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Wildflowers by "Family"

Knowing which family a flower belongs to is a tremendous advantage when trying to identify and learn. Many of the best books are arranged by family, so some knowledge of families can be most helpful in finding the information you need.  This section takes you through some of the more important families found in the Tahoe area. It reflects the recent taxonomical changes put forth in the 2012 Jepson Manual.

All photos in this gallery are the work of Lisa Berry unless otherwise noted.


(NOTE: Wildflowers by "Family" are alphabetically grouped here. Please click on the corresponding tab below for the group you wish to view.)

  •    Families     A - F   

  •    Families     G - L   

  •    Families     M - P   

  •    Families     Q - Z   

  •    Featured Flowers    

      FAMILY GROUP      A - F       


 

Agave Family Agavaceae
Tahoe has two species in the Agave family: blue camas and sand lily, both of which have moved from the Lily family. Camas flowers are blue to violet with the occasional albino. Sand/star lilies are white and similar to camas, but grow low to the ground in clumps. The only place in Tahoe to see the sand lily is Washoe Meadows State Park. Both of these Agave species are early-season bloomers, often growing in the same wet meadows as death camas and sand corm.

 

Agave Family - Agavaceae

Camas Lily
Sand/Star Lily

inset-Camas

 

Brodiaea Family Themidaceae
Pretty face and white brodiaea, like the camas and sand lily, have broken out of the lily family where they had been grouped with onions and hyacinths. Brodiaea flowers have grass-like leaves and six petals, each with a dark stripe.

 

Brodiaea Family - Themidaceae

Brodiaea, White
Muilla, Mountain
Pretty Face

inset-Pretty-Face

 

Broomrape Family Orobanchaceae
The name comes from its Latin specification, Orobanche, which means “to strangle,” a reference to the plants’ parasitic, to partially parasitic, tendency. Species in this family include the broomrapes, which are leafless and non-photosynthesizing, and paintbrushes and elephant heads, which are partially parasitic and able to photosynthesize.

 

Broomrape Family - Orobanchaceae

Bird’s Beak
Broomrape, Clustered
Broomrape, Corymb's
Broomrape, Naked
Elephant Heads, Little
Elephant Heads
Owl’s Clover, Copeland’s
Paintbrush, Wavy-leaved
Paintbrush, Lemmon’s
Paintbrush, Linear-leaved
Paintbrush, Giant/Great Red
Paintbrush, Alpine
Paintbrush, Hairy
Paintbrush, Slender
Pinewoods Lousewort

inset-Paintbrush

 

Buttercup Family Ranunculaceae
Buttercups often come in strange shapes as evidenced by the monkshood, larkspur, and columbine, though even the “normal” looking buttercups, like marsh marigold, are a bit strange since the number of petals will vary from one plant to another. Most species prefer a moist environment and are generally poisonous, so don’t nibble.

 

Buttercup Family - Ranunculaceae

Anemone, Drummond's
Anemone, Western Pasqueflower
Baneberry
Buttercup, Alpine
Buttercup, Water
Buttercup, Water Plantain
Columbine, Crimson
Larkspur, Towering
Larkspur, Nuttall’s
Larkspur, Mountain
Marsh Marigold
Meadowrue, Fendler’s
Monkshood

inset-Crimson-Columbine

 

Evening Primrose Family Onagraceae
Every color of the rainbow seems to be displayed by this showy family that refers to the European relatives, which use night pollination. Many of the members bloom late in the flower season, which seems to be the time to show bold colors. Fireweed announces the end of the flower season, as does the California fuchsia. Also late, rock fringe fills the seeps between Round Top and Winnemucca Lakes. The Evening Primrose family is one of only a few families with "parts" in multiples of four.

 

Evening Primrose Family - Onagraceae

California Fuchsia
Clarkia, Diamond
Fireweed
Fireweed, Alpine
Gayophytum
Primrose, Woody-fruited
Primrose, Hooker's Evening
Rock Fringe
Willowherb

inset-Rock-Fringe

 

      FAMILY GROUP      G - L       

Gentian Family Gentianaceae
The Gentians have only a few species in Tahoe, but they are all very elegant.  Their late-season appearance seems to be calculated to “show off” after most other flowers have withered and died.  You’re likely to step on hiker’s and alpine gentians before noticing them, as they barely protrude above the grass they grow in. The explorer’s gentian is almost impossible to miss, however, with its stunning blue-violet tubular flowers. The statuesque green gentian, or monument plant, guards open slopes, attracting bees with its green, four-petaled, purple-spotted flowers.

 

Gentian Family - Gentianaceae

Charming Centaury
Gentian, Alpine
Gentian, Explorers
Gentian, Green/Monument Plant
Gentian, Hikers
Gentian, Northern

inset-Explorers-Gentian

 

Gooseberry Family Grossulariaceae
The Gooseberry family includes currants as well as gooseberries and all species fall under the Ribes genus. These small flowers bloom early in the season on medium-sized shrubs with palmately lobed leaves. Many species have prickles on the stems or fruit, so proceed cautiously when moving in for a closer look.

