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Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

Aster (Sunflower) family, Asteraceae

Yellow daisy-like flowers (continued)
Tall beggar-tick, Bidens vulgata Greene (left) grows in the southern provinces of Canada and in most of the United States (excepting for a few in the South and Southwest).  The plant is rare in British Columbia and not particularly common in Idaho. It grows on moist ground at least as high as the montane zone. Bidens from the Latin means "twin-teeth" for the plants' annoying, small, double-pointed achenes (fruit) that attach themselves in large number to any passer-by, animal or human.  The plant may be identified by its rambling appearance, lanceolate leaves, "complete" flower-heads with both ray- and disk-flowers, and, when fruiting, by its "ticks."

Rayless yellow composites

Green rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus (Hook.) Nutt. (right). The green rabbitbrush is part of the mid- to late summer landscape in much of the West. There are five different varieties; three grow in Idaho. All are clustered plants with woody stems and variably hairy, narrow green leaves. The stems, leaves and flowers often feel sticky, explaining the name viscidiflorus. Narrow, discoid, brush-like flowers are characteristic. Rayless composites are uncommon in the East; this may have prompted Meriwether Lewis to collect six specimens of rabbitbrushes.

Rubber Rabbitbrush, Ericameria nauseosa (Pallas ex Pursh) G. L. Nesom & G. I. Baird (left, right). There are twenty-two varieties of Ericameria nauseosa (formerly Chrysothamnus nauseosus). Add several other species also known as rabbitbrushes, and one ends up with a taxonomic jumble. We’ll consider the plant shown here as representative and leave it at that. The rubber rabbitbrush has clusters of rayless, bright yellow flowerheads (right), and frosted blue-green linear leaves. The sticky latex-like sap is white, explaining the name, “rubber rabbitbrush.” Meriwether Lewis was confused by the rabbitbrushes, the likes of which he had never before encountered—not surprising for the plants were then unknown to science—and he collected two specimens of this plant. A late bloomer, the rabbitbrush adds bright late summer color to drab sage-covered hillsides.

Large-flowered brickellia, Brickellia grandiflora, (Hook.) Nutt. (left, right). The brickellias grow at high elevations in our mountains and at lower elevations elsewhere west of the Mississippi River. The plants’ pale yellow to off-white flowerheads lack rays and appear to be squeezed together and held in place by the involucral bracts. Prominent delta-shaped leaves also help to identify this species. The plants bloom late, from mid-summer on. The genus name, Brickellia, honors botanist and physician, John Brickell (1748-1809) of Savannah, Georgia. Several similar species of brickellia are also native to Idaho.

Pineapple weed, Matricaria discoidea DC. (left) Meriwether Lewis found specimens of this plant, native to Idaho, growing along the Clearwater River on June 12, 1806. He described it as “a small plant of an agreeable sweet scent; flowers yellow.” The crushed plant gives off an odor close to that of a pineapple, explaining its common name. It is a common, non-aggressive garden and border weed found in almost every state and province.The pineapple weed grows in our mountains on disturbed ground to mid-elevations where it blooms from mid-summer on. The name Matricaria implies  “mother-care” for its supposed value in treating uterine conditions.

Common tansy, Tanacetum vulgare L. Tansy (right) is a Eurasian perennial that now grows everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. It is sometimes seen in Idaho at higher elevations, always near settled places. The tansy’s button-like flowers and camphor-like odor are unique so there will be no problem with identification. Not only is the plant ornamental, but it is also an effective vermifuge. Tansy teas and extracts were used medicinally for other conditions, although with some risk and questionable benefit. Tansies also contain the insect repellant pyrethrum and their leaves were formerly used to wrap meat to prevent spoiling, and added to winding sheets to deter worms, supposedly explaining the derivation of Tanacetum (and “tansy”) from the Greek athanasia, a word that means “no death,” i.e., “immortal.”

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