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That Plant


If anybody knows what this plant is named, let me know.  It’s one of my favorite high-mountain plants.

I don’t even know if it’s a shrub or a perennial. It has the hard green stems that say they might turn woody with time, although they don’t. It comes only to my ankles, but so does pinemat manzanita, and that’s a shrub.

I looked assiduously through two books, with many false alarms when I thought I’d identified it. Then I’d look at the actual plant. Nope.

Despite not knowing its name, this plant has taught me a lot about gardening. For starters, it gave me a beautiful example of minimalist groundcover.


It can also grow in amongst other plants, where it seems to stretch out a little, in order to get its share of sun.


And it’s also taught me this lesson: a plant doesn’t have to be glamorous or big or unusual to be a beautiful presence. I’ve never seen this plant flowering (maybe if I had, I would have been able to identify it), so I don’t know if it has gorgeous blossoms.  It doesn’t have exciting bark or unusual foliage; it’s not large or full. All I have seen is its leaves going from the brightish green of summer to the blazing yellow of fall. Morning sun lighting it up by the rocks makes it one of the most soul-satisfying sights of my mountain day-and a mountain day has many contenders for soul-satisfying sights.



Names come after the knowing of a plant, not before. I know this plant a little, and looking for its name has gotten me better acquainted. I looked at it more carefully, examined its structure and form, and thought about it in relation to other plants.

Since many things in life are a mystery, I’m not unhappy with the way things are, between me and this plant. Not all mysteries are meant to be solved.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • joco September 28, 2008, 1:07 pm

    Hiya P.B.,
    Could it be an Epemidium? (which I call Happy Medium).

  • sunny September 28, 2008, 2:58 pm

    Hi there. Nice blog!

    I think my garden is sharing space with a native population of this plant . It may be Bitter Dogbane-Apocynum androsaemifolium. Have you seen it in flower? Its dainty pink urns point up.

  • Nancy Bond September 28, 2008, 6:43 pm

    I’ not familiar with the plant, but it is lovely. I like the way that golden yellow always seems to hold the light. Very nice.

  • Pomona Belvedere September 29, 2008, 10:13 am

    Thanks for the name suggestions, I will look those up and report back. (Right now I’m away from home and my natural history books.) Nancy, I’m glad that even nameless it provides you with enjoyment.

  • joco September 30, 2008, 5:23 am

    I reckon sunny is right. You can check by the milky juice coming from the stems. The fruit is 4 inches long and 1/8th of an inch thick it says in my book.

  • Pomona Belvedere September 30, 2008, 8:20 am

    Drat, I never thought to check the stems while I was near them. I never saw fruits either, but that could easily be explained by hungry critters. I can’t wait to check my books and see!

  • Pomona Belvedere October 3, 2008, 2:02 pm

    And yes–it looks as if dogbane is the winner! Thanks Sunny and joco. I looked it up in yet another book, and it says the Native Americans used fibers from the stems after frost as strings, and they really seemed like that sort of stem. So even though I’m too many hours away to do the milky sap test, that plus the description is good enough for me.

    I appreciate the help in Naming That Plant.

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