SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE   WHITE FLOWERS      CONTACT US

Eriogonum microthecum
variety simpsonii

(Slender Buckwheat)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand. Summer, fall.
First photograph: Carpenter Natural Area, Cortez, August 20, 2016.
Cannonball Mesa, November 7, 2013.

Even though Eriogonum microthecum grows to well over a foot tall and wide, it most often goes unnoticed because its minute leaves and flowers just blend into the background. But when you get down close and examine it, delicate beauty is found.

Eriogonum microthecum
Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii (Slender Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand. Summer, fall.
Big Spring Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 10, 2005.

Eriogonum microthecum is a lovely, airy shrub that scatters itself widely over large areas.  In the three miles of trail from Squaw Flats to Big Spring, one can see hundreds of plants. Many other areas of the Four Corners region also have an abundance of E. microthecum.

In the Four Corners area, E. microthecum variety simpsonii is typically about 10-20 inches tall and 15-30 inches across at the top, but in some areas of the its range (see the map below), it grows to 5 feet tall and wide.

Leaves of our species are long and narrow, hairy, rolled inward, and sparse. Stems are woody, somewhat shredded longitudinally, and gray with white hairs. Flowers are numerous at the end of the stems and have a raggedy beauty. Leaves, stems, involucres, and flowering stems are almost always quite hairy.

Eriogonum microthecum is a variable and widespread species with thirteen varieties found in various areas of the West.  Flower color, woodiness of stems, growth pattern, leaf shape, etc. are all variable.

Thomas Nuttall named this species in 1848 from a collection he made from "hills in Oregon, east of Walla-walla" in 1834. That taxon is Eriogonum microthecum variety microthecum.

"Microthecum" is Greek for "small seed"; variety microthecum has seeds about 2 mm long and other varieties are only up to 3 mm long.

Eriogonum microthecum
Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii (Slender Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand. Summer, fall.
Big Spring Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 10, 2005.

Eriogonum microthecum
Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii (Slender Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, sand. Summer, fall.
Big Spring Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 10, 2005.

Eriogonum microthecum

Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii

Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii

Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii

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 Eriogonum microthecum

Eriogonum microthecum variety simpsonii

Range map for E. microthecum var. simpsonii