Favorite Plants / Identification / Natives

Mystery plant identification: What could it be? Where to look?

ClaytoniaHuh12May2016_SMOne of our members discovered a plant growing under the dappled shade and moist soil under some Vine Maples and 150 foot tall Douglas Firs.  But, what was it?

It has “mostly” heart shaped leaves.  The leaves on the flower stems are alternated, not opposing.  The plants are about 4″-6″ tall, with some stems reaching as high as 8″-10″.  The leaves are “slightly” fleshy, though not as thick as the Claytonia perfoliata growing less than a hundred feet away.

Oh, and the “finder” tasted it (and spit out) and pronounced its taste identical to Claytonia perfoliata and C. sibirica.  🙂  (Always be cautious about tasting unknown plants!)

She thought it was a type of Pacific Northwest Native Plant informally called  “Miner’s Lettuce”, either of the Claytonia or Montia family. She looked in many references (like those on our web page under “Garden Resources” tab) and asked other gardeners what they thought it might be, including some on-line gardener groups, as well.  All were certain it was a type of “Miner’s Lettuce”, but which one?

She consulted online references, too.  One even indicated that the “Miner’s Lettuce” family of plants can hybridize freely with each other and the same plant can look very different just based on the amount of light, moisture and soil type!  Additional references, like the ones below, opened up even wider range of information, especially images, but still no certainty:

Electronic Flora of the Plants of British Columbia:
    http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/
Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbarium:
    http://www.pnwherbaria.org/data/search.php

Then a recent suggestion by Kathleen Robson, author of “Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes” posited that it may be Montia parvifolia var. faglellaris, aka Little Leaf Miner’s Lettuce, pictured on the E-flora B C (Electronic Flora of the Plants of British Columbia) web site:  http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Montia%20parvifolia%20var.%20flagellaris

Ah hah!

More investigation still needs to take place on the plant’s particulars – examining and comparing the growth habits and plant’s system – but, right now, its looking like a distinct possibility the mystery may soon be solved!

Welcome to the wonderful mystery and variety of plants on our planet!

(Our special thanks to Ms. Robson!)

[Images: B.R.]

Claytonia_group_SM15May2016_Claytonia_flowersClosedOnRainyDay_SM

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