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Lygodesmia doloresensis

Lygodesmia doloresensis

Lygodesmia doloresensis

Lygodesmia doloresensis  (Dolores River Skeletonplant)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings and shrublands. Spring, summer.
Above and left: Near Gateway, Colorado, June 24, 2016.

Lygodesmia doloresensis grows from 5 to 10 inches tall with stems branching from the base of the plant. Flower heads are made up of five ray florets, each with a petal a bit less than an inch long. Ray flower color varies through light shades of lavender, pink, and white. The involucre is cylindric, about the same length as the ray petals (shorter as shown here), and made up of five main bracts (three of which you can see in the top photograph at left).

The Flora of North America, considers this plant to be a variety of L. grandiflora and indicates the following:

Variety doloresensis is distinguished by its much-branched stems, almost filiform leaves, and smooth cypselae (seed). It is known only form the Dolores River valley and is similar to var. dianthopsis, which is distinguished by being less branched and by having broader leaves.

Variety doloresensis is in the Center for Plant Conservations's National Collection of Endangered Plants.

Notice in the photograph at the top of the page that there are many white dots on the stems. A deer browsed this plant, eating seed heads, stems, and upper leaves and producing a plant with numerous, interlaced low stems. (The taller stems at the back of the photograph are from Indian Rice Grass.)

Lygodesmia doloresensis is found only on alluvium derived from Cutler and Wingate sandstones in the Dolores River valley (within a few miles of Gateway, Colorado) and in the Colorado River valley north of Moab.

Spencer Tomb collected the first plants of this species in 1970, "South of Gateway" and he named and described the species in 1980, noting that "Lygodesmia doloresensis has the most restricted distribution in the genus and must be considered a threatened species". It is, in fact, considered such by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Click to see CNHP information about and specimens of L. doloresensis

Click to see more Lygodesmia.

Lygodesmia doloresensis

Lygodesmia doloresensis  (Dolores River Skeletonplant)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings and shrublands. Spring, summer.
Above and left: Near Gateway, Colorado, June 24, 2016.

Tomb's original description of this species indicates the following characteristics which are shown in the photograph at left, "stems glabrous, branching just above ground level and weakly striate in the basal third; lower leaves linear 2.5-14 cm long, 1.5-3.5 cm wide, entire, glabrous, not forming a basal rosette...."

The white drop just above the brown periderm at the base of the plant is the milky juice characteristic of a number of Asteraceae. I accidently bruised the plant when I took this photograph.

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

Lygodesmia doloresensis

Range map for Lygodesmia doloresensis