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Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

Aster (Sunflower) Family: Asteraceae

Yellow daisy-like flowers (continued)

Ballhead groundsel  (or ragwort), Senecio sphaerocephalus  Greene (left). Groundsels are also known as butterweeds or ragworts—the latter from the ragged appearance of the flowers. This plant's species name, sphaerocephalus means “round-headed.” It is a common perennial in our area, blooming early in the spring while there is snow on surrounding mountains. Because "spring" in the mountains is relative, this plant blooms well into the summer at higher  elevations, almost to treeline. In addition to their rounded configuration (the meaning of sphaerocephalus) they have black-tipped bracts that cup each flowerhead. Its alternate leaves, stemmed at the base, become much smaller and stemless as they ascend the stem.

Wooly groundsel, Senecio canus Hook. (right) is a notably furry  ("tomentose") plant that is found from the plains to high in the mountains. it is easily identified by its hairy leaves (Hieracium scouleri, the westerrn hawkweed shown below is another hairy composite that has smaller flowerheads that lack a central disk,

Butterweed groundsel, Butterweed, or Tall ragwort, Senecio serra Hook.  (right). Butterweeds grow all over the United States. They bloom abundantly in our area in recently moist meadows from midsummer on, depending on elevation Many small flowers arise from a myriad of stemlets. Lanceolate leaves without stemlets attach directly to the plant's stems. The individual blooms have a ragged appearance, common to senecios in general. The species name, serra, means "toothed" or "serrated," referring to the leaves,  {although, confusingly, the leaves in some plants are smooth-edged).

Arrow-leaf ragwort (or groundsel), Senecio triangularis Hook., (right) is a somewhat similar, although less common plant with large, basal, triangular leaves. These tend to become narrow as they ascend the stem. They may be smooth-edged, or toothed. This plant not uncommonly is seen  along stream banks. The plant is widespread in the West, growing at mid- to higher elevations.

Alkali-marsh ragwort, Senecio hydrophilus Nutt. (left). The  alkali-marsh ragwort grows, as its name suggests, on wet ground, as in water-meadows. It takes a tall plant to bring its flowerheads even with the tops of surrounding grass, and such is this one. This ragwort is identified by its wet surroundings, its dark stems and the few-petaled, ragged flowerheads (hence "ragwort)"that are common to the genus. The plant is found throughout the west, excepting the southwestern states.

Rocky alpine groundsel, Packera werneriifolia (A. Gray) W. A. Weber & A. Löve (right). Many plants, previously classified as senecios have been reclassified to genus Packera  (the name honors botanist John G. Packer [1929- ] of the University of Alberta.). The little plant, shown on the right, is quite at home on alpine tundra. It was classified as a Senecio until recently. Its flowerhead is rayed, although the rays are extremely small. Its ovoid gray-green leaves and the purplish involucres--made up of leaves that cup the flower parts--help to identify the plant.

Dwarf arctic groundsel, Packera subnuda (DC.) D. V. Trock & T. M. Barkley (left). This little ragwort (formerly classified as Senecio cymbalaroides) is a tiny, prostrate ,late-blooming alpine plant. Tiny toothed leaves and few-rayed flowerheads help with identification. The species name, subnuda, refers to its nearly leafless stem (not well shown in the illustration). It grows in the Northwest, California, Wyoming and north to the arctic islands of Canada

Buek's groundsel, Packera cymbalaria (Pursh) W. A. Weber & A. Love (right). This high altitude bog and moist-meadow plant's naked stem and roundish serrated leaves resemble somewhat those of the dwarf arctic groundsel (left), so it also was classified as Senecio cymbalaroides. Both plants have been reclassified recently. This plant's flowerhead and basal leaves are small and separated by a disproportionately long and slender stem--a configuration that makes photography difficult. It is naive to Idaho, Washington, Montana, the contiguous Canadian provinces, north to Alaska. A disjunct popularion grows in Canada's eastern provinces.

Low hawksbeard, Crepis modocensis Greene  (left). The low hawksbeard has only ray flowers. Its leaves , and the leaves of the genus in general, are deeply incised, long-stemmed, and pinnate (feather-like). The Greek word krepis means “sandal,” apparently used by Theophrastus for a similar plant. The name, modocensis, refers to Modoc County in California. Other Crepis species also grow in Idaho; the form of their deeply serrated leaves helps to identify the plants

Western hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis Nuttall var occidentalis (right) is a low, foothills plant with large flowers. Its foliage in common with other hawksbeards, is a hairy grayish-green. The plants are variable, and four varieties are recognized

Longleaf Hawksbeard, Crepis acuminata Nuttall (left) is another foothills species, and the tallest of our hawkweeds. It has a tendency to interbreed with Crepis modocensis. The hybrid is recognized as Crepis intermedia.

