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Oxytropis borealis var. viscida, “sticky oxytropis,” or “viscid locoweed”

Oxtropis borealis var. viscida Photo by Steve Matson

Photo by Steve Matson

Rare in California but not elsewhere (CNPS List 2B?);
ot very threatened

More information on CalFlora

Found in California only on or near Coyote Ridge and in the White and Inyo Mountains. According to the Consortium of California Herbaria, it has been collected only ten times in California, nine of which are around the Coyote ridge locale and once by Mary Dedecker on Waucoba Mountain. It is known from Oregon and other western states and is considered circumboreal in distribution; very rare in California but clearly not rare elsewhere.

Besides being a very attractive little plant, we might call this a little cousin of Astragalus, its restricted California distribution was very curious. Sure, you can find rare plants in the White Mountains and the Sierra as well. But for Sierran plants, why one little region of the entire Sierra, one that is not known for unusual soils or rocky substrate such as limestone. It is also not some little alpine Sierran endemic. Some have considered it a relic from more continental populations, holding on this one tiny unglaciated piece of the central Sierra. In any case, locally rare or disjunct populations frequently pique our curiosity as to “why?”

To see photos: search on “CalPhotos”, click on “plants”, then the “O” under “Browse scientific names,” scroll down and over to Oxtropis borealis var. viscida. Click here to see Steve’s photos. More can be read about this taxon in the Jepson Manual but better yet in volume 3, part B of “Intermountain Flora,” where it goes by the name Oxtropis viscida.

Excerpted from article by Steve Matson, from the Bristlecone Chapter Newsletter, March-April 2014: Steve Matson's Best Plant of 2013

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