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   The genus "Claytonia" was named for John Clayton by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.  Clayton's plant specimens from Virginia formed the basis of Linnaeus' knowledge of North American plants. 
(Click for more biographical information about Clayton .)
Claytonia lanceolata
Claytonia lanceolata (Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 26, 2004.

Spring Beauty is one of the first spring wildflowers in several vegetation zones of the Four Corners area. Small white-to-pink flowers

Claytonia lanceolata

top a 2-4 inch tall, slender, arching plant with drooping, narrow leaves. Although Spring Beauty sometimes appears in quite large numbers and is conspicuous, it more commonly occurs in small, inconspicuous patches.  Look for it after snow-melt through late spring, from low mesas and stream valleys to high mountains.

Meriwether Lewis collected the first specimens of this plant for science in 1806 and Frederick Pursh named this species in his 1814 Flora Americae Septentrionalis. "Lanceolata", "lance-like", is from the Latin and refers to the leaf shape.

 
Claytonia lanceolata (Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring.
Dolores River Canyon Overlook Trail, April 29, 2008.

This very young Claytonia has far more hot pink than most Claytonias one finds in the Four Corners area.  Also notice that the leaves of this plant are much broader than those in the above photograph.  Many wild plants show such variability. 

Claytonia lanceolata

Claytonia lanceolata 

Claytonia lanceolata (Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring.
Dolores River Canyon Overlook Trail, April 29, 2008.
Boggy Draw Trail, May 6, 2009.

Large roots (corms) are globose and tasty.

Individual flower stems (pedicels) are an arching work of art.

Claytonia megarhiza
Claytonia megarhiza (Alpine Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Alpine. Scree. Summer.
Madden Peak, June 23, 2004.

Wander through an alpine scree field, and you will find a number of plants in the seemingly inhospitable rock environment.  Among the most enchanting is Alpine Spring Beauty with pink buds, half inch white/pink flowers, and thick leaves which change slowly from red to green as they age and gain chlorophyll.  Claytonia megarhiza thrives in the meager soils that accumulate between alpine rocks and blooms there for several months.

In 1862 Asa Gray named this species Claytonia arctica variety megarhiza from a specimen collected by famed botanist and collector, Charles Parry; Parry renamed it Claytonia megarhiza in 1878.

"Megarhiza" is Greek for "large roots".

Claytonia megarhiza
Claytonia megarhiza (Alpine Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Alpine. Scree. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 28, 2007.

Claytonia megarhiza
Claytonia megarhiza (Alpine Spring Beauty)
Montiaceae
(Miner's Lettuce Family)

formerly Portulacaceae (Portulaca Family)

Alpine. Scree. Summer.
Madden Peak, June 23, 2004.

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

Range map for Claytonia lanceolata

Range map for Claytonia megarhiza