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     Valeriana acutiloba and Valeriana occidentalis are very similar species and I have a difficult time separating them. Floras do agree that the corolla shape and size are key to distinguishing between the species, but the characteristics of the leaves and stems are not agreed on.

The "Flora of the Four Corners Region":
V. acutiloba: Basal leaves 3-14 cm long; corolla of perfect flowers funnelform, 5-9 mm long.
V. occidentalis: Basal leaves 10-25 cm long; corolla of perfect flowers rotate, 2-5 mm long.

"Flora of Colorado":
V. acutiloba
: Corolla mostly 4-7 mm long, usually somewhat hairy outside near the base, the lobes to half as long as the tube; flowers usually all perfect; stem usually with minutely spreading hairs.
V. occidentalis: Corolla mostly 2-4 mm long, glabrous outside, the lobes nearly or as long as the tube; flowers often chiefly all pistillate; stem glabrous or nearly so.

"Flora Neomexicana III" and "A Utah Flora":
V. acutiloba: Corolla tube longer and funnelform, 4-6 mm long; leaves ovate to spatulate in outline, the lateral segments of the stem leaves usually narrowly lanceolate and acuminate.
V. occidentalis: Corolla tube short, the limb widely flaring (rotate or nearly so) , 2-3.5 mm long; leaves mostly oblong in outline, the lateral segments of the stem leaves commonly broadly lanceolate to elliptic, obtuse to acute.

"Colorado Flora":
V. acutiloba: Corolla funnel-shaped or trumpet-shaped, with a definite cylindric tube and usually swollen at the base on one side.
V. occidentalis: Corolla narrowly cup-shaped, without a definite cylindric tube and not noticeably swollen at the base.

I find plants that have funnelform corollas (V. acutiloba) that are very short, ~3mm (V. occidentalis). I will assume I am mistaken and keep observing the plant to better understand them. Photographs on this page are, therefore, labeled with my best estimate of their name.

"Valerian" refers either to a Roman Emperor or (more probably) to the Latin word for strength, "valere", referring to the belief in Valerian’s potency as a nerve tonic and relaxant.  "Capitata" (as in "decapitate") refers to the rounded "head-shaped" flower.

Linnaeus named this genus in 1753. Rydberg collected the first specimen of what we now call V. acutiloba in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Eastern Colorado around 1900 and named and described the species in 1901.  Frederick Meyer renamed the plant Valeriana capitata in 1951, but it has now reverted to Rydberg's original name. Heller collected V. occidentalis in Idaho and named and described it in 1898.

Valeriana acutiloba
Valeriana acutiloba     Valeriana occidentalis

 Valeriana acutiloba. Synonym: Valeriana capitata subspecies acutiloba. (Valerian)
 
Valeriana occidentalis (Western Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 26, 2004 and
Meadow below El Diente, June 21, 2020.

These Valerians are slim plants with very conspicuous white-to-purple flower clusters balanced perfectly above thin stems.

Valerians are common early summer flowers and often are thickly scattered over small forest openings and meadows.

"Valerian" refers either to a Roman Emperor or (more probably) to the Latin word for strength, "valere", referring to the belief in Valerian’s potency as a nerve tonic and relaxant.  "Capitata" (as in "decapitate") refers to the rounded "head-shaped" flower and "acutiloba" refers to the tips of the corolla lobes.

Valeriana acutiloba

Valeriana acutiloba

Valeriana acutiloba

Valeriana acutiloba. Synonym: Valeriana capitata subspecies acutiloba. (Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Ryman Creek Trail, June 16, 2005.

Flower heads begin somewhat pancake flattened and pink and gradually open to a half sphere and white.

The shape of individual flowers is difficult to discern until almost all have fallen and
then the few  remaining show their form.
Valeriana acutiloba

                                                                                                               

                   

Valeriana acutiloba

Valeriana acutiloba. Synonym: Valeriana capitata subspecies acutiloba. (Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Ryman Creek Trail, June 16, 2005.

Valeriana acutiloba
Valeriana acutiloba. Synonym: Valeriana capitata subspecies acutiloba. (Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 14, 2006.

These feathery-looking seed-heads are the elongated flower styles and are very similar to those of Valeriana edulis.

 

Valeriana occidentalis
Valeriana occidentalis(Western Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Upper Calico National Recreation Trail, June 22, 2020.

The corollas are just 3 mm long, which indicates, according to all floras, that they belong to Valeriana occidentalis.

 

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 Valeriana acutiloba