Monday, December 14, 2009

Castilleja applegatei

Wavyleaf indian paintbrush - Castilleja applegatei - Scrophulariaceae
Found in the higher elevations and rock canyons of the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, C. applegatei is a showy plant with a striking red flower.

These plants are usually found in dry open forests and scrub, particularly rocky areas.

One of the lesser known traits of this plant, and all members of its genus, is that it is a facultative, root, hemiparasite. As a facultative parasite, they are capable of surviving without a host, but grow best with a host, which are typically grasses and forbs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Linanthus parryae

Sand Blossom - Linanthus parryae - Polemoniaceae

One of the smallest flowering plants found in the Mojave, Linanthus parryae, also known as sand blossom, is both a prolific and showy little annual. Flowering from March to May, these petite phlox can carpet the hills and washes of the desert with a blanket of purple and white. Endemic to the California floristic provence, the best places to find these little jewels are creosote bush scrub and joshua tree woodlands.

Vegetatively, these plants are rather unremarkable. There is little in the way of an above-ground stem, with only small, spiny leaves ringing what does emerge. However, what they lack in vegetation, they more than make up in blossom. Delicate and showy, the flowers from this plant are a spectacular show in the early to late spring. One of the most striking aspects of these flowers is their polymorphism: populations tend to be either white or blue-purple, and in some cases, a mixture of both.

Because of this polymorphism, these plants have been the subject of genetic studies by several important botanists, including Sewall Wright, who based much of his work on genetic drift on the study this Linanthus.