Plant of the day: trail plant

Adenocaulon bicolor

With distinctive arrow-shaped leaves, trail plant is a common sight while hiking. The tiny white flower is much easier to miss – I mostly notice the leaves without blooms. When it does flower, this perennial herb shoots up a long, mostly bare stalk from the low cluster of leaves.

The small flowers initially appear in a series of tiny heads, each on their own branch off the central stalk. But as the plant ages and the seed pods elongate, one flower will stay perched on the end of each seed/ovary as it matures. This gives the head an interesting multi-storied look, with some flowers still clustered in the center and some perched above them atop their green pedestals.

Adenocaulon bicolor seeds get sticky and cling to socks, pants, and fur – a handy way to disperse but a pain in the neck to walk through. Still, I’ve always been fond of this unassuming plant. The leaves are a cheerful green (with a cottony white coating underneath) and the flowers are quirky. Good enough for me!

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