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

     C. bulbosus tends to grow at slightly lower altitudes than C. constancei, but at about 6-7,000 feet it is common to find the two species next to each other -- and to other 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.

    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
Cymopterus bulbosus
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 Cymopterus 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.

"Bulbosus" refers to the enlarged root.

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus

Cymopterus bulbosus
Apiaceae (Parsley Family)

Semi-desert. Openings, shrublands, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2005, April 2, 2005, March 24, 2009, Lone Mesa State Park, May 14, 2009, Utah Fours 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 C. bulbosus from C. constancei (below) and other similar Cymopterus species.

Cymopterus constancei

Cymopterus constancei

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

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, Cymopterus constancei and C. bulbosus are very similar plants, distinguished by a careful examination of several characteristics: Cymopterus 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). C. 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 C. constancei have broader wings and the fruits are in a tighter cluster.  Leaflets of Cymopterus constancei are more finely and repeatedly notched.

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

Cymopterus constancei is often misclassified as C. purpurascens in the Four Corners area.

Ron Hartman's 2000 description of this new species that he discovered ends with this paragraph about Lincoln Constance: "Cymopterus 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 Cymopterus bulbosus  

Cymopterus constancei

Range map for Cymopterus constancei