Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rabbitbrush: twisted, yellow-flowered shrub

Rabbitbrush, for me, fits firmly into the "what is that?" category of drought-resistant prairie plants.

Although its bright yellow flowers are attractive up-close (very close), I first saw this native plant before its late summer/fall bloom. It was gnarled and twisted, with a thick woody stem like a tree on a desert. Which I guess isn't far from what Rabbitbrush is: a stunted, dry-land shrub.

Rabbitbrush rising from rock.  Photo © Shelley Banks
Rabbitbrush rising from rock.   © SB
To explain the scale of the photograph above, which was taken at Grasslands National Park: Rabbitbrush grows up to about two feet high, says Vance/Jowsey, so what might look like a large hill, is only a ripple of rock.

A clue to the height of the two Rabbitbrush shrubs is given by the yellow flower at back left: Curlycup Gumweed, another plant that thrives on the dry prairies.

Rabbitbrush in flower.  Photo © Shelley Banks
Rabbitbrush in flower on the side of a butte. © SB
Even in full flower, however, Rabbitbrush is unikely to win any beauty contests against Prairie Roses or even the Prickly Pear Cactus.

Then again, the picture above was taken very late in the season, with more dried than fresh blooms, and these plants still cast a pale haze of colour across the slopes of this butte, emerging from rough prairie pasture.

It would be interesting to get closer mid-season, and with a macro lens see what each individual flower might reveal, to study its fine, hairy leaves and gnarled woolly stem. 

Prairie Wildflower: Rabbitbrush: in profile, and in flower.  
Location: Grasslands National Park and badlands near Avonlea. Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: June 23 and September 29, 2012.  


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Clustered Oreocarya: White Grasslands Flowers

Still winter in Saskatchewan with three feet of snow, so more memories of summer, this time with the snowflake-sized flowers and spiny stalks of Clustered Oreocarya at Grasslands National Park.

A summer tuft of Clustered Oreocarya. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A summer tuft of Clustered Oreocarya. © SB

These wild flowers, which bloom on dry open grasslands through June and July, are a great example of native plants you don't see unless you're really looking for them. (You = me... I'm very short-sighted, so often wander in a daze...)  

And this, I like: The species name, nubigena, comes from the Latin words nubes and genus, meaning "born in the clouds." (Royer/Dickinson, Plants of Alberta.) Cloud-born flowers. Yes. 

Prairie Wildflower: Clustered Oreocarya (or Cryptantha nubigena, or Oreocarya nubigena, or...) 
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: June 23, 2012.  


Monday, April 1, 2013

Skeletonweed: Tiny Lavender Butte Flowers

Skeletonweed grows on dry soils and uplands in Saskatchewan — and the only place I've so far seen it is in Grasslands National Park, along the trails up the stony sides of 70 Mile Butte.

These little lavender and pink flowers top stalks of rigid, short, leafless stems — the skeleton of the plant that gives rise to its common name. (Vance-Jowsey identifies skeletonweed by the formal name, Lygodesmia juncea.)

Skeletonweed, sheltered from the glare of the sun, glows. © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Skeletonweed
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: June 23, 2012.  


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