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Cordylanthus wrightii
 
Cordylanthus wrightii
Cordylanthus wrightii subspecies wrightii (Club Flower, Bird's Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand. Fall.
Above and left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 9, 2016 and September 19, 2005.

As you take a fall hike in Canyon Country you might be attracted by numerous bits of pink/purple at the tips of outstretched stems.  Perhaps you stop often at plants but cannot find any open flowers.  Since the flowers are so numerous, you think there could be quite a show in the future so you tell yourself you will come back to the same area in a few weeks.  An hour later down the trail something prompts you to take one last close look at the flower, and you finally realize that most of the flowers you have been seeing all day long were as open as they ever will be.  A close examination may even show that a number of the lower flowers have already gone to seed.  Cordylanthus wrightii surprises us  --  as all plants do if we look carefully.

Cordylanthus wrightii commonly grows from 10 to 30 inches tall, branches often, and has very fine leaves that are short and spreading or nearly clasping the stem.  Lower leaves wither as the plant grows. 

Where you find one Cordylanthus wrightii, you often find dozens. See the more than three dozen plants in the top photograph on this page. Arrows point to just a few of the Cordylanthus wrightii plants in that photograph.

Greek gives us both "cordyl" meaning "club" and "anthus" meaning "flower".  Charles Wright, a trusted and successful Southwest plant collector for Asa Gray and John Torrey, collected this plant on "Prairies, from 6 to 30 miles east of El Paso" in 1849. Asa Gray named and described the plant in 1858.  (More biographical information about Wright.)

Cordylanthus wrightii
Cordylanthus wrightii subspecies wrightii (Club Flower, Bird's Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand. Fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 9, 2016.

Leaves are commonly maroon toward the bottom of the plant, but chlorophyll comes into the upper leaves as the plant grows. Lower stem leaves often wither by flowering time.

Leaves are very narrow and entire or commonly divided into three and even into five very fine leaflets.

                             Cordylanthus wrightii

Cordylanthus wrightii
Cordylanthus wrightii subspecies wrightii (Club Flower, Bird's Beak)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand. Fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, September 19, 2005.

Flowers are usually clustered in twos and, as is true of the entire plant, they are often finely hairy and finely glandular  --  although they and the plant may be glabrous (without hairs).  The small green crown of the petals has a minute opening for insect pollinators which brush against the slightly protruding hairy stamens as they push deeper into the flower.  Cordylanthus wrightii never does open its petals to make it easier for pollinators to do their work  --  or for human flower lovers to understand them.

Cordylanthus wrightii is found in the very far west tip of Texas and in the Four Corners states in about half of the counties of each state. 

Another Cordylanthus, C. ramosus, has dull yellow flowers, is in all aspects about half the size of C. wrightii, but is not found in the Four Corners area.  It ranges from the very northern counties of Colorado to California and Oregon.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Cordylanthus wrightii