Pop Quiz: Early Dissected Leaves

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Every year, when the first plants emerge in the mountains, I have to take my rusty brain and tune it back up. The first outings are always filled with “that sure looks familiar, but I just can’t remember what it is.” Learning leaves without the benefit of flowers or a whole plant can be challenging. It is especially difficult when you only see the leaf of one type of plant. Sometimes, however, they are all growing near each other, and it is easier to remember which is which.

There are a number of dissected leaves that appear early in rock outcrops that always used to confuse me, and I know have confused others. All of these photos were taken at Bearbones Mountain last weekend (6/5/10), and many were growing in the same area. See if you can sort these out. Answers are on page 2.

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2 Responses to “Pop Quiz: Early Dissected Leaves”

  • Carolyn:

    Any thoughts on the difference in foliage between Lomatium martindalei and the Sanicula graveolens? Thanks for this fun little quiz!

  • Carolyn,

    That’s another pair that often gets confused. While the shape is similar, the leaves of Lomatium martindalei are glaucous and dull. Those of Sanicula graveolens are greener and somewhat shiny. One sniff of the strong cilantro-like odor of the Sanicula easily separates the two. In bloom, Sanicula graveolens has large leafy bracts under the umbels, The main umbels of Lomatium martindalei are bractless although there are tiny bracts under the smaller involucels. I think some of the confusion comes from the photograph on Plate 63 in the classic Wildflowers of the Western Cascades. Although labeled Lomatium martindalei, the photo actually shows Sanicula graveolens—the large flower bracts are clearly visible. Many of us learned much of what we know from that valuable book, but even the best book has a mistake or two.

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