May 24, 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.

Well, things are finally starting to phase down. Rather early this year. Mostly just the late-bloomers and the long-bloomers left. But this really has been a banner year for wildflowers, while it lasted, for both quantity and quality!


Aquilegia sp. COLUMBINE          Buttercup Family
Columbines, with their long spurs, have a rather unique shape. They are found in moist to wet generally shady places, so look for them around springs and hanging gardens. The larger yellow-flowered species is
A. chrysantha, GOLDEN COLUMBINE, the similar but smaller red and yellow one is
A. formosa, WESTERN COLUMBINE, which is found in dryer places up above, & showers its seed down into wet places to produce natural hybrids between the two, with the red looking faded.

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.

Opuntia species PRICKLY PEAR Cactus Family
The flat pads of the prickly pear cactus are familiar to most, as are its beautiful waxy-shiny brightly colored pink to red, yellow, or orange flowers. Four of our most common species are:
O. basilaris, BEAVERTAIL, is upright, often wrinkled; has no spines but lots of tiny wicked hooked glocchids. Watch out !
O. macrorhiza, PLAINS PRICKLY PEAR, may or may not have spines (but does have glocchids); its pads sprawl along the ground in a chain, rooting wherever they touch. Flowers are usually yellow, with a reddish tinge at the base.
O. erinacea var. utahensis, CLIFF PRICKLY PEAR, is low growing, and found mainly in small clumps; and has its spines mainly along or near the tops of the pads. Flowers may be yellow, pink to red or red-violet.
O. phaeacantha var. major, ENGELMANN PRICKLY PEAR, or ELEPHANT-EAR, an upright cactus, has especially large pads with spines mostly along the tops; its flowers are mostly bright yellow with some red markings.


Abronia fragrans FRAGRANT SAND VERBENA Potato or Nightshade Family
The unusual hemispheric clusters of trumpet-shaped white flowers radiating from a central point, along with a very pleasant fragrance when young (designed to attract night-flying pollinators) are generally enough to make it easy to pick this one out. It is definitely worth stooping to smell! Found in sandy areas such as Coalpits Wash and the slickrock, and very plentiful this year on the East side.

Astragalus praelongus RATTLEWEED or STINKING MILKVETCH Pea Family
The leaves are the usual compound pea leaves, with dark green leaflets; the flowers are typical long narrow Astragalus ones. The seeds in the short fat pods rattle when dried, giving it its common name. It usually grows on seleniferous soil and absorbs the selenium, giving it a strong rank odor and making it quite poisonous. Mostly on the slopes and flats of the lower Canyon. Stilll blooming very nicely!
A plant with very similar flowers, but low, spreading, and smaller overall except for flower size, and with spines on the stem, is
Peteria thompsonae, THOMPSON PETERIA, found mainly along the Watchman Trail.

Oenothera species EVENING PRIMROSE Evening Primrose Family
Flowers have four large petals, and open in the evening, closing (permanently) the next morning soon after then sun hits them. The spent blossoms generally age pink. They prefer sandy areas in Zion.
O. caespitosa, WHITE TUFTED EVENING PRIMROSE: has short leafless stems arising from a basal tuft of leaves, each stem bearing a large very showy single white flower. Usually at the higher elevations such as the slickrock.
O. pallida, PALE EVENING PRIMROSE: a more spreading plant, with smaller white flowers and leafy stems.

Yucca species YUCCA Agave Family
Most of us who live in the west are familiar with this plant and its long, stiff, very sharp-pointed leaves, and large ivory white flowers pollinated by night-flying Pronuba Moths.
Y. utahensis, UTAH YUCCA, has narrow-leaves and tall flower stalks which often fall prey to hungry deer.
Y. baccata, DATIL or BANANA YUCCA, our broad-leaved species, has short flower stalks with flowers that nestle down among the leaves, thus avoiding being lunched by the deer.


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 often seen protruding slightly from 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 cracks in the slickrock on the east side of Zion.
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.

Mirabilis multiflora COLORADO FOUR O'CLOCK Four O'clock Family
A low spreading plant, very handsome in bloom, with brilliant magenta to purple funnel-shaped flowers that open only when the plant is in the shade. Found mostly on dry slopes and mesas, lovely but usually not too plentiful. However; I have seen some truly spectacular displays this year, although it is waning now.

Dodecatheon pulchellum var. zionensis ZION SHOOTINGSTAR Primrose Family
The unusual down-pointing pink flowers resembling shooting stars give this plant its common name. The variety found in Zion is particularly large and attractive. Found in hanging gardens.

Mimulus cardinalis SCARLET MONKEYFLOWER Figwort Family
An attractive plant found high on the wet walls of hanging gardens. Sometimes grown as an ornamental, this one has relatively large bright scarlet flowers with yellow markings, that some (with excellent imaginations) think resemble a monkey's face. Found in the hanging gardens.

Phlox austromontana DESERT PHLOX Phlox Family
Usually a compact mounded mound (var. austromontana, DESERT PHLOX), or sometimes looser and cascading over cliffs and ledges (var. jonesii, ZION CANYON PHLOX); its leaves are very narrow and look (but are not) prickly. Flowers are deep pink to white, often several colors on the same plant at the same time, fading as the flowers age. In rocky areas.

Penstemon palmeri PALMER PENSTEMON Snapdragon Family
Its fat flowers range from nearly white to deep pink, with distinctive reddish "guidelines" on the lower lip to lead pollinators into the flowers. The upper leaves are joined around the stem into a boat-shaped arrangement which collects water; with help from the wind, the plant waters itself! The only fragrant penstemon in Zion, it is often found in rather large masses, preferring rocky wash bottoms and dry canyonsides. Just ab out finished now.


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.

Penstemon pachyphyllus THICKLEAF PENSTEMON Snapdragon Family
This lovely penstemon has narrow blue flowers, arranged in whorls around the stems. Leaves are silvery and rather thick. Blooming now in the Slickrock on the east side; I've never seen it in Zion Canyon.


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.

Purshia mexicana CLIFFROSE or QUININE BUSH Rose Family
This shrub is generally rather small in Zion; but occasionally rather large and with shaggy bark rather like a juniper. The leaves are small and 5-lobed leaves with a bitter taste that gives it one of its common names. The flowers are yellow, with 5 petals, 5 pistils which later elongate into very long plumose styles, and many stamens. Closely related and very similar is
Purshia tridentata, ANTELOPE BITTERBRUSH, which can be distinguished by its larger non-shiny 3-lobed leaves and single pistil.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia GOOSEBERRYLEAF GLOBEMALLOW Mallow Family
A typical orange globemallow, generally of one or a few stems and loose elongate many-flowered heads, found on rocky slopes. The leaves are deeply cleft, parted, and toothed, easily distinguishing it from
S. ambigua, DESERT HOLLYHOCK, whose leaves are much less cleft, resembling small cultivated hollyhock leaves. It is often quite bushy, and is found mainly in the lower elevations.
S. coccinea, SCARLET GLOBEMALLOW, has leaves somewhat more cleft than S. ambigua, but less than S. grossulariifolia.