Chapter IIC. Seasonal Flora of the Sides of the Outcrop


A couple of interesting monocots round out an early spring trip to the outcrop. Nuttall Deathcamas (Zigadenus nuttallii) bears tall bottlebrush or pom-pom inflorescences of creamy yellow-green flowers. Although it grows from a bulb like an onion and is in the same family as the onions, this is one plant which should never be eaten. All parts of the plant contain neurotoxic alkaloids.

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American Aloe (Manfreda sp., synonym = Polianthes sp.) looks a little like the Aloe many people grow as a houseplant, except that the foliage is spotted. We have yet to catch this plant in flower so that we can make a herbarium specimen and determine just which species this is.

A May visit to the outcrop turns up many of the same plants found earlier in the spring, but also presents some newcomers.

Chickenthief or Stickleaf (Mentzelia oligosperma) grows on the lowest part of the outcrop. It has rather attractive orange flowers, but its foliage is harsh and scratchy. Many of its relatives in the genus Cevallia have stinging hairs; Mentzelia's hairs don't sting but under high magnification can be seen to be minutely barbed. This outcrop is one of the few places we know where we can find this plant regularly.


Another unpleasant customer is Bull Nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus).  The flowers are beautiful, but the foliage is just covered with stinging hairs that act like little hypdermic needles and can go right through jeans.  The seeds are edible, but who was the person brave--or desperate--enough to find that out?


Rough Nama (Nama hispidum) grows a little further up the slope. It is a small plant with gray-green foliage and star-shaped purple flowers. Though not terribly common locally, the plant can be found ranging north to Oklahoma and west to Arizona and California.

Tall Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe leiocarpa) is found in our area mostly on and around calcareous outcrops locally. This winecup grows upright and lacksan epicalyx , a whorl of small bracts just below the calyx.

   

 Very similar but not found on the sides of the outcrop is the oh-so-common Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata).  That species tends to trail close to the ground and has an epicalyx

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June brings a different look to the outcrop. Most of the spring-flowering plants have finished blooming and a suite of early summer plants has taken over. This time of year seems to belong mostly to the legumes.

Making a splendid appearance is the well-named Showy Prairie Clover (Dalea compacta). Its dense clusters of bright rose purple flowers with shocking orange anthers are a bee magnet-- and equally attractive to photographers!

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Near the base of the outcrop is a second species of Dalea. Golden Prairie Clover (Dalea aurea) doesn't look much like its purple-flowered cousin, being a short, somewhat scruffy plant with bright yellow flowers. The foliage of this plant is covered with soft, silky hairs.

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Scattered pretty much over the whole outcrop is Scarlet Pea (Indigofera miniata). It's a low, trailing plant with brick-red to pinkish-orange pea-like flowers.

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Early summer is also a good time to start studying the grasses of the outcrop. Grassbur (Cenchrus incertus) usually finds botanists before they find it. Each vicious, clinging bur contains seeds which will go on to give rise to more plants with more vicious, clinging burs...

Many other species of grass grow on the outcrop, though we have been lax in photographing them. Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Hairy Grama (Bouteloua hirsuta), Durban Crowfootgrass (Dactyloctenium aegyptium), Rosettegrass (Dichanthelium spp.), and Lovegrass (Eragrostis spp.) can all be found here.

The shorter days of late summer and fall bring more changes to the outcrop. Some of the more interesting plants save their surprises until now.

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) is one of those plants that seem to be everywhere in August and September. Its dark brown stamens contrast nicely with its bright golden flowers.


CHAPTER IID....Seasonal Flora of the Sides of the Outcrop (cont'd)