The name “white-leaf” refers to the silky-white hairiness of the leaves of this phacelia. Dense short hairs lend the plants an overall grayish-green color. The plant grows up to twenty inches tall. Roughly the upper half of the plant consists of branched flowering coiled clusters.
The microseris resembles a dandelion, with a leafless stem supporting a single head of bright-yellow ray flowers. The plant can reach of height of two to twelve inches. The basal cluster of leaves, narrow and strap-like with wavy edges, are sparsely to densely covered with hairs.
This is one of the earliest blooming wildflowers, along with biscuitroot, buttercup, and yellow bells. Bluebells grow most frequently beneath sagebrush canopies and in other sheltered sites and on north-facing slopes. It is common in areas of abundant spring moisture.
During late spring in the Sage Hills, the wide open sunny slopes are colored with a blue-to-purple hue. The flowers are lupines, a common shrub-steppe wildflower. Lupine can be recognized by its tall, spike-like cluster of blossoms. The flower itself has two lips that look, from the side view, like a parrot’s beak.
Barestem biscuitroot has a long slender main stem (up to three feet tall) that ascends up to a hub where smaller stems branch out like the spokes of an umbrella. At the end of each spoke is a dense ball-shaped cluster of small yellow flowers.
Geyer’s biscuitroot is often the first flower seen in the spring, blooming as early as February. It is easily identified by the tiny white flowers growing in umbrella-like clusters called umbels. Stems can be green or red, and its leaves attach to the stem at or below the ground surface.
Puccoon is common in the shrub-steppe, and is easily identified by a cluster of multiple long, leafy stems, eight inches to two feet tall, springing up from a woody tap root. The small, pale yellow-to greenish-white flowers of puccoon appear in late spring, partially hidden among the numerous leaves near the stem tip.
Among the first plants to flower in the spring, prairie star is commonly found in the open, grassy areas of the shrub-steppe. The lobed white or pink petals cluster in ‘stars’ atop leafless two to ten inch stems. Leaves grow mostly at the base, about half to one inch long, with five wedge-shaped segments with three rounded teeth.
Ballhead waterleaf is somewhat inconspicuous because it usually grows amid thickets or beneath associated shrubs, such as sagebrush, and its dark, blue-purple to lavender, flowers blend in with the shady background. It is unusual because the flowers form a densely congested ball-shaped cluster near the base of the plant instead of at the top.