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.

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