Our arrival at the dune area is greeted by two species of Gaillardia (Firewheel, Indian Blanket). G. pulchella is the more common species, its ray flowers edged in gold.
G. amblyodon has ray flowers with all-red corollas. Both species are as handsome in the home landscape as they are here.
A careful search of the dunes turns up a rather rare member of the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family). Matelea cynanchoides (Milkvine) is a low-growing plant with inconspicuous flowers. Up close, however, the flowers are pretty: maroon with a star-patterned stamen column in the middle.
An April visitor to Hilltop lakes can see the real star of the show. Abronia macrocarpa (Large-fruited Sand Verbena) is one of the state's endangered species. It grows in only deep sand in a very few counties, and nowhere plentifully. The population here has persisted for a number of years, but is at some risk because it is not protected from foot or vehicle traffic.
The gray-green foliage of this plant can be hard to spot, buried as it often is under several inches of sand, but when it blooms, this is one of the showiest plants anywhere. The flowers are bright magenta, funnelform, and sweetly scented. Like those of a close relative, Four-o'clock, they last only a day. The fruit is a small, shiny achene enclosed in the winged, papery remains of the perianth. The plants grow easily from seed and are easy to propagate, but since the plants are self-incompatible, successful seed-set requires cross-pollination. For comparison: a different species, Abronia fragrans occurs in the red sands of southern Utah in Zion National Park. Twenty-three species are listed for North America north of Mexico.
Another member of the Nyctaginaceae native to Zion is Mirabilis multiflora.
Now that we are in Southern Utah, I can't resist putting in some images from Bryce Canyon. Our apologies for the digression but you never know where you will end up when you cruise the Web. We also wanted to see if you were paying attention. There will be a more detailed treatment of the flora of Southern Utah at a later date.