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Wild Buckwheats and Peshastin Pinnacles

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eriogonumelatumflowers

Though things are hot and drying out, there are still wildflowers in bloom, even at lower elevations. These are a few common flowers you might find on any one of the lower elevation hikes in Central Washington currently.

Wild buckwheat, the Eriogonum genus, is a diverse group of plants closely related to the Asian species (Fagopyrum esculentum) that is a staple crop for millions, especially at higher elevations in Asia.

The arid western United States is the birthplace of the genus Eriogonum, and it is thought that it has undergone relatively rapid evolution, with more than 250 species currently known. Some species and populations of plants, especially in Chelan County are very atypical and are thought to be speciating (accumulating genetic differences from their parent populations) right before our very eyes!

The species above is called tall wooly buckwheat, Eriogonum elatum, easily distinguished from other buckwheat species by its extremely tall flower stems. They can grow to be taller than a person, but are typically three to four feet tall. The flowers of tall wooly buckwheat are most often white with a pink stripe down the middle of the petals.

Another common buckwheat is naked buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum. It is much shorter than the previous species, and has almost pure white flowers. It is called naked buckwheat for the lack of leaves on its flowering stems (which actually is fairly typical for wild buckwheats so don't just go by that when trying to identify it).

Naked buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum, plants in flower with their "naked" stems. This is one of our native plants that does well in disturbed areas, often being the first to colonize roadsides, or the last native to remain after lots of disturbance. It has some potential for being used for restoration and highway seed mixes, though I would caution you if you want to grow it in your yard, because it reseeds so easily.

You have to admire the audacity and sheer determination of plants sometimes. Richardson's or cutleaf beardtongue, Penstemon richardsonii, growing in what most plants would consider impossible, just a crack in the rock on a southfacing slope. Though we have a few beardtongues, Penstemons that have toothed leaves, none are so dissected as this species- a distinguishing characteristic. Though the view from the Pinnacles is fantastic, it is kind of tough to get good photos of with the rocks bigger than life- and there are powerlines (the bane of any nature photographer I'm sure) running through the middle of it. But I did get some shots I liked such as these.

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