SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE      WHITE FLOWERS      CONTACT US



    The two Lewisia species shown on this page are very similar, so much so that A Utah Flora and Intermountain Flora consider them one species. The Flora of Colorado and The Manual of the Plants of Colorado consider them subspecies. The Flora of North America, Biota of North America Project, Flora Neomexicana, and Colorado Flora consider them two distinct species.

    Those floras that do separate them as distinct species or as subspecies do so on the basis of the shape of the margins of the sepal, the glandularity of the sepals, and the color of the flowers.

   I have kept them as two distinct species, but I think the differences are minor and really are just variations within one species.  

    In 1814 Frederick Pursh named a new genus, "Lewisia", in honor of Meriwether Lewis who collected the first specimens of this genus in Montana in 1806.  The species Lewis collected was named Lewisia rediviva, for it would "revive" and grow even after being stored for long periods of time.  

    Lewisia rediviva is now the state flower of Montana.  According to the state of Montana web site: 

Montana's Indians used it as an important part of their diet.  Tribes timed their spring migrations with the blooming of the bitterroot on the gravel river bars and hillsides.  Dug, cleaned, and dried, the root provided a lightweight, nutritious supplement to a wild-game diet.  At major trading centers like The Dalles, the root was an item of barter and exchange.  A sackful commanded a substantial price - usually a horse.  One ounce of dried root provided sufficient nourishment for a meal, but the plant was seldom eaten raw, for its bitter taste and resultant swelling caused great discomfort.  More traditionally, Indian women boiled the root, then mixed it with meat or berries.  Pulverized and seasoned with deer fat and moss, the cooked root could be molded into patties and carried on hunting expeditions....

   See the excellent Lewis and Clark web site for more information about Lewis and Lewisia rediviva.

Lewisia nevadensis
Lewisia nevadensis.  Synonym: Oreobroma nevadense. (Nevada Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane. Meadows, open woods. Spring, summer.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 27, 2004.

Lewisia nevadensis is often found in very large numbers scattered in wet meadows and open Aspen woods.  The plants are so low to the ground, though, that hikers usually pass them by without noticing them.  Leaves are thick and succulent and flowers are bright white, rarely pink.

In 1862 Asa Gray gave the first name, Talinum nevadensis, to this species.  Thomas Howell renamed it Oreobroma nevadense in 1893 at the same time he named Oreobroma pygmaeaBenjamin L. Robinson renamed it Lewisia nevadensis in 1897.

(Click for biographical information about Lewis.)

Lewisia nevadensis
Lewisia nevadensis.  Synonym: Oreobroma nevadense. (Nevada Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane. Meadows, open woods. Spring, summer.
Near Narraguinnep Natural Area, May 18, 2007.

Sparse, but very evenly distributed winter and spring moisture can produce bumper crops of many wildflowers, including Lewisia nevadensis. 

That cute little blue flower in the lower left of the flower cluster is Collinsia parviflora.

Lewisia nevadensis
Lewisia nevadensis.  Synonym: Oreobroma nevadense. (Nevada Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane. Meadows, open woods. Spring, summer.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 27, 2004.

Lewisia nevadensis is almost always white but rare pink flowers do occur.

Lewisia nevadensis
Lewisia nevadensis.  Synonym: Oreobroma nevadense. (Nevada Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane. Meadows, open woods. Spring, summer.
Meadows in western San Juan National Forest, June 10, 2010.

Lewisia pygmaea
Lewisia pygmaea Synonym: Oreobroma pygmaea.  (Pygmy Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, meadows, tundra. Spring, summer.
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Lewesia pygmaea is found primarily in moist areas of the alpine and subalpine zones, but it can also be quite common in the montane zone.  It is as slender and lovely as L. nevadensis and just as difficult and surprising to find.  Flowers can be white to pink.

Asa Gray named this species Talinum pygmaeum in 1862, Thomas Howell renamed it Oreobroma pygmaea in 1893, and Benjamin L. Robinson renamed it Lewisia pygmaea in 1897.

Lewisia pygmaea
Lewisia pygmaea Synonym: Oreobroma pygmaea.  (Pygmy Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, meadows, tundra. Spring, summer.
Near Upper Calico Trail, June 22, 2015.

Lewisia pygmaea
Lewisia pygmaea Synonym: Oreobroma pygmaea.  (Pygmy Bitterroot).
Montiaceae (Miner's Lettuce Family)
formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, meadows, tundra. Spring, summer.
Taylor Mesa, June 30, 2015.

As noted at the top of the page, the two species (or subspecies) shown on this page are distinguished by several small characteristics. The photograph at left shows one of these characteristics, the minute teeth at the top of the green sepals. With a hand lens or even a good camera, these teeth are difficult to see, so I enhanced the photograph using a Photoshop watercolor filter to make the undulations at the top of the sepals more discernible.

The other feature of these sepals is that the tips are never glandular on Lewisia nevadensis. Look at the top of the undulations at left and you will see slight white spots. These are the glandular tips and thus the plant in the photograph at left is L. pygmaea.

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 Lewisia nevadensis

Range map for Lewisia pygmaea