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Alpine Wallflower Erysimum capitatum var. purshii


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Alpine Wallflower
credit: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service,

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Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description A low plant with several short stems growing from tufts of basal leaves and bearing yellow or yellow-orange flowers with rusty-backed petals in compact racemes.
Habit: native perennial herb; thin, erect stems growing from a basal rosette.
Height: 2-8 in (50-200 mm) or more
Leaf: alternate, narrow, linear, sometimes toothed or shallowly indented; 1.25-2.5 in (30-60 mm) long.
Flower: 4 flat petals, yellow or gold (rarely lavender or purplish), 0.5-0.75 in (12-20 mm) wide.
Fruit: dangling pod, 1-3 in (25-75 mm) long.

Flower April to September.

Habitat Meadows, dry slopes, hillsides, rocky ridges, sagebrush flats, aspen and spruce areas, and alpine tundra; 3300-12,500 ft (1000-3800 m); also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Western North America: Idaho and Montana, south to California, east to Texas, and into central Mexico.

Discussion Also known as Pursh's wallflower, western wallflower. The parent species, western wallflower (E. capitatum) is one of the West's most striking wildflowers. It is also one of the most variable species, with very wide ecological tolerance.

Because this variation has defied easy botanical classification, it's taxonomy is unusually confused; some botanists recognize no varieties, while others attempt to demonstrate the complex variation through nomenclature. Six varieties have been The very short alpine phases in the Rocky Mountains were once recognized as a separate species, E. nivale (nivale means of snow and refers to the plants habitat). E. capitatum var. purshii now includes this and numerous other short-stemmed phases of Western Wallflower. The short-stemmed habit, characteristic of many alpine plants, is an adaptation for rapid flower production and protection from the cold.