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Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Above: Navajo Lake Trail, August 6, 2014;
Lizardhead Trail, July 27, 2013.
Left: Kilpacker Trail, July 8, 2004.

Helianthella quinquenervis, sometimes growing to an eye-catching four feet tall, is common, but scattered, in woodlands from the Aspen belt to the subalpine. Its bright yellow flowers are up to four inches in diameter, and its leaves are long and strap like.  Basal leaves are numerous; stem leaves are few.

"Helios" is Greek for "sun" and "anthos" for "flower" (see Helianthus annuus). "Helianthella" is the diminutive of Helianthus and thus means "Little Sunflower" (even though H. quinquenervis is quite tall and its flower head very large). The specific epithet, "quinquenervis", is Latin for five-nerved (referring to the leaf veins).

Nathaniel Wyeth collected the first specimen of this genus in the Rocky Mountains, probably in 1832 on his return from the Pacific.  He gave the specimen to his friend and noted botanist, Thomas Nuttall, who named the genus Helianthus. (The plant was not the Four Corners species; it was Helianthus uniflorus).  In 1841 Nuttall realized that the plant genus name, Helianthus, was incorrect and he renamed the plant Leighia uniflora, but this genus name was rejected (I have not been able to determine why) by Torrey and Gray and they renamed it Helianthella.

Helianthella quinquenervis went through similar naming pains: the specimen was first collected in 1843-1844 near the North Fork of the Platte in Wyoming by Charles Geyer. William Jackson Hooker, apparently following Nuttall's lead, named the plant Helianthus quinquenervis. Asa Gray renamed it Helianthella quinquenervis in1883.

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Kilpacker Trail, July 8, 2004 and August 10, 2011; Geyser Trail, June 29, 2012.

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Pass Creek Trail, July 27, 2009.

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Kilpacker Trail, July 8, 2004.

Leaves are long, taper at both ends, and have prominent veins.

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Below American Basin, July 27, 2007.

Yellow ray flowers are fading, a few disk flowers are still fresh in the center of the flower head, and green seeds are beginning to mature.

Helianthella quinquenervis

Helianthella quinquenervis (Five-nerved Sunflower)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, streamsides. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, September 9, 2004.

Fall colors begin to engulf leaves. Notice that there are no seed heads; they have been eaten by Bear, Deer, or Elk.

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 Helianthella quinquenervis