 

Gooseberry Family - Grossulariaceae

Currant, Alpine Prickly
Currant, Sierra
Currant, Sticky
Currant, Wax
Gooseberry, Alpine
Gooseberry, Sierra

inset-Sierra-Gooseberry

 

Heath Family Ericaceae
Many species in this family get their nutrients from the soil fungi and decaying matter in shady forests or granitic sands. The flowers are generally hanging urns or bowl-shaped flowers. Tahoe is home to the intriguing and non-photosynthesizing snowplant, pinedrops, and sugarstick.

 

Heath Family - Ericaceae

Bilberry, Sierra
Heather, White Mountain
Heather, Red Mountain
Labrador Tea
Laurel, Alpine
Laurel, Sierra
Manzanita, Pinemat
Manzanita, Green-leaf
Pinedrops
Pipsissewa
Snow Plant
Sugarstick
Wintergreen, One-sided/Sidebells
Wintergreen, Bog
Wintergreen, White-veined
Wintergreen, Leafless

inset-Snowplant

 

Iris Family Iridaceae
The Iris family is limited to two totally different species here in the Tahoe Basin.  The best known is the conspicuous Western Blue Flag.  This eye-catching and rather uniquely formed flower is usually found in large numbers in open meadows near mid season.  However, you will have to search hard to find the other family member, blue-eyed grass.  The Iris family, like the Lily family, has parts in threes and leaves that are grass-like.

 

Iris Family - Iridaceae

Blue Flag, Western/Wild Iris
Blue-eyed Grass
Yellow-eyed Grass

inset-Iris-missouriensis

 

Lily Family Liliaceae
The Lily family lays claim to many of the most gorgeous flowers in the Tahoe area, though many species have broken out of the Lily family with the recent taxonomy divisions.  The flower parts are “3-merous,” that is, found in multiples of three, and the leaves are grass-like with parallel veins.  The largest and boldest include the tiger, mariposa, and Washington lily.

 

Lily Family - Liliaceae

Fritillary, Scarlet
Lily, Mariposa
Lily, Alpine
Lily, Washington
Spotted Mountain Bell
Star Tulip

inset-Alpine-Lily

 

Lopseed Family Phrymaceae
The flowers of the Lopseed family, also known as the snapdragon or monkeyflower family, consist of a two-lipped tube formed by an upper, two-lobed petal and a lower, three-lobed petal. While the species come in a variety of colors and sizes, their shared genus, Mimulus, means “little mimic,” for all share this typical shape that is said to resemble that of a monkey’s face.

 

Lopseed Family - Phrymaceae

Monkeyflower, Brewer’s
Monkeyflower, Dwarf/Skunky
Monkeyflower, Lewis’
Monkeyflower, Mountain
Monkeyflower, Musk
Monkeyflower, Primrose
Monkeyflower, Common
Monkeyflower, Torrey’s

inset-Common-Monkeyflower

 

      FAMILY GROUP      M - P       

Mint Family Lamiaceae
The Mint family is known for its fragrant flowers and square stems with opposite leaves. The flowers are small and two-lipped with a two-lobed upper petal and three-lobed lower petal. Horsemint, also known as giant hyssop, is common in Tahoe’s semi-moist open forests and slopes, as is pennyroyal on drier open slopes.

 

Mint Family - Lamiaceae

Blue Curls, Mountain
Hedgenettle
Giant Hyssop/Horsemint
Marsh Mint
Pennyroyal, Western/Mustang Mint
Pennyroyal, Mountain
Self-heal
Skullcap, California
Skullcap, Marsh

inset-Mustang-Mint

 

Onion Family Alliaceae
Formerly in the Lily family, onions have long, grass-like leaves and not only taste and smell wonderful, but have clusters of small, exquisite flowers. The Sierra, dwarf, and swamp onion are all common species in the Tahoe area and all have an oniony odor.

 

Onion Family - Alliaceae

Onion, Aspen
Onion, Dwarf
Onion, Pink Star
Onion, Sierra
Onion, Swamp

inset-Dwarf-Onion

 

Orchid Family Orchidaceae
While orchids form the second-largest family, only eight species occur in Tahoe. Orchids have unbranched stems and parallel leaf veins. The third, lower-lip petal distinctly differs from the other two petals in size, shape, and often color. Tahoe is home to the rare broad-leaved twayblade, which can be found near wet-to-drying alder creeks.

 

Orchid Family - Orchidaceae

Coral Root, Spotted
Ladies’ Tresses
Orchid, Bog
Orchid, Phantom
Rein Orchid
Rein Orchid, Alaska
Twayblade, Broad-leaved

inset-Rein-Orchid

 

Pea Family Fabaceae
All Tahoe’s pea flowers have the banner, wings, and keel formation. Bees land on the clasped wing petals to expose the hidden reproductive parts for pollination. The pea family is the third largest and produces food crops that include beans, peanuts, alfalfa, soybeans, lentil and clover. This family includes many species of lupine, clover, lotus and locoweed.

