Home | Next | Previous | Index| Purchase the book

Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

Aster (Sunflower) Family: Asteraceae

Yellow daisy-like flowers (continued)

Slender tarweed, Madia gracilis (Sm.) D. D. Keck (left). The tarweeds are named for their strong aromatic odor. They grow to mid-elevations in our mountains, although they’re not particularly common. The plant is easily identified by its twice notched rays. It is widely distributed in the west and is also native to Chile—the plant's generic name comes from madi, the Chilean word for the plant.

The related Mountain tarweed Madia glomerata Hook. is an odd little plant. It stands straight, a foot of so high. The one shown here was growing along the edge of a wet sub-alpine meadow. A few flower heads grow in small clusters (botanically these are "glomerate," whence the species name). Each flower head has only a few tiny rayflowers and several disk flowers. The plants are covered with minuscule drops of sticky, strong-smelling fluid . Touch the flowers and smell your fingers and you'll know why this is a "tarweed." Although the slender tarweed has the same tar-like odor, it is not nearly as strong as that of this  plant.

The Salsify, Tragopogon dubius Scop. (left). As suggested by the species name, dubius, the yellow salsify is part of a confusingly interbred family that also includes the similar, blue-flowered European salsify (the edible “oyster plant”). Tragopogon means “goat’s beard,“ from its dandelion-like, feathery seed head (right). Our salsify, shown on the right, is also an old world plant, imported originally for its edible root. It is now a common roadside weed that seems to be spreading further and further afield. The flower heads, which close in the afternoon, are so characteristic that the plant is easily identified.  

Gaillardia, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia aristata Pursh (left). Our native gallardia is easily identified by its reddish-brown-based petals and bristly, reddish-brown disk (aristata means "bristly"). Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen in today's Montana, near where his party crossed the Continental Divide on July 7, 1806. The name Gaillardia honors an 18th C. French magistrate, Gaillard de Marentonneau. Our flower is often confused with a related species, the Firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella Foug, (right), a showy plant that grows in our southern states. The firewheel often escapes from ornamental gardens and lives wild, even though it is not a native-to-Idaho plant.

Mountain (or false) dandelion, Agoseris glauca (Pursh) Raf. (left). Even though it lacks a central disk and is somewhat similar in appearance to a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), the mountain dandelion is not related to the weed. It is characterized by a long bare stem, a terminal flowerhead, and a few linear leaves that spring from a basal rosette. The plant grows at all elevations, as high as treeline. The terms “mountain dandelion,” or simply “agoseris” are used for the plant.

Orange mountain dandelion, Agoseris aurantiaca (Hook.) Greene (right). The orange agoseris is a relatively uncommon plant that you’ll see from time to time during the summer months, usually at higher elevations. It is an eye-catcher because of its burnt orange hue, unusual among Asteraceae in our area.The species name aurantiaca, from the Latin, means “orange-red” (the word is cognate with “orange”). Its leaves are a bit wider than the agoseris shown above, but otherwise the two are similar.

Blue lettuce, Mulgedium oblongifolium (Nutt.) Reveal (left). Although not a yellow flowered composite, we'll sneak the blue lettuce in here as a relative of the prickly lettuce (right). The blue lettuce (formerly and variously Lactuca pulchella and Lactuca tatarica) is the showiest of our several native wild lettuces. Despite its attractive flower-head, it is considered a weed. Its leaves, growth habit and distribution are similar to those of the prickly lettuce, shown on the right.

Prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola  L. The prickly lettuce is a common weed that blooms, usually on disturbed ground, from mid- to late summer. An import from Europe, it grows throughout the United States. The plant's insipid-yellow flower-head lacks disk flowers. Prickly, lobulated leaves, prominently pointed buds and milky sap confirm the identification. Several other wild lettuces, both native and introduced  grow in the Northwest: all are considered weeds. The word “lettuce” was derived from the Latin word “lactuca.” This in turn is related to the Latin word lacteus, meaning “milky,” referring to the plants’ white sap. Lactuca serriola is believed to have an ancestral relationship to edible lettuce, Lactuca sativa.


Home | Next | Previous | Index| Purchase the book