For a relatively wide-ranging species, sticky false asphodel or sticky tofieldia has one of the most precise distribution maps I’ve seen on Flora of North America. Native to parts of northern North America from Alaska to Tennessee and Oregon to Newfoundland, this species is the most widespread of the three that occur in North America. The fourth species in the genus is native to Japan.
“Glutinosa” means sticky or gluey; gluey is certainly the tactile sensation experienced when lightly tapping the glandular stem with a finger. What is the adaptive value of bearing these sticky glands? Unlike the sundew, this is not a carnivorous plant. My speculation is that it is a defensive mechanism, acting as a strong disincentive for any small insect to climb, eat, or pierce the stem. This species often grows in wet areas, some of which are nutrient-poor or nutrient-inaccessible; perhaps it is more adaptive to expend energy and nutrients to produce and maintain the glands than it is to suffer the loss of nutrients from insect damage?
Many print references will use an older name for Triantha glutinosa, typically Tofieldia glutinosa. Some also continue to place the genus in the Liliaceae or lily family, although modern evidence suggests that this group is not even in the Liliales (or lily order–one step higher in the taxonomic ranking). The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group places it in a family of four (sometimes three or five) genera, the Tofieldiaceae, within the Alismatales.
Today’s photographs are of a plant growing in Haida Gwaii, where I’ll be returning to next month for Botany BC (British Columbia). The Flora of North America notes, “On the Queen Charlotte Islands [now officially Haida Gwaii] in British Columbia, there appears to be some evidence of hybridization between T. glutinosa and the two subspecies of T. occidentalis that occur there.” Today’s plant doesn’t seem to have any overlapping characteristics with Triantha occidentalis, at least from what I’ve been able to discern from the identification keys.