Portulacaceae (Purselane Family)
Represented here by small, relatively succulent herbs, from tender annuals to hardy perennials. All but one species have only two sepals and very small flowers; Bitterroot is the exception.
Calyptridium parryiGray var. nevadense(J.T. Howell) Munz. Nevada Sandcress. (Plate 6.170) An annual with stems flat on the ground, radiating from the center, mostly 2–5 in (5–12 cm) long. The entire plant may be rose red. Leaves are teardrop-shaped, narrowing to a petiole longer than the blade, 3/8–1 1/4 in (1–3 cm) in all. They are mostly basal, but there are a few on the stems. Flowers are in short, scorpioid spikes, terminal and along the stems. The two sepals are tissue-margined and rose tinged, becoming quite enlarged, to about 1/8 in (3 mm) long. The outer one is broadly fan-shaped. There are four tissue-thin petals, shorter than the sepals. They unite to form a cap over the capsule as it matures. The seed capsules protrude above the sepals but are less than twice as long. Seeds are shining black. Flower: Petals white but inconspicuous. In general, the inflorescence is rose tinged.
Distribution. Limited, in dry places; Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 7,000–8,500 ft (2,134–2,591 m).
Calyptridium umbellatumTorr. Greene var.caudiciferum(Gray) Jepson. Pussy Paws. (Plate 6.171) A small perennial with slender stems, mostly 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) long, but generally shorter at high elevations. As with C. parryi, stems radiate from the center and are flat on the ground, but this plant is far more compact. It has a branching, commonly woody root crown. The leaves, again much like C. parryi, are tufted at the ends of root branches. The inflorescence is a dense, terminal head, 1/2 in (13 mm), more or less, in diameter. Each flower has two broad, tissue-margined sepals up to 1/4 in (6 mm) long, and four shorter petals. The sepals are commonly tinged pink to rose or lavender, making the heads colorful and attractive. Flower: Petals white, inconspicuous.
Distribution. Common in open places; Subalpine and Alpine zones, up to 14,100 ft (4,299 m).
Claytonia parviflora(Douglas ex. Hook.) Torr. Miner's Lettuce. (Montia perfoliata [Donn] forma parviflora Douglas ex. Hook.) (Plate 6.172) A tender annual, mostly 2–6 in (5–15 cm) high, with leaves and stems rising from the base. Leaves are linear to oblanceolate, narrowing to a petiole longer than the blade. A characteristic of this plant is its fused leaves or bracts, which form a disk 1/2–1 in broad. These are high on the stems, just below the flower clusters. There are two sepals and several petals, which are less than 1/4 in (6 mm) long. The foliage attracts more attention than the flowers. Flower: White.
Distribution. Uncommon in shaded, somewhat moist places; Desert Scrub and Pinyon-juniper Woodland, below 7,000 ft (2,134 m).
Lewisia pygmaea(Gray) ssp. pygmaeaB.L. Robins. Brooch Lewisia, Dwarf Lewisia. A small perennial with stems partly underground, tufted on a thick root. Leaves are linear, 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) long, spreading outward from the center. Each stem carries a pair of small bracts and one to three flowers. There are two rounded sepals, edged with pale glands, and about six petals 1/4 in (6 mm) long. Well-developed plants are compact, with the flowers set in the rosette of leaves like jewels in a brooch. Flower: White or pinkish.
Distribution. Moist, gravelly places; Alpine Fell-fields in the White Mountains; Alpine Zone, 11,900–14, 100 ft (3,628–4,299 m).
Note: Ssp. glandulosa (Rydb.) Ferris is similar but has dark, stemmed glands on the edges of the sepals. Flowers and distribution are the same.
Lewisia redivivaPursh var. minor(Rydb.) Munz. Bitterroot. (Plate 6.173) No stems or leaves are evident on the little perennial when in bloom. Its tuft of linear leaves has dried and disappeared by the time flowers appear. The stems are only 1/2–1 in (13–25 mm) long and are jointed near the top. Thus, when the flower is mature, it drops intact, along with that part of the stem above the joint. Flowers are large, about 1 in (2.5 cm) across, with numerous petals slightly longer than the similar sepals. Flower: Waxy white or pinkish.
Distribution. Limited, on open slopes; mostly in Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 7,000–9,400 ft (2,134–2,866 m).
Montia chamissoi(Ledeb.) Greene. Toad Lily. (Plate 6.174) A tender perennial with long, slender runners, its leafy stems 1/2–6 in (1.3–15 cm) long. The leaves are opposite, oblong spatulate, and extremely variable in size. Flowers are mostly in loose, terminal clusters. Their petals are only about 1/4 in (6 mm) long, but they show up well for such a small plant. Flower: White.
Distribution. Wet meadows and streamlets; Pinyon-juniper Woodland to Alpine Zone, 7,000–11,600 ft (2,134–3,537 m).