While researching the Aster family, I stumbled across the term “DYC” – “damned yellow composite”, used by Lady Bird Johnson, among others. It’s the floral equivalent of birders’ “LBJ”. Ha! That’s how I was starting to feel trying to identify these two plants, which have very similar inflorescences but quite different leaves.
“Which flower is that?”
“I dunno, another DYC.”
The most obvious difference is the red dot in the center of the dandelion, but that only shows on young flowers. The better way to distinguish them is by looking at the leaves.
Scale bud’s leaves are a light gray-green and deeply notched – not to confuse things, but they’re shaped somewhat like dandelion leaves.
Desert dandelion has darker leaves with much narrower lobes – they look almost like threads.
The desert dandelion ranges from New Mexico west and north to Oregon and Idaho. Scale bud’s range is limited to Arizona, California, and Nevada. Both plants are annuals.
I found both of these species near Dante’s View, at an elevation of about 5000 feet. If they occurred elsewhere in the park I failed to notice. Maybe because I was getting exhausted. Or maybe because they’re, you know… DYCs.