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Gutierrezia sarothrae

Gutierrezia sarothrae

Gutierrezia sarothrae

Gutierrezia sarothrae (Broom Snakeweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, roadsides. Summer, fall.
Big Spring Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 10, 2005 and
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 9, 2019 and March 9, 2017.

Gutierrezia sarothrae spreads widely over many acres of land.  At flowering time it imparts a golden tint to Canyon Country sands. Dried floral parts persist through the winter so, as the third photograph above shows, Gutierrezia sarothrae is still very conspicuous long after its flowers are gone.

Gutierrezia sarothrae is often regarded as a non-native weed, but it is not. It is a native and lovely plant. When you see beautiful expanses of Gutierrezia it is often because cattle have been on that land and reeked havoc with the natural plant community.  Since cattle do not eat Gutierrezia, when the cattle over-graze other plants they make room for Gutierrezia to spread

Gutierrezia sarothrae is often confused with Petradoria pumila which also puts on a massive display of yellow clusters of flowers, but the latter usually blooms earlier in June and July, is not woody, is shorter in more cylindrical clusters, and has much longer leaves and more golden flowers. Click to see a comparison of Gutierrezia, Petradoria, and Ericameria, three species which can be difficult to separate, especially when the three are young.

Gutierrezia sarothrae

Gutierrezia sarothrae (Broom Snakeweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings, roadsides. Summer, fall.
Big Spring Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 10, 2005 and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, October 21, 2010.

Multiple, leaning stems give rise to a rounded symmetrical crown which is densely covered with bright golden yellow small flowers.  In Canyon Country the golden glow contrasts strikingly with the rich orange soils and dark black/brown of the Cryptobiotic Soil Crust, the community of lichens and cyanobacteria so fragile, beautiful, and common in Canyon Country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gutierrezia sarothrae seedlings, which at first might appear to be some Conifer or Fern seedlings, are a great contrast to the golden shrubs shown above. But almost always, somewhere along the trail their true nature becomes evident when you find some seedlings with one bright yellow Gutierrezia flower at the very tip. 

Typically one finds a scattering of seedlings, but warm temperatures and abundant moisture in the late summer and fall of 2010 produced a prodigious number of Gutierrezia sarothrae seedlings.