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Arnica cordifolia

Arnica cordifolia

Arnica cordifolia (Heartleaf Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 19, 2004.

This is a most common and bright mountain flower and the most common of all Arnicas in the Four Corners area.  It thrives in the dry, acid soils under Spruce and as one enters the dark forest shade from sunny meadows, the bright lemon-yellow Arnica flowers are like beams of lights.  It is common to see dozens of flowering Arnica plants in one patch with hundreds of leafy, flowerless plants carpeting the ground around them.

Since seeds of Arnica cordifolia are produced without fertilization (they are termed "apomictic"), off-spring are genetically identical to their parents.  The patches of Arnica cordifolia are, therefore, clones and this accounts for the wide variability of Arnica cordifolia characteristics from one location to another. Since there is no pollination there is no blending of characteristics to a common denominator.

"Cordifolia" means "heart-leaf", but, although the heart-shape is often evident, Arnica cordifolia leaf shape is highly variable (the top leaves in the photo are elongated triangles, the bottom are heart-shaped). 

The word "Arnica" is considered by most botanical etymologists to be of unknown origin, but "arn" is Greek for "lamb" so perhaps the meaning is, "like lamb's skin," referring to the downy soft leaves.

Thomas Drummond collected the first specimen of Arnica cordifolia for science. (Drummond was also the first to collected Arnica mollis.) Both were collected in the Canadian Rockies in the 1820s and both were named by William Hooker in his Flora Boreali-American in 1834.

Arnica cordifolia

Arnica cordifolia

Arnica cordifolia (Heartleaf Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 19, 2004 and Lake Hope Trail, September 20, 2011.

Arnica cordifolia

Arnica cordifolia (Heartleaf Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Sneffels Highline Trail, August 4, 2004.

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 Arnica cordifolia