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Adoxa moschatellina

Adoxa moschatellina

Adoxa moschatellina

Adoxa moschatellina (Muskroot, Moschatel)
Adoxaceae (Moschatel Family)

Upper montane, sub-alpine, alpine.  Moist areas. Summer.
Above: Pass Creek Trail, July 13, 2016.
Left: Road to Spiller/Helmet Ridge, July 11, 2006 and July 10, 2019.

Adoxa moschatellina is often said to be uncommon, but in the western San Juans I have found it often. As is the fortune of many small plants, they go unnoticed.  My wife found our first Adoxa as we were slowly exploring for wildflowers along an old mining road in the La Plata Mountains.  Once we knew about the plant's preferred habitat of cool, moist, mossy streamsides and moist forest hillsides, we were in future years able to find it on a number of western San Juan Mountain trails.

But sometimes even my wife cannot find Adoxa. The first photograph at left shows the very first Adoxa my wife and I ever encountered. The second photograph at left was taken at the exact same point on almost the exact same date but 13 years later after a winter of nearly double the normal snow fall. The Adoxa under the snow won't flower until August, 3-5 weeks later than normal.

For centuries Adoxaceae had just one genus world-wide, Adoxa.  In the latter part of the 20th century Adoxa omeinensis and Sinadoxa corydalifolia were found in China, thus bringing the total genera in the family to two and the total species to just three. Genetic research in the 21st century has brought the number of genera to six: Adoxa, Sambucus, Sinadoxa, Tertradoxa, Tinus, and Viburnum.

Adoxa moschatellina is circumboreal and is found in the U.S. in eleven states (rare in six of these).

Linnaeus named this genus and species in 1753.  "Adoxa" is Greek for "without glory" and "mosch" is Greek for "musk".  Add the diminutive "ellina" and altogether the name means "the humble, inconspicuous, musky smelling plant".

Adoxa moschatellina
Adoxa moschatellina (Muskroot, Moschatel)
Adoxaceae (Moschatel Family)

Upper montane, sub-alpine, alpine.  Moist areas. Summer.
Road to Spiller/Helmet Ridge, July 11, 2006.

Adoxa moschatellina

Adoxa moschatellina

Adoxa moschatellina (Muskroot, Moschatel)
Adoxaceae (Moschatel Family)

Upper montane, sub-alpine, alpine.  Moist areas. Summer.
Road to Spiller/Helmet Ridge, June 19, 2007 and June 22, 2009 and Lizard Head Trail, August 4, 2010.

Five green/white flowers are arranged in a box-shaped terminal cluster: there is one flower at the top, and immediately below this flower are four flowers, each facing outward on a different side of the box.  Here is how William Weber describes the flowers of this plant:  "The inflorescence is unique.  The terminal flower has a 2-lobed calyx (bracts?) [which cannot be seen in the photographs] a 4-lobed greenish corolla, and 4 stamens alternating with the lobes.  The filaments are deeply divided, giving the impression of 8 stamens.  The lateral flowers ... have a 3-lobed calyx [which cannot be seen in the photographs], a 5-lobed, greenish corolla, and 5 (looking like 10) stamens.  The ovary is half inferior, of 3-4 united carpels."

Adoxa moschatellinaThe seed capsule is just as cute as the rest of the plant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final photograph at bottom left shows the minute capsules hanging below tiny leaves.

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 Adoxa moschatellina