SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE     PINK/RED/ORANGE FLOWERS     CONTACT US



    There is disagreement about the species status of Lygodesmia grandiflora and several of its relatives.  Some floras, including the authoritative Flora of North America, indicate that L. grandiflora has several varieties: grandiflora, arizonica, entrada, dianthopsis, and doloresensis. The Flora of North America indicates that further study of these taxa is necessary: "Some variants were segregated as distinct species by A. S. Tomb; because of intermediates, putative hybrids, and associated identification problems, it is probably best to recognize these as varieties pending further investigation."

    The taxa above are treated by John Kartesz and this web site as distinct species.

    It should also be noted that Tomb's study of Lygodesmia for his PhD "began [in his words] as a monographic study of Lygodesmia including Stephanomeria, because Shinners (1950) had merged the two. It soon became evident, however, that Lygodesmia and Stephanomeria were quite distinct, being separated by consistent differences in cotyledon, achene, and pollen morphology as well as base chromosome numbers".

    The attractive flowers of this genus sit atop a skeleton-like stem and leaf structure that leads to the common name, "Skeleton Plants". Because the stem is also rush-like and the flowers are commonly pink, the plant is also known as "Rushpink".

    In his 1814 Flora Americae Septentrionalis, Frederick Pursh described the first species in what would become the Lygodesmia genus, but Pursh gave it the genus name of Prenanthes. David Don renamed this genus Lygodesmia in 1829.

     "Lygos" is Greek for "pliant twig" and "desme" for a bundle, both referring to the flower stem.

       Click the photograph Lygodesmia doloresensis for Lygodesmia doloresensis.

Lygodesmia grandiflora variety arizonica

Lygodesmia grandiflora

Lygodesmia arizonica

Lygodesmia arizonica. Synonym: Lygodesmia grandiflora variety arizonica.  (Large-flowered Rushpink).
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings and woodlands. Spring.
Above: McElmo Canyon, May 17, 2015.
Left: Near Bluff, Utah, May 3, 2007 and (above, top) May 6, 2014.

This species seldomly grows taller than six inches. Very narrow, twisting leaves are a hallmark.  The plant inhabits sandy areas of all Four Corners states.  Notice the differences between this variety and variety grandiflora shown below: fewer petals, slightly broader leaves, and variations in the color and structure of the bracts and phyllaries.

Nuttall collected the first plants of this species in 1834 "in the Rocky Mt. range, on the borders of the Platte". He named the species Erythremia grandiflora in 1841, but Torrey and Gray moved it to the Lygodesmia genus in their 1843 Flora of North America. (Click the title to read.)

Lygodesmia arizonica

Lygodesmia grandiflora

Lygodesmia arizonica. Synonym: Lygodesmia grandiflora variety arizonica.  (Large-flowered Rushpink).
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings and woodlands. Spring.
Near Bluff, Utah, May 3, 2007 and
McElmo Canyon, May 17, 2015.

Delicate flowers give way to fluffy seed heads.

Lygodesmia arizonica

Lygodesmia arizonica. Synonym: Lygodesmia grandiflora variety arizonica.  (Large-flowered Rushpink).
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings and woodlands. Spring.
Near Bluff, Utah, May 3, 2007.

 

Click to see Lygodesmia doloresensis.

 

Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada
Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada
Lygodesmia entrada. Synonym: Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada.(Entrada Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Above and left: Arches National Park, Utah, May 27, 2016.

This variety of Lygodesmia grandiflora is, in Stanley Welsh's words, "closely allied to var. arizonica but differs in its usually white flowers, larger growth, and more ligneous [woody] stems". The plant is rare in just a few east-central counties of Utah and was discovered in Grand County in 1978 by Stella and Stanley Welsh and was named and described in 1980 by Welsh and Goodrich.

In his A Utah Flora, Welsh indicates that this variety branches from the base, forms rounded clumps [to 1 1/2 feet tall], and has stiff spreading leaves. Flowers are from 1+ to 2+ inches in diameter.

Flowers are usually white but, as in this photograph, may be light shades of pink/lavender.

Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada

Lygodesmia entrada. Synonym: Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada.(Entrada Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Arches National Park, Utah, May 27, 2016.

The woody, branching base and spreading leaves are hallmarks of this variety. Leaves are reduced in size upward on the plant, but they are not reduced to mere scales. See the top photograph of Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada.

 

 

Lygodesmia grandiflora. (Large-flowered Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert, foothills.  Openings. Spring.
Dominguez Canyon, Gunnison River, May 13, 2003.

Ranging from pinks to lavender-blues, Rushpink flowers are very noticeable against the often barren-seeming ground that they prefer.  The flower is quite large relative to the rest of the plant.

Although, as the range maps below indicate, this variety is more wide-spread than variety arizonica, I rarely find it yet fairly commonly find variety arizonica.

 

Lygodesmia juncea
Lygodesmia juncea  (Rush-like Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert.  Sand, openings and woodlands. Summer.
BLM lands in Utah near Hovenweep National Monument, June 24, 2009.

Lygodesmia juncea branches often, is five to twenty-five inches tall, and has lovely soft pink flowers.  Although some botanical books indicate that the plant is glabrous, this plant and those around it were sticky with glandular hairs on the phyllaries and pedicels.

One common name for this genus is "Skeleton Plant". "Juncea" refers to the clustered, nearly leaf-less, rush-like stems.

For the discovery and naming of this plant, see the last paragraph in the box at the top of this page.

Lygodesmia juncea

Lygodesmia juncea  (Rush-like Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert.  Sand, openings and woodlands. Summer.
BLM lands in Utah near Hovenweep National Monument, June 24, 2009.

Ray petals are 9-12 millimeters long. 

Upper stem leaves (visible below the involucres and in the upper right corner of the photograph) are reduced to small, clasping scales.

Lygodesmia juncea

Lygodesmia juncea  (Rush-like Rushpink) 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Desert, semi-desert.  Sand, openings and woodlands. Summer.
BLM lands in Utah near Hovenweep National Monument, June 24, 2009.

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 Lygodesmia arizonica

Lygodesmia grandiflora variety entrada

Range map for Lygodesmia entrada

Range map for Lygodesmia grandiflora

Range map for Lygodesmia juncea