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National Park Quiz 82: Flowers

Don’t eat the flowers of this plant. Photo by Leo-seta via Flicktr.

1. The flowering plant shown in the accompanying photo is a ______. Park visitors who see this plant should leave it alone, not least because every part of it is poisonous.
a. amaryllis
b. jonquil
c. aster
d. lily-of-the-valley

2. Each of the following has at least 1,000 species of flowering plants EXCEPT:
a. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
b. Yosemite National Park
c. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
d. New River Gorge National River

3. A visitor would be able to see scarlet Indian paintbrush, orange bush monkeyflower, yellow aster, and purple lupine in
a. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
b. Gateway National Recreation Area
c. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
d. Chickasaw National Recreation Area

4. Which of the following flowering plants found in Rocky Mountain National Park typically grows at the highest elevation?
a. goldenrod
b. snowberry
c. fireweed
d. Arctic gentian

5. True or false? None of the 392 units in the National Park System has the word “flower” as part of its official name.

6. True or false? In Blue Ridge Parkway, flowering dogwoods, redbuds, and mountain laurels are typically at their scenic best during June.

7. True or false? The gentians, poppies, and violets that grow in Denali National Park and Preserve are all forbs.

8. True or false? A silversword plant growing in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park usually flowers only once in its lifetime.

9. True or false? The cave flowers found in some national park caverns are rooted in soil deposited by underground streams.

10. True or false? Beargrass, a flowering perennial found in the subalpine meadows or coastal mountains of some national parks, is a member of the lily family.

50-50 Extra Credit Question:

11. True or false? To discourage visitors from picking wildflowers, the superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park has banned the practice of placing fresh cut flowers on graves in the park.

Difficult Extra Credit Question:

12. Which of the following plants produce white flowers?
a. desert tobacco, brown-eyed primrose, forget-me-not, and pincushion
b. Spanish needle, fagonia, chuparosa, and beavertail cactus
c. barrel cactus, creosote bush, whispering bells, and coltsfoot
d. chia, desert rue, paperbag bush, and Jacobs ladder

Ridiculously Difficult Extra Credit Question:

13. In which country is Valley of Flowers National Park located?


(1) d – The plant shown is the lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). Although it is sometimes used in traditional medicine, great care must be taken. Ingesting too much lily-of-the-valley can lead to irregular heart beat, digestive upset, mental confusion, or even death. People who handle the plant should take care to watch their hands immediately afterward.

(2) a – While the tallgrass prairie ecosystem is certainly diverse, and has a well-deserved reputation for spring wildflower beauty, fewer than 500 plant species have been documented within the borders of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in eastern Kansas. Many more flowering plant species have been documented at Yosemite National Park (>1,400), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (>1,600), and New River Gorge National River (>1,000).

(3) c – All of these flowering plants grow in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. One good place to see them is the park’s Sweeny Ridge area.

(4) d -- The Arctic gentian (Gentiana algidais) an alpine species, while the other three are subalpine or montane species.

(5) True. No National Park System unit has the word “flower” as part of its official name.

(6) False. Dogwoods, redbuds, and mountain laurels are spring bloomers that can be expected to be at their scenic best in Blue Ridge Parkway during April or May. That said, the timing of the blooms is tricky to forecast because the weather varies, different species bloom at different intervals, and a 1,000-foot difference in elevation can produce a week’s difference in flowering.

(7) True. Forbs, which can be loosely defined as “plants that aren’t grasses, sedges, or rushes,” are the herbaceous flowering plant species that people think of as wildflowers. The forbs growing in Denali National Park and Preserve exhibit great diversity, being represented by about 450 species from 54 families of flowering plants.

(8) True. A typical silversword plant produces flowers and seeds only once in its lifetime. A Mauna Loa silversword (Argyoxiphium kauense) growing in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park may live up to 40 years before finally producing a single flowering spire just before it dies.

(9) False. Cave flowers are mineral deposits (typically gypsum or quartz) that resemble flowers. They grow on cave walls, not in bat guano or soil.

(10) True. Odd as it may seem, beargrass (aka squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, or Indian basket grass) is indeed a member of the lily family (order Liliiales).

(11) False. In Section 12.10 (Floral and Commemorative Tributes), the Superintendent’s Compendium for Gettysburg National Military Park specifies that “fresh cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time.”

(12) a -- Desert tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia), brown-eyed primrose (Camissonia claviformes), forget-me-not (Crypthanta sp.), and pincushion (Chaenactis sp.) all produce white flowers. The b-list plants produce red or red-orange flowers, the c-list plants produce yellow flowers, and the d-list plants produce blue or purple flowers.

(13) Valley of Flowers National Park (established 1982) is in the West Himalaya region of India.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Took me a while to find but I guess this is the most recent publication on the vegetation of New River Gorge NR:

According to this 2007 vegetation classification there has been no complete vegetation inventory of the park unit so far, but a good number of local inventories of parts of the park, that together give a decent overview. For the vegetation classification itself 228 sample spots were studied in detail.

From this the authors of the classification report on page 25 of the document that 894 plant species were found, plus subspecies and a few plants that were only identified to the genus level. The number of all taxa reported is 1041.

So if you stick by the word specie in the question, New River Gorge probably is below the threshold. But if you say subspecies and other taxa are included, the unit meets the criterion.

Anonymous -

Bob has just headed into the Utah canyon country for a multi-day trip, and he won't have web access until he returns next week.

Bob, what's your source for New River Gorge NR having >1000 species of flowering plants? I'd have to separately count subspecies and varieties and include gymnosperms to get over 1000 vascular plant taxa certified as present in the park. If you count all plants certified as "probably present", New River Gorge exceeds GRSM, BIBE, GRCA, & YOSE.

I claim credit for 12/12 and disqualification on #13 for googling the "Ridiculously Difficult Extra Credit Question".

resting on my laurels

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