Plants of the Western Slope May 17, 2017
By Evelyn Horn
Published Thursday, May 18, 2017 10:28 am
Photo by E. Horn Dobe Daisy
I certainly enjoyed lunch with my friend, Barbara. And now I'm driving along Tongue Creek Road because there's so much less traffic here than on Highway 65 and I can look at the landscape. There's not much to see except for the Dobe' Daisies.
A wild creature like a deer or an antelope would be hard pressed to find a bite to eat. But with each twist and turn of the road, there's a new scene -- of daisies! The plants are about a foot-tall, the long leaves are a blueish-green, and each stem serves as a flower stalk with 10-20 to each plant. What a grand display!
These plants are "old friends" of mine and I remember back when we first came to the Delta area. These white flowers with their yellow centers were a most welcome relief after the long winter. And as I roll down the window I am very aware of the heavy selenium smell . . . for this entire area is noted for its selenium.
Since all plants absorb the minerals in the surrounding soils, this plant absorbs the selenium. Also, it greens up earlier than many plants, so it's tempting to wildlife and livestock. There's not much to eat out here, hence "poison aster." An ugly name for a beautiful plant and I call it Dobe Daisy. You might find it as poison aster or woody aster in field guides.
The botanical label is Xylorhiza venusta. Greek zylo=wood and rhiza=root so the translation is woody root, while Latin venusta means beautiful or graceful. In the Greek, the letter "x" sounds "z" so it's pronounced /zy lor hiza/. Even the botanical name is more pleasing than "poison aster!"
I pluck a single leaf: it's so thickly covered with fine hairs as to look almost cottony. The botanical term is "canescent." I recall bringing a sample home to examine under the microscope. That was a quick study: I couldn't stand the selenium smell! But out here in the open air it's not so bad.
What beautiful flowers to flourish in this harsh terrain.