 

Pea Family - Fabaceae

Clover, Long-stalked
Clover, Red
Clover, Shasta
Clover, Spanish
Locoweed, Bolander’s
Locoweed, Pursh’s
Locoweed, Whitney’s
Lotus, Sierra Nevada
Lotus, Torrey’s
Lupine, Narrow-flowered
Lupine, Crest
Lupine, Tahoe
Lupine, Brewer’s
Lupine, Gray’s
Lupine, Broad-leaf
Lupine, Lyall’s
Lupine, Large-leaf
Pea, Sierra Nevada

inset-Broad-leaf-Lupine

 

Phlox Family Polemoniaceae
The Phlox family has many stunningly beautiful flowers.  Most of the species have a trumpet like shape, i.e. a long narrow tube flaring in five petals; however, a few are more open like a bowl. Grand collomia has one of the truly unique colors in the flower world, and scarlet gilia is one of the brightest red/orange flowers to be found.  The tiny Bridges gilia can form a delicate carpet of pink in drying flats, while clusters of spreading phlox punctuate drying, granitic slopes.

 

Phlox Family - Polemoniaceae

Collomia, Grand
Collomia, Staining
Gilia, Bridge’s
Gilia, Scarlet
Gilia, Pink
Gilia, Globe
Gilia, Granite
Jacob’s Ladder
Navarretia, Brewer’s
Navarretia, Needle
Nuttall’s Linanthus
Phlox, Spreading
Phlox, Graceful
Polemonium, Great
Polemonium, Showy
Whisker Brush

inset-Spreading-Phlox

 

Plantain Family Plantaginaceae
The penstemons and speedwells (veronicas), formerly in the snapdragon family with the paintbrushes, monkeyflowers, and broomrapes, have joined the Plantago genera.

 

Plantain Family - Plantaginaceae

Blue-eyed Mary
Mountain Pride
Penstemon, Gaping
Penstemon, Hot Rock
Penstemon, Meadow
Penstemon, Showy
Penstemon, Slender
Penstemon, Whorled
Speedwell, Alpine
Speedwell, American
Speedwell, Cusick’s
Speedwell, Thyme-leaved

inset-Mountain-Pride

 

Poppy Family Papaveraceae
While the California and prickly poppy generally grow outside the Basin, Tahoe is home to two Poppy species: the uniquely shaped steer’s head, which is small and not easily noticeable in forest openings and on gravelly flats, and the rare Sierra corydalis, which has been found near Echo Lakes and Antone Meadows.

 

Poppy Family - Papaveraceae

Sierra Corydalis
Steer’s Head

inset-Steers-Head

 

Primrose Family Primulaceae
The Primrose family has but two bright pink flowers in the Tahoe Basin: the shooting star and Sierra primrose. The flowers generally stand up on a leafless stem so you can't miss them.

 

Primrose Family - Primulaceae

Shooting Star
Sierra Primrose

inset-Shooting-Star

 

      FAMILY GROUP      Q - Z       

Rose Family Rosaceae
We all know what a rose looks like – a bundle of brightly colored petals. A natural wild rose, however, like the mountain strawberry, cinquefoils, and thimbleberry, has just five separate petals surrounding many stamens.

 

Rose Family - Rosaceae

Ash, Mountain
Big-leaf Avens
Bitterbrush
Cinquefoil, Bush/Shrubby
Cinquefoil, Drummond’s
Cinquefoil, Fan-leaf
Cinquefoil, Sticky
Cinquefoil, Graceful
Cinquefoil, Purple
Cherry, Bitter
Chokecherry, Western
Creambush
Dusky Horkelia
Ivesia, Gordon’s
Ivesia, Mousetail
Prairie Smoke
Rose, Mountain/Wild
Serviceberry
Sibbaldia
Spiraea, Mountain
Strawberry, Mountain
Thimbleberry

inset-Bush-Cinquefoil

 

Saxifrage Family Saxifragaceae
The Saxifrage family is well represented in Tahoe, and the flowers are generally atop leafless stems.  Most are quite small, but the two-chambered fruit capsule which resembles a bird’s beak is fascinating when observed up close with a magnifying lens.  The rare Sierra bolandra can be found near wet, rocky ledges and streams.

 

Saxifrage Family - Saxifragaceae

Alumroot, Pink
Bolandra, Sierra
Mitrewort/Bishop’s Cap
Prairie Star
Rock Star
Saxifrage, Alpine
Saxifrage, Brook
Saxifrage, Bud
Saxifrage, Bog
Saxifrage, Peak
Saxifrage, Sierra

inset-Bud-Saxifrage

 

Violet Family Violaceae
Violets announce the opening of flower season.  Members of this family come in a variety of bright colors with very distinct nectar guides which are like landing lights guiding pollinators to the sweet spot on the lower petal.  The flower parts (sepals, petals, and stamens) are in fives, with each flower having two upper petals, two side petals, and one lower petal. To find these beauties, keep your eyes low and look for the little “kink” at the top of the flower stem.

 

Violet Family - Violaceae

Violet, Dog
Violet, Beckwith’s
Violet, Stream
Violet, Maclosky's

inset-Beckwiths-Violet

 

Featured Flowers

This page is dedicated to the vistors of this site who have sent us their favorite photos of flowers captured somewhere in the Tahoe Basin. If you would like to join this group and share your photos, just click here.