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Click for more Arnica mollis photographs.

This is a native species.

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis (Soft Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodland openings and meadows. Summer.
Above: U. S. Basin, July 28, 2016 and edge of a high fen, July 28, 2023.
Left: Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005 and U.S. Basin, August 9, 2017.

Below tree-line, Arnica mollis tends to grow in small, tight, upright clumps, but as the photograph above shows, at and above tree-line masses of yellow Arnica mollis can appear to be rivers of yellow flowing down mountain sides.

Arnica mollis leaves are usually sessile and far narrower than those of Arnica cordifolia; its stems are hairy and sticky; and its flowers orange/yellow. Arnica mollis at first appears to be far less common in the Four Corners area than Arnica cordifolia, but as one explores more trails and mountainsides, one finds Arnica mollis in abundance, as shown in the above photograph where Betty and Willi (her golden back just showing above the flowers to Betty's right) are surrounded by a sea of Arnica mollis and dozens of other species cascading down the slopes.

Arnicas commonly have lovely lemon-scented flowers.

Arnica mollis and Arnica cordifolia were first collected by Thomas Drummond in the Canadian Rockies in the 1820s and they were named by William Hooker in his Flora Boreali-Americana in 1834.

"Mollis" is Latin for "soft" and probably refers to the very soft hairs of the leaves. The word "Arnica" is considered by most botanical etymologists to be of unknown origin, but "arn" is Greek for "lamb" so perhaps the meaning is, "like lamb's skin," referring to the downy soft leaves.

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis (Soft Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodland openings and meadows. Summer.
Upper Taylor Mesa, July 6, 2010.

As shown at the top of this page and on a second page of photographs, Arnica mollis often grows in dense colonies, but as several photographs on this page show, it also appears in small clusters. It reaches is massive numbers in the treeless alpine zone.

When Arnica mollis is in bud, it can easily be confused with Arnica parryi. Click to read about the two species.

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis

Arnica mollis (Soft Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodland openings and meadows. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005 and Upper Taylor Mesa, July 6, 2010.

Arnica mollis
Arnica cordifolia

Arnica mollis (Soft Arnica)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodland openings and meadows. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005.

Open the flowers of most Asteraceae and you will find the pappus, appendages that can be silky, bristly, or awn-like at the top of the sunflower seeds. The pappus of Arnica mollis is tawny and quite feather-like, that of Arnica cordifolia silvery-white and relatively unbranched.

Pappus hairs are what kids love about Dandelions. The pappus hairs are the silvery plumes that we blow on to disperse the seeds.

Click for an enlarged photograph of an Arnica mollis flower.

Click for more Arnica mollis photographs.

 

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 Arnica mollis