The chalcedon checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas chalcedona) in yesterday’s post were sipping nectar from nude buckwheat plants (Eriogonum nudum), which are common in dry, open areas throughout the Western states.
Members of the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae) are interesting because they do not have true petals. What look like petals are actually petal-like sepals (modified flower leaves). Many buckwheat family members have leaves that occur at swollen nodes on the stems.
The leaves of naked buckwheat are all clustered at the base of a 1 to 3 foot stem and are entire (no lobes or teeth), have long petioles (stems) and have small clumps of wooly white hair. At the tip of the stems the small white flowers, tinged with pink or yellow, are crowded into ball-shaped clusters. The six “petals” are actually sepals. Between the leaves and flowers the long stem is leafless. It is easy to see where naked buckwheat gets its common name. It is also called barestem buckwheat.
The genus name, Eriogonum, derives from “erio” meaning “wooly” (the hairs on the leaves) and “gonu” meaning “knees” (the nodes on the stems).
Some members of the buckwheat family are important food sources (buckwheat pancakes, anyone?). Naked buckwheat stems can be eaten as a potherb when they are very young. But they must be very young and to me are just not worth the effort to gather when tiny.
These pictures are of the plants along Rock Creek (Shasta County CA) that the chalcedon checkerspots in yesterday’s post were frequenting.