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Pussypaws, Lobb's Nama and Phlox
With a name like pussypaws, it’s got to be cute, and it is. The pussypaw, in the Cistanthe genus, is a succulent flowering plant that grows flat on the ground, radiating out from a central point. It can grow in conditions where most other flowering plants cannot.

Find this flower in sandy and rocky soils, often on trails and along the roadside. It survives by sending down a long taproot, many feet into the ground. During the heat of the day, the flower stems rise up off of the scorched earth, but come to rest again as the day cools. 

Spoon-shaped leaves form the center of the clusters of long-stemmed flowers that resemble and feel like the underside of a cat’s paw. The flowers produce tiny black seeds which can be eaten by chipmunks and other small rodents. 

Keep your eyes on the ground to spot this low-growing plant. The petals pale as they age, curling around the forming seeds. 

Lobb’s nama, also known as Lobb’s fiddleleaf and woolly nama, grows only in the Western United States and we are fortunate to have some growing here at Lake Tahoe.
Laird R. Blackwell, author of “Tahoe Wildflowers: A Month-by-Month Guide to Wildflowers in the Tahoe Basin and Surrounding Areas”, has spotted some on Vikingsholm trail and at Meek’s Bay. I know of a place in Incline Village where dozens of clumps are growing.
This flower also grows on gravelly, sandy slopes and thrives in the dry, barren soils. It’s a low-growing plant, from 2 to 10 inches high, with small, deep purple flowers consisting of five rounded lobes.

It’s a rhizomatous (think ginger root) perennial herb, sending out shoots underground, capable of growing new plants. Its leaves are sticky, hairy and alternate along branching stems.

A more common plant that most of us have probably seen is the spreading phlox. Another drought-resistant plant, it grows on dry, rocky slopes or flat areas.

Also a perennial herb, the leaves do not survive the winter, yet spring from the earth when the snow melts; the delicate five-lobed flowers appearing shortly after. The blooms don’t last long, so enjoy them while you can. 

Martis Valley lies between Lake Tahoe and Truckee and is an area of open space, home to wildflowers, birds, other wildlife and hiking trails. I just learned of this area from talking to a friend who was working to identify a bird she saw there. 

I will be venturing there as soon as I can but talking to her gave me an idea. I’d like your input—tell me where you’ve seen flowers or birds or other interesting things in nature and I’ll write about it.
Contact me via my just-published website:, where you will find all the previous columns as well as other articles about nature, the environment, recycling—anything that has to do with making our world a better place.

The site is a work-in-progress and will be added to continuously, as time permits. I’d love your feedback.

Find links to my other websites offering products for sale: T-shirts and sweatshirts printed with Tahoe’s wildlife, mugs showing off its wildflowers, pictures of the lake woven into cotton blanket throws and of course, the Lake Tahoe Scenic Calendar.

Tell me your stories: of flowers, of birds, of your favorite hiking trails. Send me your photos and I’ll put them on the website or print them on a T-shirt. I’ll reward you for your contribution with a Tahoe calendar, which is on sale at Visit the website and buy one—or get one for free by contributing some knowledge, stories or photos.

I would love to connect with people who can help me identify some of the plants I’m struggling with, those I call “Mystery Plants”. Let’s put our heads together and figure this out!

Please do come out for the Red, White & Tahoe Blue celebration on the Village Green in Incline Village on Saturday, July 5. I’ll be there manning a booth with a selection of Tahoe-themed products, alongside my business networking group, Tahoe Business Exchange.
Come and see me! Let’s talk about the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees of Lake Tahoe.

Pussypaws, or Cistanthe umbellata
Lobb's nama, Lobb's fiddleleaf or 
Nama Lobbii
Spreading phlox, or Phlox diffusa