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Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

The Evening Primrose Family, Onagraceae (continued)

Northern suncup, Camissonia subacaulis (Pursh) P. H. Raven (left) is a low-growing, four-petaled summer plant found only on moist ground. The name, subacaulis, means “not much of a stem,” referring to the flowers, for the flower’s “stem” is actually part of the flower tube and the stem itself is very short. The plant was first collected by Meriwether Lewis on the Weippe Prairie in northern Idaho on June 14, 1806. Camissonia honors German botanist, novelist, and composer Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838) a member of the Russian Kotzebue Pacific expedition of 1815-1818.

Tansy-leaved suncup, Camissonia tanacetifolia (Torr. & A. Gray) P. H. Raven (right). The tansy-leaved suncup’s growth habit is similar to that of the northern suncup and it has a similar range, although, in Idaho at least, it seems to be less common. It is characterized by pinnate leaves that are rather like those of the common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) explaining both its common and scientific species names.

Common evening-primrose, Oenothera villosa Thunb. var. strigosa (Rydb.) Dorn left) was until recently classified as Oenothera strigosa. Several varieties are recognized; ours is found mostly in the Rocky Mountains (the species name, villosa, and the variety name, strigosa, both imply that the plant is covered with fine hairs) growing at least as high as the montane zone. Like the rock-rose (right) this plant has a showy flower whose blooms last but a day. It is usually found in open meadows where it can be identified by its alternate lanceolate leaves, four large yellow petals and reflexed (bent downward) sepals.

Rock-rose, Oenothera cespitosa Nutt. var. cespitosa (right), known by many other local names, is a wide-ranging western plant and other varieties are recognized. It flowers during the summer and is often found high in our mountains growing on dry, sandy slopes. Oenotheras bloom at night when moth-pollinators are active, and by the next afternoon the flowers have wilted—today’s and yesterday’s flowers are present in the illustration. The species name is properly spelled caespitosa (it means “tufted”). Our spelling, cespitosa, is correct for this plant, however, as Thomas Nuttall spelled it that way in describing it. According to the rules of botanical nomenclature the first published name establishes the correct orthography for a plant.

Pale evening-primrose, Oenothera pallida Lindl. (left) is a foothills plant. Like the rock-rose, it prefers dry, sandy soil. The plants are easily identified by their nodding, elongated, reddish-brown buds, by their linear to lanceolate leaves and by their showy white flowers. The plants are found throughout the West, from British Columbia to Texas, (although apparently not in California). Four varieties are recognized; ours is var. pallida.

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