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Eriogonum cernuum
Eriogonum cernuum (Nodding Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, lower montane. Shrublands, sand, woodlands. Summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, September 10, 2010.

Eriogonum cernuum is a delicate, many-flowered plant of open sandy grasslands, shrublands, and lower altitude woodlands.  Though it can be abundant in certain habitats, it is so slim and has such minute flowers that it is often overlooked.  It typically grows to about ten inches tall (as pictured here) but can be nearly twenty inches tall. 

Stem leaves are usually lacking and the round, very hairy, basal leaves may be green and present, dried, or absent at flowering time.  Be sure to take a look at the leaves with a hand lens.  

When you find one plant, stop and search for more.  Almost always you will find many other Eriogonum cernuum plants in the same area.  

Eriogonum cernuum
Eriogonum cernuum (Nodding Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, lower montane. Shrublands, sand, woodlands. Summer, fall.
Murphy Trail, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 27, 2005.

In 1834 "On the plains of the Oregon and in the Rocky Mountains", Thomas Nuttall was the first to collect this plant for science.  He named and described the plant in 1848.  "Cernu" is Latin for "nodding".

 

Eriogonum cernuum
Eriogonum cernuum (Nodding Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, lower montane. Shrublands, sand, woodlands. Summer, fall.
Murphy Trail, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 27, 2005.

Eriogonum cernuum ages to subtle maroons.  Notice also that the basal leaves are dried and curled, in contrast to the basal leaves shown in the top photograph.

Eriogonum cernuum is often so abundant that it colors the land with a maroon tinge, as it did in the open meadows along the Murphy Trail where this photograph was taken.

Eriogonum cernuum
Eriogonum cernuum (Nodding Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, lower montane. Shrublands, sand, woodlands. Summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, October 21, 2010.

It is easy to spot the numerous Eriogonum cernuum plants in this photograph, but in the field it is actually quite difficult to see them as they are so slender and their color blends with the soils.  You can see the difficulty if you look at the plants in front of the black micro-biotic soil crust at the very top of the photograph.

Eriogonum cernuum (Nodding Buckwheat) and Eriogonum hookeri
Eriogonum cernuum and Eriogonum hookeri
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

October, 2013.

Eriogonum cernuum and Eriogonum hookeri (and several other species, such as, Eriogonum deflexum) are very similar. In the photograph above, E. cernuum is at top and E. hookeri is at bottom. The flower petals (really "tepals") are only about 1-2 millimeters long.

The involucre of E. cernuum is turbinate, i.e., top-shaped. See the top right arrow.
The involucre of E. hookeri is broadly campanulate to hemispheric. See the width of the bottom right involucre.

The peduncle of E. cernuum is 2-25 millimeters long. See top left arrow.
The peduncle of E. hookeri is absent of just a tiny fraction of a millimeter. See bottom left arrow.

The outer tepals of E. cernuum are narrowly violin-shaped, usually with an obtuse base. (Very difficult to tell from the above photograph, but you can tell the tepal size relative to the tepals of E. hookeri.)
The outer tepals of E. hookeri are orbiculate, usually with an indented (cordate) base.

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 Eriogonum cernuum