There are records of Hooker’s Easter Daisy in bloom as early as January! But mostly you will see them bloom between March and May, often close to Easter, which is of course how one of their common names came about. There are eleven species of Townsendia listed in the Flora of Colorado, many of them also have ‘Easter’ in their common name. This one is the real Townsendia hookeri, Hooker’s Easter Daisy, buddying up alongside an emergent Physaria, species yet to be determined!
This plant hugs the ground to conserve heat and resist the weight of snow. Early spring emergence is a strategy that allows the plant to avoid competition for resources, including light, nutrients, and pollinator services with the abundance of later-blooming species. Here a Hooker’s Easter Daisy is visited by a Syrphid fly, Copestylum lentum. The Syrphids are known as ‘flower flies’ because of their importance as pollinators. Read about other pollinators here:
Native Plants and Pollinators in Colorado
Townsendia hookeri flowers, members of the Asteraceae family, are sessile (attached with no stalk) and have two parts. The ray flowers are in shades of white to pink, and the disk flowers in the center are yellow, with ray flowers held closely together. Leaves are grayish-green, held in a basal rosette, and covered with fine hairs.
The bud bracts have tiny hairs called cilia, especially at the tips.
These little beauties, such welcome precursors to spring, can be devilishly hard to spot. It is said that the brain looks for patterns. Once you know what they look like, you will notice them more easily. This photo is hiding a number of Townsendias, right in the middle is a cluster of their white blooms. They do love slopes, dry sunny ones; find them in the plains and foothills. All these photos were taken 3/15/22. The Denver Eco Flora Project on iNaturalist is looking for Townsendia this month on their EcoQuest. Check it out:
March EcoQuest – Easter Daisy