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Gutierrezia elegans

The first Gutierrezia elegans discovered

Gutierrezia elegans Schneider and Lyon 2008
Discovered August 4, 2008 in Lone Mesa State Park, Dolores County, Colorado
Common Name: Lone Mesa Snakeweed
Habitat: Openings of Mancos Shale Barrens
Elevation: Foothills at approximately 7,500-7,900 feet
Blooming time: July-September
 

The above photograph shows me holding the first Gutierrezia elegans found.
In the photograph below, the same specimen is dried, framed, and hanging in my dining room.


Dried and framed first Gutierrezia elegans discovered

Click to read the complete Gutierrezia elegans description which was published in the December, 2008 Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Click for photographs of the terrain that Gutierrezia elegans grows in.

Discovery and naming of the new species, Gutierrezia elegans.

   Through June and July of 2008 my wife Betty and I (and, of course, our pup, Willi) had been volunteering at Lone Mesa State Park to do a plant survey.  Every week or two we went to the Park and we were continually amazed at the abundance of unusual plants. 

   Our friend Peggy Lyon called us in late July and indicated that the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (which Peggy works for) had received a grant from Colorado State Parks to make a plant list for the Park, to delineate the boundaries of the newly discovered Physaria pulvinata, and to look for another potentially new Physaria species. We decided to work together. 

    On August 4 Peggy and I started our work at the Park by looking at some of the unusual plants I had previously found with Betty. Peggy asked me if I had seen the potentially new Physaria mentioned above so I searched nearby, found the Physaria, and photographed it. When I got off my belly from photographing, I noticed that I had been lying down on a lovely, brightly flowered plant.  I studied it, did not know its name, pulled out my copy of Weber's Colorado Flora: Western Slope and tried keying the plant  --  with no success.  I thought the plant was in the Gutierrezia genus, but it fit no Gutierrezia description in the Weber key. I called Peggy over to see if her expertise could help, but we wound up repeating my unsuccessful keying routine.

    Later that day at home I tried keying the plant in Welsh's A Utah Flora and did get closer: The unknown Lone Mesa Plant was somewhat similar to Gutierrezia pomariensis, a plant that Welsh had discovered in two northeastern counties of Utah. 

   I emailed photos of the new unidentified plant and descriptive details to Guy Nesom, Asteraceae expert and author of some Asteraceae descriptions and keys for the Flora of North America.  He immediately emailed back, "I'd give it 95% confidence that it's an undescribed species". Now that was exciting. 

    I collected a specimen for Guy Nesom and his examination of it convinced him it was a new species. I knew that Stanley Welsh was going to be a speaker at the Colorado Native Plant Society Annual Meeting in early September, so I took the plant there for him to examine. He held it up, thought, and said, "This is not Gutierrezia pomariensis". Then he looked at the plant again and said, "This is a new species of Gutierrezia". Well now that really felt good, and I immediately went in search of Peggy to tell her that Welsh had confirmed what Nesom had first told us: we had a new species.

   We sent photos and details about the new plant to Bill Weber, Colorado plant authority, and received this reply, "Your new Gutierrezia is beautiful".

    What remained was the long process of describing the plant in detail and publishing this description. Guy Nesom was invaluable in assisting us in this process. Click to read the complete Gutierrezia elegans description which was published in the December, 2008 Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Naming of the new Gutierrezia species:   

    Peggy and I decided on the specific epithet “elegans” because the word summarizes so many of the most obvious visual characteristics of this new species: It is a lovely plant with masses of tiny, brilliant yellow flowers topping gracefully arching stems which form into a low, domed symmetry.

Discovery and naming of the Gutierrezia type specimen: 

   From a specimen collected by Sesse and Mocino on their 1787-1803 Spanish Royal Expedition to New Spain, Mariano Lagasca ( botanist, and later Director, with the Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid) named a new genus and a new species: Gutierrezia linearifolia. Lagasca described the new species in his 1816 Genera et Species Plantarum.  (Click to see the Plantarum and go to page 30 to read about G. linearifolia.  The "N.H." at the end of the description indicates that the plant was collected somewhere in, "Nova Hispania", the lands of present day Mexico and western United States.)

   From a specimen collected in 1804 by Meriwether Lewis on "the plains of the Missouri", Frederick Pursh (in 1814) named a new species, Solidago sarothrae.

    In 1887 Britton and Rusby re-examined the plants named by Lagasca and Pursh and realized that they were the same species and should be in the Gutierrezia genus.  Since Pursh's description was published first (1814 versus 1816 for Lagasca's publication) the species retained sarothrae as its specific epithet. Thus the accepted name for both Sesse and Mocino and Lewis' discovery is Gutierrezia sarothrae.

    The origin of the genus name, Gutierrezia, is unknown. In his description of Gutierrezia linearifolia, Lagasca did not specify who he was honoring with the genus name.  For some reason, though, it has been assumed that the name honors Pedro Gutierrez, variously described in modern literature as a Spanish nobleman, traveler, or Real Jardin correspondent.

    The genus is commonly pronounced: Goo-ter-EASE-e-uh. The Spanish surname is pronounced Goo-Tea-air-ez. Add the ia for the scientific Latin pronunciation. 

   More biographical information about Gutierrez.

Gutierrezia elegans
Gutierrezia elegans
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
 

Foothills. Mancos Shale openings. Summer, fall.
Lone Mesa State Park, August, 2008.

The new species is quite lovely and dainty in its symmetrical abundance of long-lived, bright, yellow flowers.

Gutierrezia elegans

Gutierrezia elegans
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
 

Foothills. Mancos Shale openings. Summer, fall.
Lone Mesa State Park, August, 2008.

 

Gutierrezia elegansGutierrezia elegans

Gutierrezia elegans
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
 

Foothills. Mancos Shale openings. Summer, fall.
Lone Mesa State Park, August, 2008.

Gutierrezia elegans

Gutierrezia elegans
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
 

Foothills. Mancos Shale openings. Summer, fall.
Lone Mesa State Park, August, 2008.

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 Gutierrezia elegans