Tag Archives: Nevada

More Great Plants in the Northern Bodie Hills

The previous post focused on some plants that were new or confirmed additions to the Bodie Hills flora. Here are some more wonderful plants, already known to occur in the range, that were a pleasure to see along the northern edge of the Bodie Hills.



This sunny Balsam-root (Balsamorhiza) was in a small gully along Dead Ox Pitch, that steep grade just west of “The Elbow” in the East Walker River. The pinnatifid leaves with crenate margins and the fruity-aromatic, sticky-glandular puberulence all up and down the flower stalks and leaves lead one to B. hirsuta in the Jepson e-Flora key. In the Intermountain Flora, however, Arthur Cronquist argues for including this in the widespread and variable Hooker’s balsamroot, as B. hookeri var. hirsuta.

Allium anceps

Twin leaved onion (Allium anceps) was very common in some areas among scattered low sagebrush along the road heading south to Masonic.

Eriogonum ovalifolium

Cushion wild buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium var. ovalifolium) is scattered among sagebrush throughout the area.


Ground nama or Purple nama (Nama aretioides) is a small clumping annual with flowers that are under a centimeter across. What the flowers lack in size, they make up for in color saturation.

Cymopterus globosus Cymopterus globosus

Globose cymopterus (Cymopterus globosus) is an odd member of the umbel (or carrot or celery) family, with an inflorescence shaped more like a golf ball than the rays of an umbrella.

Astragalus malacusAstragalus malacus

Astragalus is a large and diverse genus of legumes in which many species are difficult to key out. Woolly milkvetch (Astragalus malacus) is an exception—easily recognized by the long, spreading hairs, especially on its fruits.

Viola purpurea

A violet with bright yellow flowers would seem to be misnamed as Viola purpurea, but the epithet refers to the purplish color on the back sides of all or most petals. One of many subspecies, this is Viola purpurea subsp. aurea, the Golden violet.

Mimulus nanus

The Skunky monkey flower (Mimulus nanus var. mephiticus) emits a slight skunk-like (mephitic) odor, but the flowers are so small, you have to get your nose very close to notice it. These are a couple of very robust plants, growing in sandy soil beside a sagebrush after an unusually wet winter.

Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.

Some Additions to the Bodie Hills Flora

The northern Bodie Hills

Last weekend (in mid-May, 2017), I hit the jackpot (appropriately, as this was in Nevada) for interesting plants in one part of the Bodie Hills. It was along the northern perimeter of the Bodie Hills, mostly in Lyon County, along the Sweetwater-Aurora Road (NF-028) and some side roads, ridges, and ravines. The diversity and abundance of native annual and perennial plants in flower was delightful! At least 5 species (and 4 genera) were new additions for the checklist:

Eremothera nevadensis

Nevada suncup (Eremothera nevadensis) was widespread in openings among low sagebrush throughout the low northern foothills of the range. Eremothera was formerly treated as a Section of the widespread evening-primrose or suncup genus Camissonia. Nevada suncup apparently has a somewhat limited distribution in west-central Nevada, and has yet to be found across the state line in California.

Eremothera boothii

Booth’s evening-primrose (Eremothera boothii, subspecies to be determined) was locally common, here and there, in loose sandy soil along the edges of NF-028. Eremothera boothii is  widespread, with several subspecies, throughout the arid southwest.

Amsinckia tessellata

Desert fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) was also found on a disturbed roadside.

Lycium shockleyi

Spiny menodora (Menodora spinescens), a viciously spiny low shrub in the olive family, was in full bloom (with small, pale flowers) on a ridge on the western edge of Fletcher Valley.

Streptanthella longirostris

Hairy jewelflower (Caulanthus pilosus) was also scattered among low shrubs on this same ridge (near the Bursage and the Lycium). At first I thought this was Longbeak streptanthella (Streptanthella longirostris), which has been reported not far from this location and has similar flowers and growth habit. Nope. The plant I found (reviewing other photos and specimens) has ascending fruits (vs. recurved to reflexed in Streptanthella) and basal leaves that are pinnatifid—deeply divided (vs. entire in Streptanthella).

There may be a few more “new” plants for the list in this area, but I haven’t finished keying my specimens yet. And some Astragalus and Eriogonum plants weren’t mature enough yet to firmly identify.

I also confirmed the presence of one plant that I was unsure whether to include in the checklist:

Artemisia spinosa

Bursage (Artemisia spinosa) on a ridge on the western edge of Fletcher Valley (same place as the Lycium).

And another species previously collected by others in this area, but which I hadn’t seen before:

Cleomella hillmanii

Hillman’s cleomella (Cleomella hillmanii) was locally abundant on a hillside crossed by the road. It looked just like many other hillsides out there, so why did the Cleomella favor this one in particular?

Last, but not least, there was the largest population and the largest individual plants of Mono phacelia (Phacelia monoensis) I’ve ever seen:

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis

Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.

Food of the Gods in the Bodie Hills

How can a scrawny plant, growing in disturbed soils, with painfully sharp spines all over its fruits come to be named  for the mythical “food of the Greek gods”—Ambrosia—a name also related, apparently, to the Greek word for immortality, αθανασία (athanasia)? Carl Linnaeus himself, the “father of modern taxonomy,” bestowed the name in 1754. But why Ambrosia? I haven’t found an explanation. The authoritative Flora North America says “allusion unclear.” One might say it’s a crusty old botanist’s joke on posterity, but I won’t impugn the intentions of the great Linnaeus. The genus isn’t native to Sweden and he may have examined only a few specimens from North America (collected by others). Maybe they smelled nice, but he probably didn’t get to know the genus well enough.


Ambrosia acanthicarpa, annual bur-weed or annual ragweed, grows on disturbed, sandy soils, often along roadsides, throughout much of western—especially southwestern—North America. The plants seen here were on a dirt road near the north edge of the Bodie Hills, in Lyon County, Nevada. I’ve also seen it beside Hwy 270 at Mormon Meadow and I’ve probably overlooked it at other locations. (Though you’re not likely to overlook it if you encounter it while wearing open-toed sandals.)

It’s not immediately obvious, but Ambrosia is a composite—in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). There are more than 40 species of Ambrosia in the New World, mostly in western North America. Ambrosia now includes plants formerly placed in Hymenoclea and Franseria.


Despite its vicious demeanor, Ambrosia has an intriguing anatomy. The male flowers, bulging with stamens, are tightly clustered into numerous small heads, dangling along the axis of a tall raceme. The pollen shed from those anthers causes agonizing irritation of eyes and sinuses in anyone getting a face-full of the stuff. Magnified, the pollen grains look like lethal medieval weapons.


While the male flowers will insult your eyes and upper respiratory system, it is the female flowers that will draw blood from your toes and fingers. Pistillate flowers are in the axils of leaves below the staminate inflorescence—the better to catch those heavily armed pollen grains. They lack corollas and are encased, usually one at a time, in a long-spined “bur.” (These spines are derived from the paleas—in Asteraceae, the usually very thin, papery, scale-like or bristle-like “chaffy bracts” at the base of each flower.)  As the fruit matures, the bur becomes very hard. The spines stiffen and become very sharp.


Did you notice the tire tracks in the first photo? Above you see evidence for one of this plant’s long-range dispersal mechanisms. The mature burs attach themselves freely to automobile tires. No doubt this is one reason Ambrosia acanthicarpa is fairly common along disturbed road shoulders and many lesser-used unpaved tracks throughout the American west.

Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.