One of my goals for my summer as an NPS intern was to increase my plant knowledge. I realize that common plants in South Dakota will likely not show up too frequently back home in the Southeast, but I figure practicing ID’ing plants and noticing specific characteristics are skills that I can carry in whatever climate. 

I’m happy to say that I’m beginning to recognize common plants in the parks here. Below I’ll share a few cool ones! Hopefully writing a whole blog about these, will help ingrain their latin names into my brain…

  • Gunnison’s mariposa lily, Calochortus gunnisonii, is a really pretty perennial with edible bulbs! 
  • Goatsbeard, Tragopogon dubius, looks like a huge dandelion. It has a really distinct gold shimmery hue. 
  • Purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, is a medicinal plant that can be used as an anesthetic or as an immune system support.
  • Common mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is an invasive weed. Breathing the smoke from burning the leaves of this plant was used as a way to relieve respiratory issues, and the leaves can also be made into a tea. The distinctively soft leaves are commonly used by desperate hikers today as toilet paper!
  • Spreading dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium, grows in patches and has a milky white sap that has various medicinal purpose. 
  • Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense, is a noxious weed in the Black Hills that thrives after soil disturbance. 

Am I a botanist yet?


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