April 18, 2008
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Zion National Park
What's up --and Blooming?

All these flowers can be seen from the roads and trails! We want you to enjoy the flowers; photograph them, tell them you love them, BUT please stay on the roads and trails so that you do not trample the plants and/or compact the soil, thus destroying what you seek to admire. Left unmolested, others may also enjoy them, and they can reproduce and still be there for future generations to enjoy and study; and the wildlife will still have the habitat and food upon which their lives depend.

We are having a GREAT bloom this year; some we seldom see, and others in huge quantities. ENJOY!


Erigeron pumilus EARLY WHITE DAISY Sunflower Family
An early bloomer, somewhat spreading, with rather narrow leaves; both they and the stems rather hairy. Typical daisy flowers, with many rays in several layers; usually light pink or bluish, rather than white, despite the name. Look for it in the lower areas of Zion Canyon.


Amelanchier utahensis      UTAH SERVICEBERRY      Rose Family
A deciduous shrub, its flowers come out along with the leaves in early spring; quite showy in full bloom. Its small roundish leaves have serrated tips. The berries are rather small and dry, not much good for food (in contrast to the fleshy ones of the Saskatoon, found at higher elevations here), but Indians made arrow shafts from the branches. Mostly on the dry slopes in Zion Canyon.

Montia perfoliata MINER'S LETTUCE Purslane Family
The stems of the small white flowers of this plant go right up through the centers of the round leaves. A good source of Vitamin C, miners used the plants in salads to prevent Scurvy. It likes shady relatively moist areas.


Arctostaphylos pungens      MANZANITA   Heath Family
A shrub of rocky places, mostly in the slickrock areas; the bark is smooth, thin, and reddish, sometimes peeling. Leaves are bright green, thick, roundish; flowers are pink (gradually fading whitish) with anunusual urn shape. Manzanita is Spanish for "little apple:, and this term well describes the fruits. Ours are mostly on the East Side, beyond the long tunnel.

Erodium cicutarium RED-STEMMED FILAREE Geranium Family
A ground-cover plant often found in disturbed areas. The flowers are small, red-violet, and are followed by typical long narrow "stork's bill" seed pods. A favorite food of the endangered Desert Tortoise. Common on the Canyon bottom for most of the year but most prolific in spring.

Arabis holboellii & Arabis perennans   ROCKCRESS   Mustard Family
One or a few long skinny stems arise from a rosette of basal leaves; flowers are rather widely spaced along the upper stem. Stem leaves are long and narrow, with a short ear extending back around the stem on each side at the base. These two species are very closely related and apparently hybridize so can be impossible to tell apart without the fruits; sometimes not even then!

Astragalus zionis ZION MILKVETCH Pea Family
A low spreading plant having compound leaves with many pairs of opposite rather silvery (and hairy) leaflets. Its flowers are typical pea ones, red violet with white markings in the throat. Very attractive! Look for it in sandy spots from Coalpits Wash up into the slickrock; one of our earliest bloomers.
Astragalus argophyllus, SILVER-LEAVED MILKVETCH, is very similar & nearly impossible to distinguish until the seed pods appear, but prefers higher elevations with better soil, so haven't seen any of these yet this year.

Castilleja species PAINTBRUSH Snapdragon Family
The traditional "Indian Paintbrush" of one or a few stems and bright red (on ours) "flowers", which are actually bracts. The flowers are the pointy green things sometimes seen protruding slightly from inside the bracts.
Castilleja chromosa, EARLY PAINTBRUSH, has bright scarlet "flowers". It is usually the first of our paintbrushes to bloom, and really brightens the landscape. The foliage is also often reddish, especially early in the season.
Castilleja scabrida, SLICKROCK PAINTBRUSH, grows out of slickrock crevices; so look for it in the slickrock on the east side of Zion, a little later.
Castilleja linearifolia, WYOMING PAINTBRUSH, has orange-red "flowers"; it starts blooming in the spring, continues growing (and blooming) on through the summer and into the fall, by which time it has usually become quite tall and gangly. Found mostly in Zion Canyon.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus   CLARET CUP      Cactus Family
A hedgehog cactus with large clusters of globular or cylindric stems and showy very bright scarlet flowers. Cacti look fearsome (and really are, if you get tangled up with them in the wrong way!) but they do have particularly attractive flowers! Blooms earlier that our other cacti but not for very long.

Lathyrus brachycalyx var. zionis      ZION SWEETPEA   Pea Family
A low plant generally found clambering with its tendrils on sunny hillsides or disturbed roadsides. The attractive deep pink flowers look like those of cultivated sweetpeas, and when young also have the same marvelous aroma.
We also have some "escaped" cultivated sweetpeas, escaped from a long-ago Superintendent's yard; they are found along the irrigation ditches.

Penstemon utahensis      UTAH PENSTEMON      Snapdragon Family
Beautiful long velvety-looking trumpet-shaped ruby red (hummingbird-pollinated) flowers that sometimes almost seem to glow, are the trademark of our earliest-blooming penstemon. The leaves are rather narrow, and opposite. They are particularly plentiful this year.

