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Science

Botanist discovers new plant in Southwestern Colo.

February 2, 2009

The flora of North America has a new member. A new plant species has been discovered in the Lone Mesa State Park in southwest Colorado by a Colorado State University botanist.

Peggy Lyon, botanist with CSU's Colorado Natural Heritage program, and Al Schneider, a volunteer from the Colorado Native Plant Society, were compiling a list of plant species for Lone Mesa State Park when they noticed a small shrub that did not look like anything that they had ever seen before.

"This plant would have easily been overlooked if we had only focused on surveying for known rare plants rather than identifying all species in the area," Lyon said.

A specimen of the plant was shipped to the scientific editors of the Flora of North America who confirmed that the plant was indeed a new species.

The new species is known only from several populations in and around the Lone Mesa State Park in Dolores County, Colo., where at least 4,000 snakeweeds have been identified. Lyon will conduct further research in the area this summer. The plants are low, compact subshrubs that flower in late July through early September.

Lyon and Schneider chose the name Gutierrezia elegans for their discovery. The common name is the Lone Mesa snakeweed.

"We have chosen the specific epithet 'elegans' because it summarizes so many of the most obvious visual characteristics of this new species," Schneider said. "Gutierrezia elegans is delicate with masses of brilliant yellow flowers topping gracefully arching stems that form into a low, domed symmetry. In short, the plant is elegant."


Contact: Kimberly Sorensen
E-mail: Kimberly.Sorensen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-0757