Monday, January 01, 2018

Hooker's townsendia (Townsendia hookeri)

Rare in the northern Great Plains, secure in the remainder of its range, typically found in elevated, gravelly, badland exposures.
Perennial from a branched caudex, forming a tuft of leaves. 
Very difficult to distinguish from another species, Townsendia exscapa. The species identity may best be indicated by habitat: hookeri is usually on badland exposures, exscapa is usually in the thick of prairie grasses apart from badland exposures. This is a fairly consistent phenomenon. 
The legend of this species is that two botanical experts on Eriogonum disagreed on the identity of a single specimen of Eriogonum, one calling it hookeri, the other calling it exscapa. The solution was Solomonic: Cut the species in two and give it back to everyone; the authorities deemed both of the species as rare and be done with the squabbling.
This photo was taken on April 14, 2016. The population was engulfed by the Ridge Road Fire on April 14, 2015 and was back in bloom exactly one year later. Not a scratch. Prairie forbs have most of their biomass below ground, protected from fire.

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