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See also other Artemisia.
Artemisia scopulorum
Artemisia scopulorum

Artemisia scopulorum (Alpine Sagewort)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine, subalpine. Tundra, scree. Summer, fall.
Above: U. S. Basin, July 28, 2016.
Left: Madden Peak, June 23, 2004.

Artemisia scopulorum is very common in high meadows and alpine areas, sometimes, as the photograph at the top of the page indicates, numbering in the hundreds of plants cloaking the tundra. But Artemisia scopulorum is such a slender plant with such minute flowers that it is very easily passed by. Try to find it and lie down beside it.

Artemisia scopulorum leaves are mostly basal, finely cut, sage green, and very pleasantly sage smelling.  Flowers are brown/red/yellow, and tiny. The entire plant has a most exotic, even science-fiction-alien appearance. See Prairie Smoke for another alien. 

When my wife and I first discovered Artemisia scopulorum on a steep alpine hillside that we had struggled to get to, we thought it was a rare find. But once we identified it, we found it to be so abundant that we shook our heads in disbelief at having not noticed it before. You, too, will find it to be a very common plant near and above timber-line.

See Artemisia ludoviciana for the derivation of the genus name. "Scopulorum" is Latin for "of rocky places".

The first specimen of this plant was collected by Hall and Harbour, led by Charles Parry, in 1862 in Colorado and was named by Asa Gray in 1863.

Artemisia scopulorum

Artemisia scopulorum (Alpine Sagewort)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine, subalpine. Tundra, scree. Summer, fall.
Madden Peak, June 23, 2004.

A closer look at the flower head shows mixtures of yellow and brown in the flowers and black, brown, and green in the phyllaries.

Artemisia scopulorum

Artemisia scopulorum

Artemisia scopulorum (Alpine Sagewort)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine, subalpine. Tundra, scree. Summer, fall.
Horse Creek Trail, August 31, 2005 and U. S. Basin, July 28, 2016.

Upright flower heads are most common, but nodding heads are easy to find.

The top photograph at left shows more than a dozen circular heads of flowers, each with 20 to 40 minute flowers. Each yellow dot is a tubular flower, just a few of which show a minute spike of yellow, the tips of the styles which you can see fully emerged and curled in the second photograph. In the center of the yellow dots of the top photograph, you see a brown area, the bud covers of the yellow flowers that will soon be yellow dots and then fully opened flowers.

Around the perimeter of each flower head are 6-13 fertile, pistillate flowers and these surround 15-30 fertile, perfect flowers.

Below and surrounding each head of flowers are black and green hairy phyllaries.

To see this detail on your hikes, carry a small hand lens. The view is thrilling!

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 Artemisia scopulorum