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Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri
Eriogonum hookeri (Hooker's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, October 21, 2013.

Eriogonum hookeri puts on a fabulous blooming show, with thousands of flowers on dozens of plants in a small area. The young plant at left will widen its crown of flowers over the years and perhaps reach out to 18 inches in diameter, as in the top photograph on this page.

Eriogonum hookeri can be distinguished from Eriogonum deflexum, which occurs in much the same habitat and range, only by minute details. E. hookeri is also quite similar to several other Eriogonums. To distinguish one of the dozens of Eriogonum in our area from another, it is necessary to use a very detailed key such as the one on-line in the Flora of North America, or in volume 2A of Intermountain Flora, or in A Utah Flora. All of these were either written by THE Eriogonum expert, James Reveal, or they follow his treatment.

Eriogonum hookeri grows 1-6 decimeters tall (4-24 inches), with glabrous, occasionally glaucous, gray stems; basal leaves have hairy petioles 1–5 cm long and blades nearly orbiculate, densely hairy underneath, less so above; the inflorescence spreads in a globe, flat-topped, or umbel shape to 50 centimeters (18 inches) wide; peduncles are absent; involucres are deflexed, broadly campanulate to hemispheric, 1–2 mm long, 1.5–3 mm wide; flowers are just 1 to 2 mm long with a perianth yellow to red-yellow to hot pink; the 8 tepals are dimorphic (two shapes), those of the outer whorl are broad (orbiculate to heart-shaped), those of the inner whorl are narrowly ovate and only about 1/8th the size of the outer tepals. The seeds are narrow, dark, and three-cornered. (Most of the above descriptive details were taken from James Reveal's Eriogonum Society Manual 2013).

Andre Michaux named the Eriogonum genus in 1803. Eriogonum hookeri was first collected for science by Sereno Watson in the American Fork Canyon of Utah in August, 1869 and was named and described by Watson in 1879. The specific epithet, hookeri, honors Joseph Hooker, son of William Hooker. Both were Directors of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, the father from 1845-1865 and the son from 1865-1885. (Click for more biographical information about the Hookers.)

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri (Hooker's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, October 21, 2013.

Looking down on the multitude of flowers shows us the intricate branching and rebranching of the flowering stems.

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri (Hooker's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, October 21, 2013.

The top photograph at left shows the minute flowers and the even shorter pedicels. The flower at 9 o'clock is open, the other four are closed.

The tiny, three-sided seeds are hidden in the center of the inner tepals which are surrounded by the wing-like outer tepals. The outer tepals are heart-shaped and only about 1.5-2 millimeters long. Eriogonum hookeri inner tepals are off-white and the outer tepals range in color from buff-yellow to yellow-red to hot pink.

The photograph below shows two tiny flowers, a bit more than 1 millimeter long.

Eriogonum hookeri

The left flower is on its side, topped by one of its broad outer tepals (the middle arrow touches the lower right corner of the tepal). Another of the broad, outer tepals is behind the middle arrow. The left arrow points to the dark mid-vein of the tepal.

The right flower shows outer tepals at 9, 12, and 3 o'clock and also shows the inner narrow tepals (right arrow). The inner tepals are only about 1/8th the size of the outer and in the plants I examined and photographed, the inner tepals are off-white while almost all outer tepals were bright pink.

The second photograph at left shows the dark seeds with the bright pink, papery, wing-like tepals. See below for James Reveal's explanation of the color shifts in Eriogonum flowers.

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri

Eriogonum hookeri (Hooker's Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi desert, foothills. Shrublands, woodlands, sand and rock. Summer, fall.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, October 21, 2013.

The dried leaf blade and stem in the second photograph at left show (especially along the edges) the mass of long, soft, tangled hairs characteristic of these plants. These hairs overlap the leaf edge so that from above, the leaves often have a halo. In the top photograph at left, see the halo especially around the fresher leaves at the 2 and 8 o'clock positions and around the small, young leaves in the very center.

In an exchange of emails with Eriogonum expert, James Reveal, I asked him about the varying colors of the flowers of Eriogonum hookeri. Following is part of his reply:

"Most flowers of Eriogonum change color upon pollination although the change may be more obvious by looking inside the flower than outside. Most change from white or yellow to pink, rose, red, or even purple. Most often the tepals are tinged with red (or some shade thereof). The intense red of your images of E. hookeri is not unusual for member of Ganysma [a subgenera of Eriogonum to which E. hookeri belongs]. This shift initially "turns off" the UV streaks on the tepals that act as nectar guides, and this is critical to inform a pollinator that there is little or no reward in a given flower. The shift continues and expands with time to the point that the colorization of the entire perianth is altered. A possible reason for this is that by shifting from a reflective white or yellow to a heat-absorbing red to maroon or purple color... the... ovary [can] continue to function and more rapidly mature.... Typically when the achene is fully mature, the perianth remains attached and both are shed together. Inasmuch as each flower produces only a single seed, any advantage to ensure full maturation of the fruit is critical."

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

Eriogonum hookeri

Range map for Eriogonum hookeri