Via the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Missouri Botanical Garden, Peter H. Raven Library. Eutoca multiflora Douglas ex Lindley, Botanical Register [Bot. Reg.] 14: tab. 1180. 1828. “A hardy annual, of great beauty, … resembling some small Echium in appearance”
Continuing the perennial phacelia binge – here is the entire leaved, mat-forming [hey- compact!] and slightly glandular variety of Phacelia hastata of the Sierra Nevadas [CA and NV]. The hispid hairs are really noticeable on the calyx lobes, and some of the odder populations have lavender corollas – but most have white/cream petals.
Phacelia imbricata is a variable taxon, but can be recognized in the field by the overlapping outer calyx lobe [hence “imbricata”] and the dissected basal leaves. Phacelia imbricata var. imbricata occurs throughout California, with two varieties in southern California. However, intergradations with almost every perennial taxon occur throughout the range. The plants are on exposed slopes and roadsides. Finding plants along the way on summer hikes can be pretty delightful in the Coast Ranges – with the white corollas and yellow-green or grey-green leaves these plants [and Eriodictyon] keep the hydrophyll season going.
Phacelia corymbosa is another lovely perennial phacelia, but is covered with short glandular hairs in contrast to the long stinging hairs of Phacelia nemoralis. There can still be stabby hairs occasionally, so care is always a good idea – on this or any perennial phacelia. The glandular exudate stains newspapers when specimens are pressed, and can cause contact dermatitis. Maybe. The glandular trichomes haven’t been tested in this species – but it seems reasonable [see anything by Gary Reynolds – Reynolds and Rodriguez 1979, Reynolds et al. 1980, Reynolds 1981, Reynolds and Rodriguez 1981a, Reynolds and Rodriguez 1981b, Reynolds et al. 1986, Reynolds and Rodriguez 1986]. I get the itchies.
Corollas are white or fade cream and are readily dehiscent, with the typical long exserted stamens of the perennial phacelia group. Leaves are nicely green, and basal leaves usually dissected or lobed, but distal leaves can be simple and entire. There are usually many flowering stems. Jepson recombined this as a variety, if looking for the taxon in the 1943 flora.
The plants form mats on serpentine slopes or banks, and I found groupings on a riverbank. The previous year[‘s] accumulated basal leaves mound up underneath the new year’s basal rosette.
The common name of Phacelia nemoralis is Shade Phacelia. The habit is generally what you might think from the common name – in thick chaparral, on hills with some cover, along trails near a water source, under a bit of shrubbery. The long hairs catch water droplets in early morning, and the leaves are a light green. The distal leaves can be simple and entire and absent the typical pair of lobes that are common [although occasionally absent there too] in the basal rosette, and can sometimes cause confusion when keying out with Phacelia californica. So far the habit and habitat hasn’t caused too many mix ups with Phacelia argentea, but the leaf venation can sometimes look impressed. Sometimes the plants are single/solitary at the base of dry slopes – but there are some very prolific and floriferous ones this year that are all jumbled up in the chaparral, but if you trace these flowering stems down to the base they are individual plants.
This is the central California variety of Phacelia nemoralis. The other one is northern California and up in Oregon & Washington. The younger inflorescences are green fuzzy caterpillars, with long exserted stamens and small green-white corollas. These plants were covered with the stinging hairs. Even 100 yr old herbarium specimens attack – hairs break off and get into my skin. Associated species were stinging nettle, brambles, thistles, and poison oak. Fun!
I was going through some recent trips to upload to CalPhotos, because I was a little bummed as one of the populations of Phacelia californica in Mendocino was completely blasted and totally past bloom, so I was trying to salvage some shots. I did get photos Phacelia malvifolia – which was growing all over the hillside. Win. I never have good photos of the perennial phacelias. I want to. I do. The plants just always seem to be on undercut rubbly slopes, or “disturbed roadsides”, in poison oak, or at the end of a long day.
