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   Thomas Nuttall named the Stenogonum genus in 1848.  "Stenogonum" is Greek for "narrow joint" and refers to the very slender branches.

    Stanley Welsh (A Utah Flora) places both of the species shown on this page in the genus Eriogonum: "Although regarded by some ... as belonging ... in the ... genus, Stenogonum, because of their peculiar involucres , both species appear to be more nearly allied to species within Eriogonum proper than they are to each other".  However, the Flora of North America states, "The genus [Stenogonum] is readily distinguished from Eriogonum by an involucre reduced to a series of two foliaceous whorls of three lanceolate bracts".

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Stenogonum flexumStenogonum flexum

Xanthisma grindelioides

Stenogonum flexum
Stenogonum flexum.  Synonym: Eriogonum flexum. (Flexible Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Above: Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, May 12, 2013 and McElmo Canyon, May 17, 2015.
Left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 3, 2010.

Stenogonum flexum has slender, wiry, red stems; minute yellow flowers at the end of a flexed peduncle (the stem of a cluster of flowers); and prominent thick, large, round basal leaves. It can, as the above photographs indicate, carpet hundreds of square feet and even though its flowers are minute, the plant can coat the ground in yellow and be easily visible from a long distance.

Because of its long, wiry, red stems, Stenogonum flexum stands out a bit more than its close cousin S. salsuginosum (discussed below). 

Marcus Jones named this plant Eriogonum flexum in 1891 from a collection he made in Arizona.  James Reveal and J. T. Howell renamed it Stenogonum flexum in 1976.

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Stenogonum flexum
Stenogonum flexum.  Synonym: Eriogonum flexum. (Flexible Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 3, 2010.

The flex is clearly evident in almost all peduncles.

 

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum.  Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum. (Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Above and left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 22, 2017 and April 18, 2007.

Stenogonum salsuginosum is, according to Weber, "relatively rare", but as the above photographs show, in the Colorado and San Juan river drainages of the Four Corners area it can actually be quite common, often abundant.  It is easy to spot when it first emerges because it dots the barren-seeming ground with maroon and yellow -- a puzzling sight from a human's vantage point, but once you get down on your knees you see the beauty.

Thomas Nuttall named this species in 1848. "Salsuginosum" is Latin for "of salty places".

Flowers occur in clusters surrounded by two rings of three narrow bracts.  One cluster is just emerging (left center with a bract bent over it), one cluster of seven flowers is at center with one flower fully opened, and  one cluster is tilted to the right with the elongated green/red bracts pointing right.

Stenogonum salsuginosum
Stenogonum salsuginosum.  Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum. (Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 27, 2007.

Nine days after the above photographs were taken, green chlorophyll masks the initial maroons in the leaves and stems and flowers continue to emerge.

Stenogonum salsuginosum
Stenogonum salsuginosum.  Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum. (Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2007.

Nearly a month after the first basal maroon leaves emerge they turn yellow and die as the plant elongates.

Stenogonum salsuginosum
Stenogonum salsuginosum.  Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum. (Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 13, 2007.

This plant is about five inches tall and has flowers all along each stem.  The plant will probably grow to more than eight inches tall, flowering as it grows and widening its open, airy posture.

Click for more Stenogonum.

 

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)
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Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Stenogonum flexum

Range map for Stenogonum flexum

Range map for Stenogonum salsuginosum