There is considerable disagreement among experts regarding the diminutive alpine and subalpine species of Taraxacum. Plants shown on this page key, according to some experts, to one species, some to two, and some experts consider them one species and one sub-species.  There is also disagreement about what names should be used for the plants.  

Weber and Wittmann state that there are three high altitude native Taraxacum: T. eriophorum, T. ovinum, and T. scopulorum. 

The Flora of the Four Corners Region accepts T. ceratophorum and T. scopulorum as distinct species (T. ovinum and T. eriophorum as synonyms).

Ackerfield accepts T. ceratophorum, T. scopulorum, and T. eriophorum.

The Flora of North America states that because there are no clear lines of demarcation between the species, most high altitude species should be lumped into T. ceratophorum, but FNA does also recognize the distinctness of T. scopulorum (synonym T. lyratum). 

The USDA Plants Database introduces an entirely new twist: T. eriophorum is a distinct species and what others call T. ceratophorum is just a subspecies of T. officinale, the Common Dandelion.

John Kartesz, who I use as the ultimate authority for names on this web site, accepts C. eriophorum as a distinct species, considers T. ovinum a synonym for T. ceratophorum, and T. scopulorum a synonym for T. lyratum. 

Taraxacum eriophorum

Taraxacum eriophorum

Taraxacum ceratophorum (Alpine Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Eureka Gulch, July 18, 2009 and Stony Pass, July, 2011.

Taraxacum ceratophorum typically grows 4-7 inches tall on alpine tundra.  The plant is found throughout the Rockies, in most western states, and across all of Canada. In some of these habitats it may reach 20 inches tall.  The Flora of North America indicates that this species "is the most widespread native dandelion in North America, ranging from the low Arctic and boreal zone to the western Cordilleras, in the montane and alpine zones".

Greek gives us both "cerat" and "phoros" for "horn" and "bearing", alluding to the often swollen phyllary tips.

Taraxacum eriophorum

Taraxacum eriophorum

Taraxacum ceratophorum  (Alpine Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Stony Pass, July, 2011.

The flower stem on this species is cobwebby hairy when young but may be glabrous with age.  Notice also the somewhat cupped, swollen tips on the red-tinged phyllaries in both the very young, small plant in the top photograph at left and in the more mature plant in the photograph below it. The best way to see these horns is to look at the phyllary tips on the far right and far left of each flower head.  The inner phyllaries of the more mature plant have been reflexed by the enlarging ray flowers.

Taraxacum (Identity uncertain)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Eureka Gulch, July 18, 2009.

The flower stem on this species is not hairy.  Phyllaries are broader and the outer row of phyllaries (bracts) are much shorter.  Notice also the deeply incised leaves.

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
Questionable presence

Range map for Taraxacum ceratophorum

Range map for Taraxacum eriophorum