Ranunculus andersonii juniperinus    SAND BUTTERCUP    Buttercup Family
A small ground-hugging plant; its gray-green leaves, divided into tongue-shaped divisions, are all at the base. Flowers are on short leafless stems, and have glossy reddish petals. It likes sandy areas and is a very early bloomer, usually in sandy areas on the East Side (Slickrock) area.

Rumex crispus      WILD RHUBARB, CURLY DOCK Buckwheat Family
The rusty-reddish flowers of this plant are small but many, and funny-looking. The leaves are typical rhubarb-type with wavy crisped edges; their petioles (the edible "stems") are shorter than on the cultivated ones but can be used in the same way. Found in the flats in the lower Canyon.


Linum perenne ssp. lewisii LEWIS FLAX Flax Family
The 5-petaled light blue (with darker blue stripes) flowers of this plant have a rather delicate appearance and last only a few hours, but the stems are quite tough and fibrous, as flax stems are. The plant has been used medicinally, as well as for food, and the fibers from the stems for making such things as cord and fishing lines. Canyon to slickrock.

Salvia dorrii PURPLE or DESERT SAGE Mint Family
A relatively small shrub with small silvery leaves having a distinct and delicious minty sage smell, The unusual and particularly beautiful bright blue flowers nestle in purple bracts; quite spectacular in flower! A relatively early bloomer just getting started now; found on dry canyon slopes and flats.


Baileya multiradiata DESERT MARIGOLD Composite Family
The very white foliage of this plant is due to its being covered by a mat of white hairs. The 25-50 wide layered ray flowers and many disk flowers are bright yellow; usually a single flower head per stem. Found at the lower elevations such as the lower Watchman Trail; a showy 3-season bloomer.

Cryptantha confertiflora YELLOW FORGET-ME-NOT Borage Family
A quite hairy plant with narrow green leaves and small bright yellow flowers in a "scorpion's tail" head. Look for it especially along the Watchman Trail and in Coalpits Wash in early spring.

Encelia frutescens var. virginensis BUSH ENCELIA Composite Family
A rather small rounded shrub with whitish stems and very rough leaves with short stiff hairs; both ray and disk flowers are yellow. Look for it on gravelly, rocky, deserty slopes such as the lower Watchman Trail.

Erysimum asperum WESTERN WALLFLOWER Mustard Family
This plant may be a foot tall or occasionally more, generally unbranched; its large clusters of bright yellow four-petaled flowers have a delicate but very pleasant lilac scent when newly opened. Larger than Draba, and has leaves on the stem.

Mahonia fremontii      FREMONT BARBERRY      Barberry Family
A shrub with stiff very prickly hollylike leaves and bright yellow flowers; quite spectacular in flower. It is found along Highway 9, mostly near the base of Hurricane Mesa, about 15 miles west of Zion.
Really putting on a great show this year.

Mahonia repens      OREGON GRAPE         Barberry Family
A creeping woody plant with prickly hollylike leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers that later become clusters of edible dark blue berries. Actually it is neither grape nor holly! It likes shady relatively moist places in Zion Canyon. Check Emerald Pools and Riverside Walk trails.


Chorispora tenella MUSK MUSTARD Mustard Family
A small plant with blue-purple four-petaled flowers. Tends to have a musky scent, although this is usually hard to pick up. Found in disturbed area along trails and floodplain meadows in the canyon bottom.


Many of our trees are deciduous, and most of the deciduous ones are wind-pollinated. This means that the flowers are usually pretty "basic", often consisting only of a stamen and/or a pistil; these are generally not showy. They include:
Acer negundo var. interior BOXELDER Maple Family: has rather mapley leaves. The flowers are the odd-looking stringy reddish things you see hanging down. They are soon followed by the typical two-winged maple seed pods.
Fraxinus velutina VELVET ASH Olive Family: has compound leaves with usually 5 or 7 leaflets. The leaves are still quite tiny; no flowers yet. Ashes have single winged seed pods shaped rather like a long teardrop.
Populus fremontii FREMONT COTTONWOOD Willow Family: found mainly along the Virgin River; The leaves are shaped rather like those of the closely related quaking aspen, but are much wider. They bloom before they leaf out, leaving the ground covered with fallen blossoms.

We also have several species of non-deciduous trees, including
Juniperus spp.   JUNIPER Cypress Family: Pines and junipers do not really flower; they produce their seeds in cones. The brownish tips on the branches of the junipers now are the male cones, filled with pollen. Soon the fleshy bluish-gray female cones, commonly called "Juniper berries", will begin to develop. (The female cones visible on some of the trees now are last year's crop; they take two years to mature.) We have two species:
Juniperus osteosperma UTAH JUNIPER: relatively small but sturdy-looking. We have LOTS of these!
Juniperus scopulorum ROCKY MOUNTAIN JUNIPER: larger but much more delicate-looking, with smaller leaves and cones. Found in relatively cool shady places such as north-facing slopes in Emerald Pools Canyon.