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Eriophyllum lanatum var. lanatum

Eriophyllum lanatum var. lanatum

Thanks to Sheila Williams who sent along this photograph of woolly sunflower. Sheila and a friend kayaked to the Ada Islands last summer (close to the Winchelsea Islands, near Nanaimo, British Columbia). There, they discovered these treasures.

Eriophyllum lanatum also has a more whimsical common name: Oregon sunshine. It is native to western North America, growing from seaside elevations (as seen here) to 3500m (~11500 feet).

The classification of Eriophyllum lanatum and all of its subspecies, varieties and forms has historically been messy – at one time, over seventy-five different names had been applied to what is now roughly recognized as ten morphological varieties. Unfortunately, the need to apply a name to any particular plant masks the biological reality. Eriophyllum lanatum is a species complex – a group of closely-related intergrading taxa.

Species complexes are ideal groups to study the processes of evolution, as the entities involved may be undergoing speciation into distinct entities, i.e., new species. In the intervening time, however, it can be a nightmare to put a name to these intergrading entities; a biological name is intended to represent something that can be clearly delineated, and members of species complexes often defy clear delineation. Still, on the edge of this plant's native distribution where the inflow of new genetic material is restricted by distance, distinct entities can be more easily recognized, hence the assertion that all of British Columbia's plants are of the variety lanatum. At the centre of the range in California, however, things are more complicated. Entities morphologically intergrade and can produce hybrids, though there can be barriers to the latter: see Mooring, J. 2001. Barriers to interbreeding in the Eriophyllum lanatum (Asteraceae, Helenieae) species complex. Am. J. Bot. 88:285-312.

Botany / photography resource link: Photographic Atlas of Plant Anatomy – a compilation of hundreds of categorized plant anatomy images from the research and teaching careers of Dr. John Curtis and Dr. Nels Lersten, with help from Michael Nowak. Even if you don't understand what you are looking at, the images of plant tissue and cells at the microscopic level has a beauty all its own.


A very striking picture but there appears to be very little foliage. Is this a normal characteristic or are my eyes deceiving me?

Beautiful photo; nice to see habit and context. A Google image search illustrates the variety of types (I realize those image searches turn up all sorts of stuff; most of the images show foliage playing a minor role to the flowers' star billing.

Lovely image. Eriophyllum lanatum is my new favourite BC native plant. I found an individual growing on Elk mountain, south of Chilliwack, BC, during a hike last summer. The flowers are a soft, butter yellow, instead of the bright tint often seen.
I also enjoyed a visit to S. Winchelsea Island a few years ago, to observe the native flora. It was a treat to see a (more or less) pristine Garry Oak ecosystem - the image makes me yearn to return!

I live in Lantzville and overlook the Winchelsea and Ada Island groups. This area is second to none for outdoor activity of all types. Although I see these Islands every day, I've never seen them up close like this. Thanks for posting.

Often the foliage beneath is more apparent. I grew one here for years that never flowered. Looked like an artemisia, in that is was a silvery mat of dived leaves. Some Seattle rockeries have also had this in the past, perhaps grown alongside Arabis, Aubrieta, Aurinia or Iberis.

What a great post. This is not only a "BC plant" but one that covers a vast area. I agree with you Ron B, the foliage can be gorgeous and is very pronounced through a lot of the year (and similar to sagebrush too). Some specimen really exemplify the "wooly" of the wooly sunflower. The foliage does tend to be overpowered by the bright flowers but when populations do flower it is beautiful. In the Great Basin, interior of the Cascades in Oregon, swaths of yellow can blanket the bare and dry scree fields and rocky sites. I think var. integrifolium?

As a side, the plant in the foreground (right and below of E. lanatum) is also flowering and foliage is clearly visibile. It is a member of a really cool family, Crassulaceae, the Stone Crops. I believe it is Sedum spathulifolium which also covers a broad range from the coast to high in the West Cascades, at least in Oregon.

Crass, you're right about the Sedum identification. Sheila's friend took a photograph of it, and I think I'll have it on here for Sunday.

Great picture and fine perspective. This pic makes me more homesick than any beautiful picture of Vancouver or Stanley Park. Anyway back to the choking traffic jams of Bangkok. Keep up the good work, Mike.

I'm currently working on oil cell of Jatropha curcas.I need the expertise of Dr. Lersten to comment on my picture of the structure I took under the microscope. May I request for his email address? Thank you very much.

Milarosa L. Librea
Ateneo de Manila Unviversity

Hello Milarosa,

If you're not able to contact Dr. Lersten via the web page I've linked to, then I don't know how.

The word hybrid in this context is very ineresting. I should think that it would mean the crossing of two distinct species.
But the way it's used in this article is fairly different. Here hybrid is used to mean undifferentiated varieties combining which is not a hybrid is it? It's all a matter of what is a species and if they aren't already two distinct species then they are still varieties of the same species. Something like partial differentials. Reality or evolution just doesn't follow taxonomic categories.
So we need a new term for partial hybrids.
Selfgrafted clonopseudohybrids?

It is beautiful! Thank you!

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