeard look a bit like a giant dandelions in bloom.

The spherical heads of Goatsbeard will soon shed dozens of seeds, each with its own parachute.

The spherical heads of Goatsbeard will soon shed dozens of seeds, each with its own parachute.

Thistles* – Canadian thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Nodding or Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans) are  just a few thistles from Europe targeted for eradication.   These spiny plants overwhelm many pastures and grasslands.   

Musk Thistle is a daunting competitor in pasture lands.

Musk Thistle is a daunting competitor in pasture lands.

Musk Thistle can be a bit deranged, but glorious in its conquest.

Musk Thistle can look a bit deranged, but glorious in its conquest.

However, there are also native thistles, such as – Cirsium scariosum, which are highly beneficial to insects and larger wildlife. In a later blog, we will help you identify the native thistles from the exotic invasives.

Musk Thistle is a daunting competitor into pasture lands.

Native thistles. like Circium scariosum, can look a lot alike some invasive thistles.  It is important to know the difference.

 

Cirsium scariosum is a beautiful native thistle beneficial to wildlife of all sizes.

Cirsium scariosum is a beautiful native thistle beneficial to wildlife of all sizes.

So while you are driving, biking, or walking stop and take notice.  Dissect the flowers. Examine the fruits and seeds.  Smell and feel the leaves.  Think about why these plants are so successful.

And as always, we appreciate your comments, corrections, and questions.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

P.S. This essay is about native and non-native plant species.  Absolutely no inference should be made to our many visitors or workers from around the country and world, whom I welcome here in Jackson Hole.

Plants in "waste" or disturbed habitats often are interesting to botanize hands-on.

“Waste” or disturbed habitats are interesting places to botanize.  You are usually welcome to collect, dissect, and examine specimens.  Just don’t spread them to new locations!