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Oxypolis fendleri
Oxypolis fendleri (Cowbane)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Streamsides.  Spring, summer.
Kilpacker Trail, July 10, 2012.

Plants often grow in large colonies along rivulets or on consistently wet soils.

 

Oxypolis fendleri
Oxypolis fendleri (Cowbane)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Streamsides.  Spring, summer.
West Mancos Trail, June 26, 2004.

When it occurs singly, Oxypolis fendleri goes unnoticed because it is quite slender and because its flowers, like those of its Osmorhiza cousins, are such tiny sprays of white, no more than two inches across for the entire flower cluster.  But O. fendleri becomes very noticeable when it gets wet roots and densely carpets high mountain stream-sides turning them white with hundreds of plants bearing thousands of flowers.

Heartleaf Bittercress, about the same height as Cowbane, also loves streamsides and produces masses of plants with many, but larger, and whiter flowers.  Oxypolis fendleri can even more easily be confused with Conioselinum scopulorum but the latter grows to be a more robust plant with larger flower heads and finely cut leaves reminiscent of Carrot leaves.

"Oxys", Greek for sharp and "polios" "gray/white", refer to the flower bracts and the petals.  Augustus Fendler, 1813-1883, for whom a number of plants in the Four Corners area were named, was a botanical collector for the renowned Asa Gray and George Engelmann.  (More biographical information about Fendler.)

Oxypolis fendleri
Oxypolis fendleri (Cowbane)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Streamsides.  Spring, summer.
West Mancos Trail, June 26, 2004.

Lower plant leaves are pinnate and oval to lanceolate in shape with slight serrations on the leaflets.  Upper stem leaves are shown below.

Oxypolis fendleri
Oxypolis fendleri (Cowbane)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Streamsides.  Spring, summer.
Calico Trail, August 19, 2009.

The photograph shows stem leaves from two different O. fendleri plants that were growing near each other.  Notice that the leaflets on the plant at right have smooth margins; the leaflets of the plant at left have slight serrations.  These are common leaflet variations. 

Stem leaflets are in several rows, opposite, narrow, sometimes slightly serrated, and with a single terminal leaflet.   Each leaflet in the photograph is only an inch or so long.  There are usually but one or two clusters of stem leaflets and these are so small and often so close to the stem that the stem at first glance appears to be leafless.  The shape of these stem leaflets is the easiest characteristic to look for when trying to distinguish Oxypolis fendleri from Conioselinum scopulorum.

Oxypolis fendleri
Oxypolis fendleri (Cowbane)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Streamsides.  Spring, summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 31, 2015.

Reds dominate Oxypolis fendleri fall colors.

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 Oxypolis fendleri