[The Genus Smelowskia East of the Cascade Mts.]

Alpine Smelowskia

Smelowskia calycina

The photo above shows alpine Smelowskia as seen near the summit of Arsenic Mt at the eastern edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness in the Rocky Mts. of Montana. Photographed on July 27, 1999.


Alpine Smelowskia is an attractive perennial wildflower which would be suitable for a trough or rock garden. It is typically matted with several spreading to ascending stems from 5-20 cm long rising from the basal leaves. The herbage consists of a mix of long, soft, simple or forked hairs and shorter, often freely branched hairs. The bases of established plants are often covered with the dried remnants of older leaves. The leaves are copiously covered with grayish, fine and freely branched hairs. The petioles of the leaves are equal to or longer than the blades and have long hairs along their margins near their base. The basal leaves have ovate to obovate blades that are pinnatifid to pinnately compound with the 5-7 lobes linear to narrowly obovate in shape. The several leaves of the stems are reduced in size up the stems.

The inflorescence is a raceme of white flowers which often have pinkish veins. The herbage of the raceme often consists of long hairs. The 4 pinkish to purplish sepals are 2.5-3.5 mm long while the 4 petals are 3-4 mm long. The fruits are siliques are lanceolate to oblanceolate in shape and pointed at both ends. They are 8-12 mm long and 1.5-2.5 mm wide. They are glabrous and ascend from hairy pedicels from 6-10 mm long.


Alpine Smelowskia may be found in rocky to talus soils in alpine and subalpine habitats.


Alpine Smelowskia may be found from eastern Alaska south to British Columbia and Alberta and south through the Rocky Mts. to Colorado, western Utah and Nevada. In the west, it may be found in the Cascade and Olympic Mts of Washington and east to the Wallowa Mts. of northeastern Oregon and east in the higher mountains to the Rocky Mts. Plants may also be found in the high country of California.

The photo above shows the fruits of alpine Smelowskia. noted the long pedicels covered with loose, villous hairs and the sparsely haired siliques.

The photo above shows a basal leaf of alpine Smelowskia. Note the dense covering of grayish hairs and the lateral lobes with the terminal lobe slightly the largest.

Paul Slichter