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Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum (Desert Trumpets)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, canyons. Spring.
Above and left: Lower Butler Wash, Utah, April 20, 2017.

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum (Desert Trumpets)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, canyons. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 27, 2005; Gateway, Colorado, area, May 11, 2012; and Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, April 23, 2014.

The swollen stems of Eriogonum inflatum make this an unusual and easily remembered plant.  Very tiny yellow flowers are often not even noticed except in years of unusually favorable rainfall when thousands of these tiny flowers give a yellow glow to sandy flats and rocky hillsides. 

Plants vary from 1 to 3 feet tall and originate from a bright green basal rosette of round, crinkled, and slightly scalloped leaves.  Above the green leaves in the top photograph you can see three years of growth: 2005 stems are green, 2004 are reddish-brown, and 2003 are white (one stem piece is almost horizontal at the seven o'clock position). (The red flowers in the background belong to the lovely Penstemon utahensis.)

The second photograph shows a considerable enlargement of the flowers, which appear as tiny dots at the end of the dark branchings in the top photograph.

The Eriogonum genus was named by Andre Michaux (1746-1803) in his 1803, Flora Boreali-Americana.  John Torrey and John Fremont named this species in 1845 after Fremont collected it in 1844 "on barren hills in the lower part of Northern California".  Fremont's name appears alongside Torrey's name as co-author because the wild explorer Fremont had the gall to tell Torrey, the greatest botanist of his time, that after Fremont collected plants, "we" should describe the plants together.  (More biographical information about Torrey) (More biographical information about Fremont).

"Erio" is Greek for "wool" and "gono" for "knee", referring to the woolly leaves and swollen joints of the type species.

Eriogonum inflatum
Eriogonum inflatum (Desert Trumpets)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, canyons. Spring.
Kane Creek Canyon, Utah, March 15, 2007.

The top-branching corymb pattern of Eriogonum inflatum is visible from far away, especially on a plant that bloomed as profusely as this one. Notice the ruler in the lower right corner. 

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum

Eriogonum inflatum (Desert Trumpets)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, canyons. Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005.

Flower buds appear at the end of very delicate branchings above the swollen stem and between minute bracts (just 1-3 millimeters long and wide). The peduncle lengthens and changes from red to green. Tightly packed clusters of over a dozen hairy, tiny buds emerge.  1-3 millimeter wide flowers have 1.5-2.5 long exserted stamens.

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 inflatum