Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lyre-leaved Rock Cress at Barbour Rock April 24th, 2020

With white bloodroot flowers showing along the Pine Creek Rail Trail it was clear that the next wave of Spring wildflowers was underway. Wondering what might be beginning to bloom along the canyon rim, I headed to Barbour Rock Trail.

Lyre-leaved rock cress at Barbour Rock.
There are many plant neighbors whose identity remains unclear to me for the majority of the year after flowers have come and gone; but the relatively short blooming season of many flowers is a special time to take to the forest for people like me. With so many uniquely structured and colored wildflowers emerging from among the rocks, roots, and leaf litter it feels as if many of our plant neighbors lift their heads to greet us as we saunter along, with faces shining ever so bright and joyfully to make the acquaintance.

It's no secret that one of my favorite habitat types in the Pine Creek Gorge is the land of red cedar and dwarf juniper that can be found along the edge and just below the lip of the steep canyon walls. I was overjoyed to meet another member of this particular community today. Rooted in the shallow layer of loose sediment on Barbour Rock, reaching out into the open air where vultures ride the currents, was this flower that I came to understand is called lyre-leaved rock cress. At five-inches tall, reaching out to about seven-inches wide with fleshy purplish branch-like stems was this eye catching member of the West Rim community.

I think what caught my eye the most was that even at first glance I could see that it seemed very well-adapted to its location. It's leaves were slender, slightly down-curved, rounded at the tip, and exhibited an alternate branching pattern from the bottom to the top of each stem. It's flowers were clustered; each having four white rounded petals and every flower had a touch of yellow in it's center. I imagine that it's lean structure enables it to stand tall even while strong winds push northward over its exposed sandstone niche.

While this is the plant I was most happy to meet today, it was by no means the only newly emerging wildflower along West Rim Trail. There are so many beautiful plant neighbors to see and the blooming season for some of them is not very long. I hope you may find time to get out and enjoy them before this years flowers are transformed into seeds for the future.

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