click picture for larger version
Common Name: Blazing Star
Scientific Name: Mentzelia laevicaulis
Family: Loasa Family (Loasaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in the Great Basin
Habitat: desert shrub to pinyon-juniper and mountain brush communities, often on disturbances such as roadcuts
Habit: biennial or short-lived perennial herb (sometimes behaves as annual)
Foliage Color: pale green
Leaves: mostly in a basal rosette, thick, lance-shaped, coarsely toothed, covered with raspy hairs
Flower Color: cream yellow
Flower Form: very large (2-3" diameter) and exotic-looking, with five pointed, spreading petals and numerous erect stamens in the center.
Flowering Season: late summer to early autumn
Cultural Requirements: Requires full sun and prefers well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), but minimally tolerant of overwatering. This plant needs a lot of elbow room in order to thrive.
Culture: We have not tried to direct-seed this plant, but it volunteers freely. Seeds are dormant and require a 4-8 week moist chill in order to germinate. Plants produced as container stock and planted out in spring grow quickly, and many flower the first year. Most of these behave as annuals, i.e., they die after flowering, as do most plants that flower the second year.
Uses and Notes of Interest: This plant has a somewhat coarse, weedy look, but the flowers are real show-stoppers, occurring in gargantuan profusion at the tips of the multibranched stems. They open in the evening and are closed again by midmorning, so look less showy in midday. Sphinx moths find them very attractive. The leaves are covered with tiny, stiff hairs much like velcro--a related species goes by the name of desert corsage because a plucked branch will stick to your lapel without help. The seeds are flat and are stacked like coins into the long, cylindrical, top-opening capsules. They are readily collected by shaking after the capsules open.