A low plant with several short stems growing from tufts of basal leaves and bearing yellow or yellow-orange flowers with rusty-backed petals in compact racemes.
Western Wallflower (E. capitatum) is one of the Wests most striking wildflowers. It is also one of the most variable species, with very wide ecological tolerance. This variation has defied easy botanical classification; some botanists recognize no varieties, while others attempt to demonstrate the complex variation through nomenclature. The very short alpine phases in the Rocky Mountains were once recognized as a separate species, E. nivale (nivale means of snow and refers to the plants habitat). E. capitatum var. purshii now includes this and numerous other short-stemmed phases of Western Wallflower. The short-stemmed habit, characteristic of many alpine plants, is an adaptation for rapid flower production and protection from the cold.
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