Hidden Flowers


Cryptantha (and maybe other) species
aka cat’s eyes; popcorn flowers


According to extensive research done at the San Diego State University, there are 130 species of cryptantha in North America. And by “cryptantha” I mean all the species formerly placed in the genus Cryptantha, which has been split into five genera (the other four are Emerocarya, Greeneocharis, Johnstonella, and Oreocarya). All of these are native to the western US.

Within those 130 species are 31 varieties. For the most part, the species are differentiated by details of the nutlets, which typically range in size from half a millimeter to as much as several millimeters. Even the large ones require a damn good hand lens, or better yet a dissecting microscope.

My interest in identifying and classifying wildflowers does not go this far, so uncharacteristically I will be content saying that I found several different species of cryptanthas (not necessarily Cryptanthas) during my recent Death Valley trip.

To give a sense of scale, the above close-up view was taken from this specimen (note the penny):

which might – might – be Cryptantha muricata (pointed cryptantha).

These are belly flowers for sure!  Here’s a different species:





And a third:












And winning the “wait, are those even flowers?!” prize:


The flowers in these two pictures (above and right) are less than one millimeter across.