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Sophora nuttaliana

This is a native species.

Sophora nuttaliana
Sophora nuttalliana (Nuttall's Sophora)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, sand. Spring, summer.
Five Mile Canyon, east of Gallup, New Mexico, May 3, 2015.

Sophora nuttalliana spreads in wide patches from deep-set rhizomes. Individual plants grow to 12 inches tall with elongated stems of white flowers encased in blue calyces. The plant is a surprising find in its often barren surroundings of dry gravels and sands.

According to Intermountain Flora, "sophora" is from the Arabic "sofera", a plant with yellow flowers.  Linnaeus, who named this genus in 1753, "arbitrarily" used this name. "Nuttalliana" is for the eminent 19th century botanist, Thomas Nuttall. (Click for more biographical information about Nuttall.) 

Nuttall was the first to collect this plant for science in 1811 in South Dakota on "elevated plains of the Missouri near the confluence of White river". Nuttall named the plant Sophora sericea in his 1818 Genera of North American Plants. (Click the title to read.)  Billie Turner renamed the plant in Nuttall's honor in 1956.

Sophora nuttaliana

Sophora nuttaliana

Sophora nuttalliana (Nuttall's Sophora)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, sand. Spring, summer.
Five Mile Canyon, east of Gallup, New Mexico, May 3, 2015.

The very large upright banner is pleated and delicately arched back. You can see that what at first appears to be white and blue flowers is really a combination of the white flower petals and the blue-gray of the calyx.

Sophora nuttaliana

Sophora nuttalliana (Nuttall's Sophora)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, sand. Spring, summer.
Five Mile Canyon, east of Gallup, New Mexico, May 3, 2015.

Leaflets are strigose (short, stiffly hairy) on the lower side and glabrous (not hairy) on the upper side, but because the leaflets are commonly folded, the lower side hairs add a glistening outline. The shape and number of leaflets often lead people to thinking this plant is a species of Astragalus.

 

Sophora stenophylla

Sophora stenophylla

Sophora stenophylla
Sophora stenophylla (Silvery Sophora)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, sand. Spring, summer.
Above and left: Arches National Park, Utah, May 4, 2005 and May 27, 2016.

Sophora stenophylla sends out underground rhizomes and colonizes areas, so although it is not a common plant, it can be spotted fairly quickly when it is around. Tall stalks of handsome blue/purple flowers surmount 5 to 16 inch tall masses of narrow leaves, silvery hairy on the back and green on top. 

Sophora stenophylla is a perennial so one can revisit this beauty each year at the same spot, as we have done a number of times in Arches at the junction of the main road and the Delicate Arch road. 

"Stenophylla" is Greek for "narrow leaves".

In Arizona in 1858 John Newberry was the first to collect this plant for science.  Asa Gray named and described the plant in 1861.

Sophora stenophylla

Sophora stenophylla

Sophora stenophylla (Silvery Sophora)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, sand. Spring, summer.
Arches National Park, Utah, May 4, 2005.

Numerous flowers in racemes extend above the leaves. Flower petals often curl, even more so as they fade.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Sophora nuttalliana

Range map for Sophora nuttalliana

Range map for Sophora stenophylla