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Oreochrysum parryi
Oreochrysum parryi
Oreochrysum parryi.  Synonym: Solidago parryi. (Parry's Goldenweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Top photo: Calico Trail, August 25, 2014.
Road to Helmet-Spiller Ridge, July 31, 2008.
Vallecito Creek Trail, September 12, 2011.

In the western San Juans, Oreochrysum parryi most commonly grows 12-18 inches tall and has very obvious leaf-like bracts enclosing the involucre (the modified leaves that enclose and then subtend the flower head).  But in Utah, Arizona, and a few areas in western Colorado the plant can be several feet tall and lack the foliaceous bracts.  (As shown in the second photograph above.)   The two forms are so distinct that they can appear to be two different species.

Oreochrysum parryi.  Synonym: Solidago parryi. (Parry's Goldenweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Middle Calico Trail, August 9, 2004 and Vallecito Creek Trail, September 12, 2011.

Oreochrysum parryi is very common, especially in Spruce forests.  It spreads from underground roots putting up scores of clusters of basal leaves, each leaf about three to five inches long.  Plant stems, typically from twelve to eighteen inches tall, are characteristically rough with a purple hue and sport few but large and vertical, then arching leaves.  Flower heads are small relative to the size of the plant and typically three to six flower heads are clustered at the top of the plant; there may be a number of clusters.

"Oros" is Greek for "mountain" and "chrysos" for "gold".  "Parryi" is for botanist Charles Parry, 1823-1890, explorer and naturalist who visited Colorado often and widely publicized the flora of the West.  Joseph Hooker called him the "King of Colorado Botany".  Parry collected the first specimen of this plant in Colorado, and Asa Gray named it Aplopappus parryi in 1862.  Edwin Greene renamed it Solidago parryi in 1894, and Per Axel Rydberg renamed it in 1906, making it the sole member of a new genus, Oreochrysum.  The plant is found in a few counties of Wyoming and Nevada; otherwise it is exclusively - and commonly - found in the Four Corners states.   (More biographical information about Parry.)

Oreochrysum parryi

Oreochrysum parryi

Oreochrysum parryi.  Synonym: Solidago parryi. (Parry's Goldenweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Middle Calico Trail, August 9, 2004 and Upper Calico Trail, July 31, 2013.

The large leafy bracts below the flower head are key in identifying this species and in distinguishing it from Solidagos.

In some areas, Oreochrysum parryi flower heads are more numerous (as shown in the second photograph at left and the second photograph at the top of the page).  These plants might also be taller (over two feet) and, as the second photograph at left shows, they may not have the large, green, leaf-like bracts that are so characteristic of many Oreochrysum parryi in most of the western San Juans.

Insects (black and white "Police Car Moth", Gnophaelia vermiculatae and unidentified spotted gray) feast on Oreochrysum parryi

Oreochrysum

Oreochrysum parryi

Oreochrysum parryi.  Synonym: Solidago parryi. (Parry's Goldenweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Middle Calico Trail, August 9, 2004.

From early July on, the basal rosette of leaves of Oreochrysum parryi are very common in Spruce forests.  They, along with the rosettes of Erigeron glacialis, green the forest floor, but only a small percent of either of these plants will flower.  Since there are commonly many hundreds of plants crowded into a small area, there will still be dozens of flowering plants.

As the bottom photograph at left indicates, the basal rosettes of the two species are very similar.  Those of O. parryi cover the left half of the photograph and those of E. glacialis cover the right.  Leaves of both plants are about the same shade of green and both have a prominent central vein.  Several authoritative botanical texts indicate that the basal leaves of the two plants are about the same width and length, but I find those of E. glacialis are usually smaller and E. glacialis stem leaves also tend to be smaller. 

O. parryi leaf margins are fringed with very short, hooked hairs and the leaf surface has scattered forked and unforked hairs, but the surface is often glabrous.  Under magnification the leaf surface of O. parryi can be seen to be pock-marked.  The leaf surface of E. glacialis is not pock-marked and may be glabrous or may have scattered hairs of varying lengths.  The hairs on the margin are sparse, longer than those of O. parryi, and not uniformly hooked.

Oreochrysum parryi.  Synonym: Solidago parryi. (Parry's Goldenweed)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Colorado Trail above Roaring Fork, September 23, 2008.

Fall colors are subtle variations on reds and yellow.

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 Oreochrysum parryi