Some wildflowers are covered extensively in every identification guide and vast quantities of material are available on those plants. Others rarely appear in popular sources and very little information on those species is seen outside of the scientific literature. (I have often joked that we need some manuals on “less common wildflowers”.) Mountain brickellbush (Brickellia greenei) is one such overlooked wildflower.
A native perennial, mountain brickellbush grows in California and Oregon at elevations from approximately 2,600 to 9,000 feet. Its habitat is open, rocky slopes, canyon bottoms and riparian areas, particularly those with serpentine soils.
This member of the Aster Family has many stems growing from a woody base (caudex). Mountain brickellbush herbage is glandular and sticky. Bits of rock can be seen sticking to the leaves in the photographs, taken in August along Highway 89 near the Lassen Peak Trailhead in Lassen Volcanic National Park (Shasta County CA).
Mountain brickellbush leaves are alternate, ovate, roughly toothed and have short petioles.
The flower heads are solitary at the tips of the stems or sometimes they appear in a flat-topped, few-flowered cluster. Leaflike bracts surround the flower head. The narrow, pointed phyllaries (a type of bract also surrounding the flower head) are greenish to straw colored and sometimes purple tinged. There are about 60 cream to yellow disk flowers (also sometimes purple tinged) composing the flower head. There are no ray flowers.
The fruit of mountain brickellbush is a cylindrical achene (hard with a single dry seed) topped by a pappus of bristles.
Edward Lee Greene (1848 – 1915) is honored by the species name. Greene was the first professor of botany at the University of California at Berkeley and started the first bota-nical garden in the West. Another common name for B. greenei is Greene brickellbush.
On 11-18-2016 I wrote about another member of this genus, the “Large Flowered Brickellbush”.