In July, I discovered Elkweed (Frasera speciosa), a very large, rather unusual wildflower, growing in a riparian canyon near Summerhaven in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Elkweeds live for up to 80 years as a simple basal rosette of leaves until they finally develop a towering flower stalk with hundreds of flowers. These long-lived, perennial plants are monocarpic, which means that they will flower only once and then die.
Elkweed flowers have four, pale greenish, purple-spotted petals, each with a large basal gland. The smooth, green, leaves are in whorls about the stem and are largest towards the base of the plant. The towering flower stalks are up to 8 feet (2.4 m) tall.
Plants in the genus Frasera, commonly known as Green Gentians, are in the Gentian Family (Gentianaceae). Elkweed was formerly known as Monument Plant or Deer Ears (Swertia radiata).