Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Yellow Blazing Star (Mentzelia laevicaulis)

Yellow Blazing Star, Orem Foothills, David Kenison, 7/9/14

Also known as Giant Blazing Star or Smoothstem Blazing Star.

This spectacular bloom is found in early summer at lower elevations along the Wasatch Front, in rocky or sandy soil.  The plant itself is unimpressive, with branched, spindly, weedy-looking stems that are generally a foot or two high.  The leaves are narrow and sawtoothed.

At the end of each branch is found one of the more beautiful Wasatch wildflowers.  The star-shaped flower grows as large as 3 to 6" across when fully expanded.  There are five narrow, pointed petals colored a bright, almost shiny yellow.  Among the petals grows a cluster of long, whiskery, yellow stamen - as many as 50 in mature blooms.

David Douglas, a Scottish botanical explorer, noted the species in his journal after visiting the Columbia River area in the 1830s.

While the plant is technically perennial, some botanists classify it as biennial - living only for two years.

The following photos were taken on the "Y" trail in Provo on 7/9/13, and on the Orem Bench trail on 7/9/14. Click to view larger versions.

Additional information:
Ventana Wilderness Alliance, California
USDA profile
USDA/NRCS plant guide

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