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    As the photographs below indicate, Vesper bulbosus and Vesper constancei are quite similar in habitat and morphology. But the photographs below also show the distinctive characteristics that a careful hand lens examination of the two species will reveal.
     1) The narrower flower bractlets of V. constancei almost always have three prominent veins; V. bulbosus bractlets have one vein.
     2) The bractlets of V. constancei are connate (joined) for about 1/3 of their length; the bractlets of V. bulbosus are connate for about 2/3 of their length.
     3) The sage-green leaves of both species are divided into numerous tiny leaflets that cup inward, but the leaflets of V. constancei are commonly lobed or divided again and the leaflets are rounded at their apex. The leaflets of V. bulbosus are usually entire and somewhat pointed at their apex.
    4) The fruits of V. constancei have broader wings and the fruits are in a tighter cluster.

     V. bulbosus tends to grow at slightly lower altitudes than V. constancei, but at about 6-7,000 feet it is common to find the two species next to each other -- and to similar looking Cymopterus species such as C. purpureus and C. glomeratus.

    Constantine Rafinesque (1783-1840) named the Cymopterus genus, probably in 1833 when he renamed Selinum acaule (a name given by Pursh in 1814) to Cymopterus acaulis.  The Greek "cym" and "pterum" come together as "Cymopterus", "waved" "wing", referring to the wings of the fruit.

    In 2012 Hartman and Nesom's "TAXONOMY OF THE GENUS VESPER (APIACEAE)" (in Phytoneuron) showed that six species formerly within Cymopterus were united in their distinctive characteristics and therefore should be placed in a separate (and new) genus, Vesper. In Hartman and Nesom's words, this new genus

is distinct in its combination of thick taproots, acaulescent habit but consistent production of pseudoscapes, compact inflorescences, white to cream, pink, or purple petals, dorsally compressed mericarps with 4–5, thin, broad dorsal and lateral wings and with 3–9 oil tubes per interval, and particularly by its involucel bracts basally connate, prominently nerved, and totally white to purplish-scarious or with broad white-scarious margins.

The characteristics in bold are especially prominent, Guy Nesom indicated to me, in distinguishing Vesper from Cymopterus.

    Intermountain Flora observes that "the taxonomic definition of Cymopterus is a vexed question.... Even the distinction between Cymopterus and Lomatium is subject to failure.  Ordinarily one or more of the dorsal ribs [of the seeds have wings in] Cymopterus, but not in Lomatium.  Cymopterus newberryi completely bridges the difference.  In this species the dorsal wings vary from nearly or fully as large as the lateral ones to poorly developed or even obsolete".    

Cymopterus bulbosus
Vesper bulbosus. Synonym: Cymopterus bulbosus. (Spring Biscuitroot)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2005.

In early spring, the white papery bracts of Vesper bulbosus are eye-arresting.  Purple/pink flowers push through the bracts and enlarge, the bracts folding back and becoming less prominent.  Leaves are a beautiful pale green on broad flat stalks and provide a tasty treat for small critters -- notice the clipped stalks to the left of center.

Alice Eastwood first collected specimens of this plant in Durango, Colorado in 1890 and Marcus Jones named the plant Cymopterus utahensis variety eastwoodae in 1895.  Aven Nelsen renamed this species Cymopterus bulbosus in 1899. In 2012 Ron Hartman and Guy Nesom separated this species, the one described below, and several others from the Cymopterus genus and placed them in the Vesper genus.

"Bulbosus" refers to the enlarged root.

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Vesper bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper bulbosus. Synonym: Cymopterus bulbosus. (Spring Biscuitroot)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2005, April 2, 2005, March 24, 2009, March 13, 2015, Lone Mesa State Park, May 14, 2009, Utah Four Corners area, April 17, 2010, and
BLM lands near the San Juan River, April 6, 2005.

Flowers start completely enclosed in tight papery white bracts (actually "bractlets", since the bracts are those structures that enclose the entire flower cluster) and gradually enlarge; bracts and bractlets remain as the flowers and seeds mature.

Albino plants, shown at left below, are rare.

In the photograph of the flower cluster from the underside, you can see the star-shaped bracts (the involucre), the rays that support the individual flower clusters, the white bractlets (the involucels), and the single green-to-purple vein on each bractlet.  The shape and size of the involucre and involucel and the number of veins are key in distinguishing Vesper bulbosus from Vesper constancei (below) and other similar species.

Cymopterus constancei

Cymopterus constancei

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper constancei. Synonym: Cymopterus constancei. (Wide-winged Spring Parsley)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Carpenter Trail, Cortez, April 12, 2013.

Notice the number of veins on the bractlets and the lobes and cuts in the tiny leaflets.

Cymopterus constancei

Cymopterus constancei

Cymopterus constancei

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper constancei. Synonym: Cymopterus constancei. (Wide-winged Spring Parsley)
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Carpenter Trail, Cortez, April 12, 2013, lower Cross Canyon, April 27, 2013, & Mike and Mona's Five Springs Farm, May 8, 2010.

As noted at the top of the page, Vesper constancei and V. bulbosus are very similar plants, distinguished by a careful examination of several characteristics: Vesper constancei's narrower bractlets (bottom photograph, right arrow) are connate (joined) for only about 1/3 of their length and the bractlets have three parallel and equal veins (bottom photograph, left arrow). Vesper bulbosus' bractlets are connate for 1/2 to 2/3 of their length and they have one main vein (see above photographs). 

The fruits of V. constancei have broader wings and the fruits are in a tighter cluster.  Leaflets of Vesper constancei are more finely and repeatedly notched.

Vesper constancei and V. bulbosus can sometimes be found growing in similar habitats and soils but overall V. constancei tends to grow at slightly higher altitudes (6-7000 feet) in sandy soils; V. bulbosus tends to grow at slightly lower elevations and in heavy clays.

Vesper constancei has often misclassified as Cymopterus purpurascens in the Four Corners area.

Ron Hartman's 2000 description of this new species, Vesper constancei, that he discovered ends with this paragraph about Lincoln Constance: "Cymopterus constancei [now Vesper constancei] is named in honor of Lincoln Constance of the University of California at Berkeley, for his stellar contribution to the systematics of Apiaceae and for the generous help and advice given me on western North American umbels."  (Click for more biographical information about Constance).

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color KeySpecies 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

Range map for Vesper bulbosus  

Cymopterus constancei

Range map for Vesper constancei