Sierra Chaenactis

Earlier this week Leonard and I climbed Mount Lassen (Lassen Volcanic National Park CA). I had a short “quest” list of alpine species. We did not find the one rare plant I most wanted to see. It was already past bloom. However I did find four “new” species to photograph.

Sierra chaenactis (Chaenactis nevadensis) is a native perennial growing in dry, loose volcanic or ultra -mafic sand, gravel and scree between approximately 7,200 and 9,500 feet. It can be found in the California Sierra Nevada and in far western Nevada.

Several short stems arise from a deep-set, woody taproot forming little tufts of low plants (cespitose). The persistent leaves are oval to deltoid in outline and are pinnately lobed. Sierra chaenactis leaves occur in a dense rosette on the stem and are grey-tomentose, that is, densely matted with soft hairs.

A member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae), Sierra chaenactis flower heads are solitary at the terminal end of the stalk. The heads are composed of white to pinkish purple disk flowers. Each flower has a long, protruding anther.

The fruits are achenes (single dry seeds) with a pappus of 10 to 16 scales.

C nevadensis is also commonly known as Nevada dustymaiden and Sierra pincushion. The genus name comes from the Greek (“chaino”/to gape and “aktis”/ray) and refers to the fact that in many Chaenactis species the outer disk flowers have wide-open, flaring, ray-like mouths. The species name means “from Nevada” or “from Sierra Nevada”.

There were not many Sierra chaenactis plants along the trail, so I did not pick any specimens. Instead I had to photograph the plants lying on the ground and, to Leonard’s dismay, hanging over the edge of the trail. But I got my pictures!!

We need to climb Lassen Peak again a little earlier next summer. I am determined to get pictures of Lassen Peak smelowskia in bloom.

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2 Responses to Sierra Chaenactis

  1. Lin Erickson says:

    What a beautiful and unusual plant…thank you for sharing!

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