Western Hawkweed, Hieracium scouleri Hook.  (right: formerly Hieracium cynoglossoides) has half inch wide flowerheads that are without disk florets. All parts of the plant save the flowerhead itself are notably hairy and the sap is milky—both help to identify the plant. It is common, blooming from mid-summer on as high as the subalpine zone. The name hieraceum was derived from the Greek hierax for “hawk.” John Scouler (1804-1871) was a naturalist who visited the Northwest briefly in 1825-6.

Stemless goldenweed, Stenotus acaulis (Nutt.) Nutt. (left). Although the stemless goldenweed was included in the genus Haplopappus for many decades, it has recently been returned to Thomas Nuttall’s original classification (according to botanical nomenclatural rules, the earliest published name always has priority). He apparently derived the generic name Stenotus from the Greek stenos, a word that means “narrow,” probably for the shape of its stemless (acaulis) leaves. The plant grows from foothills to alpine tundra..

Woolly goldenweed, Stenotus lanuginosus (A. Gray) Greene var. andersonii (Rydb.) C. A. Morse (right). The woolly goldenweed (formerly Haplopappus lanuginosus var. andersonii) is commonly seen in our mountains from montane to the subalpine zones growing, typically on rocky or gravelly soil. The plant is characterized by basally clustered, soft, narrow, rather hairy leaves. The showy flowerhead has a prominent disk and wide, deep-yellow rays.

Shrubby goldenweed, Ericameria suffruticosa (Nutt.) G. L. Nesom. The shrubby goldenweed (formerly Haplopappus suffruticosus) is a summer-blooming plant that grows in tight shrubby clusters (left) at high elevations, sometimes turning barren, south-facing slopes close to treeline a bright yellow The flowerheads (right) are few-rayed (5-9) with bristly central disks. Crisp-edged leaves are covered with fine hair. The plants have a very strong, but not unpleasant aromatic odor that fills the air even before the plants have bloomed. Shrubby goldenweeds grow in Idaho, and the nearby states of Oregon, California, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana.

White-stem goldenweed, Ericameria discoidea (Nutt.) Nesom (left, right). The white-stem goldenweed--its common name comes from the plant's light-colored stem--also grows at high elevations, on rocky soil and talus slopes. This and the shrubby golden weed (above) are quite similar; both grow in low, shrubby clusters. The main difference between the plants is obvious in the illustrations; this one has only disk florets (discoidea). It lacks the ray-flowers that its near relative, the shrubby goldenweed, has. Its distribution is similar, although, unlike the shrubby goldenweed, the white-stem species also grows in Utah and Colorado

Curly cup gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa (Pursh) Dunal (left, rightis an odd plant because its flower buds contain a whitish, viscous, resinous fluid. Native Americans used the resin to treat skin conditions, and respiratory problems. The leaves were used for tea, and the buds were chewed as gum.  The Latin species name, squarrosa, means “bent at right angles,” referring to bracts that form the resin-filled “curlycups” cupping the flowerheads. The bracts turn sharply outward explaining the plant's common and scientific names. Gumweeds grow along our trails and mountain roadsides, often in great numbers, blooming from mid- to late summer. The name Grindelia honors David Hieronymus Grindel (1776-1836) a Russian botanist. Lewis and Clark collected another variety of this plant in present day Nebraska on August 17, 1804. Three varieties are recognized, together their distribution covers the United States (excepting the deep south) and almost all of Canada.

Common eriophyllum, Eriophyllum lanatum (Pursh) J. Forbes var. integrifolium (Hook.) Smiley (left). Various common names including “woolly sunflower”  and "Oregon gold" have been suggested for this attractive composite, although it is usually known simply as an “eriophyllum” (eri-OFF-illum). The leaves are variably covered with fine hairs giving them a silvery color, explaining the species name, lanatum (“woolly”). They grow to subalpine elevations, blooming from late spring into the summer. Lewis and Clark saw eriophyllums growing in meadows above their camp on the Clearwater River near present day Kamiah, Idaho, where they gathered two specimens (of another variety) on June 6, 1806; the plant was then unknown to science. Grindelias have minor differences, including the number of rayflowrs and shape of their leaves, varying from place to place throughout the West--more than a dozen varieties are recognized.

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