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Schkuhria multiflora

Schkuhria multiflora

Schkuhria multiflora
Schkuhria multiflora. Synonym: Bahia neomexicana. (Threadleaf)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills. Washes, sandy areas, sandstone cracks. Summer, fall.
Above and left: Boggy Draw, October 2, 2016 and September 26, 2013.

Schkuhria multiflora typically grows from just one to eight inches tall but may be as much as 12-18 inches tall. In the top photograph above, the plant is about 6 inches tall and 9 wide. The plants at left are just three inches tall.

Schkuhria multiflora has no ray flowers and up to 30 disc flowers. Flowers shown here have about 20 minute disc flowers just 1-2 millimeters long.

At left, you can see about a dozen plants in full golden flower and three in varying stages of exploded seed head. The area I first encountered these plants had thousands of plants in various stages of development, from the short plants at left to the robust plant shown above.

The Schkuhria genus was named by Albrecht Roth to honor the German botanist, Christian Schkuhr. Schkuhria multiflora was named and described by William Jackson Hooker and George Arnett in 1841. (Click to read more about Schkuhr.)

Schkuhria multiflora

Schkuhria multiflora. Synonym: Bahia neomexicana. (Threadleaf)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills. Washes, sandy areas, sandstone cracks. Summer, fall.
Boggy Draw, September 26, 2013.

I was thoroughly amazed  --  and puzzled  --  when I looked through my hand lens magnifier and saw this gorgeous pinwheel explosion. Then I realized that I was looking at a cluster of seeds that had developed from the flowerhead.

At far left at the 9 and 10 o'clock positions you can see the withering remains of two golden disc flowers. The white appendages surrounding the base of these disc flowers are the pappus scales. The other disc flowers have fallen away, but the scales continue in a circle around the outer edge of the photograph.

The pappus scales on this plant are quite different from the typical plume-like pappus that one finds on many Asteraceae, e.g. the fluff on Taraxacum (Dandelions).

Below the pappus scales are the long, dark seeds covered in silvery shining short hairs.

All together I find this one of the most intriguing and beautiful seed heads I have ever encountered.

Schkuhria multiflora

Schkuhria multiflora. Synonym: Bahia neomexicana. (Threadleaf)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills. Washes, sandy areas, sandstone cracks. Summer, fall.
Boggy Draw, September 26, 2013.

Schkuhria multiflora has a common name of "Threadleaf", for the leaves are just 1/2 millimeter wide and 1-3 centimeters long. Leaves are sometimes divided into 2 or 3 very narrow sections.

Schkuhria multiflora

Schkuhria multiflora. Synonym: Bahia neomexicana. (Threadleaf)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills. Washes, sandy areas, sandstone cracks. Summer, fall.
Boggy Draw, October 2, 2016.

Schkuhria multiflora was difficult to identify, but the difficulties reminded me of several significant points about keying plants:

1) You cannot key a plant if the plant is not in the key! I tried to identify this plant by using Weber's 4th edition of Colorado Flora: Western Slope, but after going through the key 4 times, I gave up. I tried several other floras and was only successful when I used Flora of the Four Corners Region.

After finding the name of the plant, I checked the plant's range (see the map below) and noticed that the plant had not previously been recorded on Colorado's West Slope. That is why it was not in Weber's key. (The plant is in Weber's Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope). Kartesz's new maps now show the plant present in Montezuma County, Colorado, in the very southwest corner of the state.

2) Once you have identified your plant, look at the keys again to find out where you went wrong. After I found the correct name for this plant in one flora, I went through several others and, starting with the name of the plant, worked backwards through the keys so I could see where I had previously gone wrong.

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

Schkuhria multiflora

Range map for Schkuhria multiflora