Wildflower of the Week by Chick Keller

 

This week’s flower is Purple Easter Daisy, Townsendia eximia.  It’s called Easter Daisy because its stemless white cousin, T. exscapa, blooms in early spring around Easter time. I’d call it Purple Daisy. It’s blooming in lots of places —Dot Grant Trail, Quemazon Trail, Frijoles Canyon, and Bayo Canyon, especially South Trail.

It’s a really pretty flower when you look closely.  You can tell it from other daisies due to the pointy (almost cactus-like) leaflets that are the base of the flower ‘holding’ the petals.
 
This genus is named for an ornithologist, John Kirk Townsend. He went west with the botanist Thomas Nuttall, who put Townsend’s name on some plants.
 
A description of the path these two men took is described in Across the Rockies by John Kirk Townsend.  According to the author:
“When Nathaniel Wyeth led his second expedition to the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia in 1834, he was accompanied by a young ornithologist, John Kirk Townsend. Townsend, and his companion Thomas Nuttall, a botanist, were among the first naturalists to study these regions. Specimens taken by Townsend were an important contribution to the work of Audubon.
 
Their journey took the naturalists to Independence, MO, where they joined Wyeth’s party. From there, they proceeded west over what was to become the Oregon Trail, to the trapper’s Rendezvous on Ham’s Fork of the Green River. Continuing west, the party established Fort Hall, near what is now Pocatello, ID. Thence onward to Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia.”