Plant of the Week
Gordon’s Ivesia (Ivesia gordonii)
By Teresa Prendusi
Gordon’s ivesia, also called Alpine ivesia, is a not-so-obvious member of the Rose family (Rosaceae). We commonly think of roses as large, showy flowers requiring lots of water and care in a garden setting. The wild alpine gardens where Gordon’s ivesia is found in the western United States could not be farther from this traditional view of roses.
Ivesia gordonii is an herbaceous, perennial, 1 to 2 foot high plant that arises from a thick woody rootstock with many bright green fern-like leaves. The basal leaves are generally 3 to 8 cm long with many smaller lateral leaflets crowded in pairs along the stem. The lemon-yellow flowers are borne in crowded head-like clusters of 10 to 20 flowers atop10 to 15 cm high flowering stalks. The individual flowers are approximately 5 mm wide with spatula-shaped petals that are smaller than their greenish sepals. Each flower has 5 yellow stamens and generally 2 pistils. The achenes (fruits) are smooth, mottled brown and about 2 mm long.
This species occurs in montane sagebrush-grass communities to alpine tundra, often on shallow, rocky soils at elevations ranging between 1800 to 3600 meters. It is found throughout many western states including northeast California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and western Colorado. There are several geographic races that are recognized in this complex species and are presently being investigated by Dr. Barbara Ertter, a leading authority on Ivesias.
The 20 species of Ivesias in western North America are named in honor of Joseph Christmas Ives, an American explorer and leader of the Colorado Exploring Expedition of 1857 and 1858.