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   Thomas Nuttall named the Stenogonum genus in 1848. "Stenogonum" is Greek for "narrow joint" and refers to the very slender branches.

    Stanley Welsh (A Utah Flora) places both of the species shown on this page in the genus Eriogonum: "Although regarded by some ... as belonging ... in the ... genus, Stenogonum, because of their peculiar involucres , both species appear to be more nearly allied to species within Eriogonum proper than they are to each other". However, Polygonaceae expert, James Reveal, indicates in the Flora of North America, "The genus [Stenogonum] is readily distinguished from Eriogonum by an involucre reduced to a series of two foliaceous whorls of three lanceolate bracts".

This is a native species.

Stenogonum flexumStenogonum flexum

Xanthisma grindelioides

Stenogonum flexum

Stenogonum flexum

Stenogonum flexum

Stenogonum flexum
Stenogonum flexum.  Synonym: Eriogonum flexum. (Flexible Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Above: Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, May 12, 2013, May 5, 2013, and May 18, 2019; McElmo Canyon, May 17, 2015; and Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, April 9, 2024.
Left: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 3, 2010.

Stenogonum flexum has slender, wiry, red stems; minute yellow flowers at the end of a flexed peduncle (the stem of a cluster of flowers); and prominent thick, large, round basal leaves. It can, as the above photographs indicate, carpet hundreds of square feet and even though its flowers are minute, the plant can coat the ground in yellow and easily be visible from a long distance.

Because of its long, wiry, red stems, Stenogonum flexum stands out a bit more than its close cousin S. salsuginosum (discussed below), but those red stems become a creamy white over the winter and they make the old plants difficult to find, as the last photograph above indicates. 

Marcus Jones named this plant Eriogonum flexum in 1891 from a collection he made in Arizona. James Reveal and J. T. Howell renamed it Stenogonum flexum in 1976.

Stenogonum flexum
Stenogonum flexum.  Synonym: Eriogonum flexum. (Flexible Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 3, 2010.

The flex is clearly evident in almost all peduncles.

 

This is a native species.

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum is, according to Weber & Wittmann's Colorado Flora, "relatively rare", but I have found it to be common, even abundant, in the Colorado and San Juan river drainages of the Four Corners area. You can spot it when it first emerges because it dots the barren ground with maroon and yellow -- a puzzling sight from a human's vantage point, but once you get down on your knees you see the beauty.

Thomas Nuttall named this species in 1848 from his collection of June, 1834, "On saline clayey soils, within the high calcareous hills of the Upper Colorado". 

"Salsuginosum" is Latin for "of salty places".

 

 

Stenogonum salsuginosum

        Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum. Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum.(Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Above: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 22, 2017 and March 31, 2020.

The four photographs at left were taken in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument at the same location and show the progression in Stenogonum salsuginosum's development.

April 18, 2007: Flowers occur in clusters surrounded by two rings of three narrow bracts. Arrows point to one cluster just emerging (left of center with a bract bent over it), one cluster of seven flowers at center with one flower fully opened, and one cluster tilted to the right with the elongated green/red bracts pointing right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On April 27: Nine days after the top left photograph was taken, green chlorophyll has masked the initial maroons in the leaves and stems and flowers continue to emerge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 13: Nearly a month after the first basal maroon leaves emerged they have died and turned yellow as the plant elongates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 13: This plant is about five inches tall and has flowers all along each stem. The plant will probably grow to more than eight inches tall, flowering as it grows and widening its open, airy posture.

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum

Stenogonum salsuginosum.  Synonym: Eriogonum salsuginosum. (Salty Buckwheat)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
Angel Peak National Recreation Area, June 3, 2010.

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

Stenogonum flexum

Range map for Stenogonum flexum

Range map for Stenogonum salsuginosum