And yet once I am comfortable running analyses in computerland I think that it would have been so much better to have had the camera, dermatitis and cut glass be damned. I have my tetanus booster. But then I saw the super happy cultivated plants at Golden Gate Park, and all was well.
I have been thinking about these Mendocino populations since a plant tax field trip, when I was working out how to learn and key the multiplicities of plant variation across distributions – but so have a lot of other people. Heckard noted the variation in plant populations in his monograph [HECKARD, L. R. 1960. Taxonomic studies in the Phacelia magellanica polyploid complex, with special reference to the California members. University of California Publications in Botany 32:1-126.], and odd specimens are listed on the Jepson eFlora page for Phacelia californica.
Admittedly, plants look different depending on where and when you come across them. I am partial to the coastal forms of Phacelia californica, but sometimes the basal rosette approaches Phacelia argentea with mostly entire leaves and causes look-alike difficulties. And Phacelia californica can also have white or cream corollas. Ack. Inland populations have an entirely different set of issues with intergradation with Phacelia imbricata and looking a lot like Phacelia nemoralis var. nemoralis. Ack again.
There was a gorgeous display of wildflowers for the UC & Jepson herbaria at UC Berkeley’s CalDay, and after it was all over I grabbed two of the phacelias to sketch. I think these both came from the Del Puerto Canyon vicinity, collected by Margriet Wetherwax. I had such a good time at CalDay, my first. Thanks!
The first is Phacelia imbricata Greene var. imbricata, which is a common perennial plant of the foothills from 50-2500 m throughout California.
The next is Phacelia distans Bentham, although this plant has the dingy white corolla and heteromorphic calyx lobes that would possibly align with one of Greene’s names [now in synonymy]. My summer research project, yo. There is wide variation documented in this taxon, with white corollas in northern California and blue corollas in southern California, Baja California and Arizona.
All the capsules I found on these plants [at a parking lot overlooking the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve] were still fairly green, but each capsule contained 4 ovules total. Ovule/seed number is a good way to distinguish the two varieties of Phacelia malvifolia Chamisso & Schlechtendal in the field. Plants with (4)6-12 ovules total will key out to Phacelia malvifolia Chamisso & Schlechtendal var. loasifolia (Bentham) Brand.
I took a photo of the powdery mildew on the leaves and stems. And I also got a shot of the little pollinator, but I am still not sure as to correct identity. It looks like it was pushing past the corolla scales for nectar at the base of the corolla for each open flower it found.
The associated field notebook page from the previous collection, which was also Phacelia malvifolia Chamisso & Schlechtendal var. malvifolia.
Phacelia malvifolia Chamisso & Schlechtendal var. malvifolia is blooming everywhere on the Coastside right now, and after the recent rains it seems to be doing really well. There are small spots of powdery mildew on the leaves, which seems to be shared as a similar infection by Phacelia bolanderi A. Gray – although it doesn’t look like it takes over the leaf or plant, but is also limited to patchy areas on the stem and leaves. Infection and tolerance or resistance is something I should also investigate – particularly as Phacelia bolanderi is a common horticulture element, while it is unlikely someone would ever consider Phacelia malvifolia a candidate to add to their garden. The corollas are fascinating and really unusual, but the pustulate based trichomes are terrible. The stabby trichomes make collection and illustration a challenge, and I am working on these plants much more slowly than the other species I added to the field notebooks. The trichomes break off and get stuck in my skin, and I get a pretty gnarly itchy rash. I drew the stem and a leaf, and then stopped and grabbed my forceps to remove hairs from my hands. The calyx lobes are sometimes incised at the distal ends, and there are usually 2 big & wide lobes and 3 narrower lobes in fruit in populations on the Coastside. This variety has 4 ovules per capsule. I saw one pollinator visiting each open flower on the inflorescences, black shiny, maybe a solitary bee? I could catch it easily without a sting, and the yellow pollen was clearly visible on the back legs. I need to learn my entomology, and get a good photo for identification.