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Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

Rose Family, Rosaceae (continued)


Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana C. Presl var. hispida Fernald (left, right) is named for Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island where another variety was collected by a botanist with the Malaspina Spanish expedition (1791). Our plant’s varietal name, hispida, means “bristly.” It grows to six feet or more in well watered places. This plant’s compound leaves have three to seven leaflets and are edged with fine teeth. The fruit, “rose-hips,” may be used as an emergency food, although they consist more of seed than pulp. The berries are rich in vitamin C, a benefit of “rosehip tea,” used in folk medicine.

Another common species of rose, Wood’s Rose, Rosa woodsii Lindl., (left) is less robust shrub than the Nootka rose shown above. While the Wood's rose grows as high as the foothills, it is mostly a lowland plant found throughout western United States and Canada, east to the Mississippi River, commonly growing along water courses. The plants have straight thorns and compound leaves with five toothed leaflets. Its flowers, usually smaller than those of the Nootka rose/ They are attractive, with colors ranging from a pink tinged white to deep rose-red.

Dog-rose, Rosa canina L,  an import (not shown), grows as a roadside plant in some parts of the country including northern Idaho. It is easy to distinguish, for its thorns are curved, whereas those of our native roses are straight.

Hillside ocean spray, Holodiscus discolor (Pursh) Maxim. (left). Each spring the Clearwater River Gorge is alive with ocean spray shrubs in bloom—and they would have been while Lewis and Clark were camped nearby, in today’s Kamiah. Most likely it was Meriwether Lewis who collected a specimen on May 29, 1806. Ocean spray is an attractive spring-blooming bush whose dependent clusters of tiny off-white flowers make a handsome ornamental plant. The scientific name, Holodiscus discolor, with its two “discs,” is easily explained. The first “disc” in the generic name refers to the flower’s annular disk or “hypanthium,” a family characteristic. The second “disc” in discolor refers to its two-colored leaves, green on top and silvery gray beneath.

Mallow-leaf ninebark, Physocarpus malvaceus (Greene) Kuntze (right) is a common shrub in our mountains, growing to fairly high elevations. Circumscribed clusters (“corymbs”) of flowers grow on the ends of many small branches; these, as well as the plant’s rough and peeling bark (whence “ninebark”), help to identify it. The species name malvaceus means “mallow-like,”as the leaves are similar to those of some mallows (although the leaves might as well been referred to as “maple-leaf-like”).

Sub-alpine spirea, Spiraea splendens (left). The sub-alpine spiraea, formerly classified as Spiraea densiflora)  is a low shrub, characterized by flat-topped, dense clusters of tiny pink flowers  ("corymbs"). The deciduous leaves are simple and edged with fine teeth. The variety illustrated here grows only in the mountains of the American West, usually on rocky ground and often in moist places ( photographed in Central Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains). There are many species of spirea; understandably These attractive plants, native to the Northwest, Nevada and California, are often grown in ornamental gardens.

Shiny-leaf , or white spirea, Spiraea betulifolia Pallas (right) grows in most of our northern and eastern states as well as in western Canada. It is characterized by white or pinkish flowers  (some are post-mature in our illustration) and toothed leaves. It grows to treeline in Idaho, preferring rocky hillsides. The species name, betulifolia, means "birch-leaves" for their similarity.

Bitterbrush, Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC. (left). The bitterbrush (also antelope-brush) can be confused with the shrubby cinquefoil, although it blooms earlier, has smaller, quite different flowers, and three-toothed (tridentata) leaves. The plant is usually found with sagebrush, often high in our mountains. It is an important browse plant for deer and antelope. The name Purshia honors Frederick Pursh (1774-1820) the botanist who classified specimens returned by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Meriwether Lewis collected the plant on the same day as the shrubby cinquefoil.

Shrubby cinquefoil, Dasiphora fruticosa (L.) Rydb. (right) blooms from early summer through August blooming on sagebrush slopes, high on alpine tundra, Dasiphora from the Greek implies“thick foliage,” fruticosa from the Latin means “shrubby,” and “cinquefoil,” from the French, means “five-leaved,” for the plant’s five-fingered leaves (an older name, “golden hardhack,” has also been suggested as a common name for the plant). The shrubby cinquefoil, known to nurserymen as "potentilla"--is a European variety. often used in landscape gardening. Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen of shrubby cinquefoil along Montana’s Blackfoot River on July 6, 1806.

Common raspberry, Rubus idaeus L. var. strigosus (Michx.) Maxim. (leftt) is one of the most widely distributed members of the rose family. It is found throughout North America (save in a few southern states) as well as in Eurasia. The plants are quite at home in our mountains and grow at least as high as treeline, fruiting late in the summer.. Five-petaled, small white flowers are typical of those of Rubus species. The berries are smaller than domestic fruit—hardly surprising for they grow on unfertilized rocky ground. Nevertheless, they taste the same as the raspberries that grow in our gardens.

Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus Nutt. (left, right)  grows as an “unarmed” (lacking brambles) shrub that may be six feet high. Identify the plant by its large, deep-green, maple-like leaves, by its large white blossoms (up to 2" across), and by its raspberry-like (although tasteless) fruit. Lewis and Clark collected the thimbleberry on April 15, 1806, while near today’s The Dalles, Oregon, but because their specimen was in poor condition it could not be published as a new species. Thomas Nuttall later found the plant on Mackinac Island, in Lake Huron, and named it parviflorus (“small-flower”), a strange choice, for its flowers are the largest of any of our native Rubus species.

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