Alpine Sunflower, Sun God
The Old-man-of-the-mountain common name comes from its wooly stem and leaves, sometimes much hairier than can be seen here. The plant is usually 3 or 4 inches tall, but may be as tall as 12 inches. "Grandiflora" means large-flowered. Not only does this plant have the largest flower of any in the Hymenoxys genus, it is one of the largest in its alpine environment, frequently more than three inches across.
In spite of the name Alpine Sunflower, this plant is different from "true sunflowers" (Helianthus) and some other members of the family in that the flower of Helianthus will turn toward the sun, following it from east to west as the sun rises and sets. Hymenoxys grandiflora continues to face east, even as the sun marches across the sky. There is speculation that this may be an adaptation that protects it from the violent afternoon thunderstorms which typically arrive from the west in the Rocky Mountains.
Photos taken on the Continental Divide. Above 12,000 feet.
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