Boraginaceae: Borage Family — Phacelia (Blue-purple flowers)

Most members of the Borage family have their flowers arranged in coiled (scorpiod) cymes.  They bloom from the base upwards, gradually unfurling like a scorpion’s tail or caterpillar, as new flowers emerge.

Caterpillar Phacelia – Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida

Blooms:

Feb–June

Plant Height:

18–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Rocky slopes or grassland

Notes:

This uncommon plant has pale lavender, bell-shaped flowers, the lower more widely separated than the upper.  It is is ascending to erect.  Leaves are deeply lobed to compound, 2–15 cm long, with toothed segments.  The calyx lobes are all alike and linear, with stiff hairs and a grayish appearance.  Uncommon.

Great Valley Phacelia – Phacelia ciliata

Blooms:

Feb–June

Plant Height:

10–55 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open grassland, clay or gravelly slopes

Notes:

This has dense clusters of bluish-purple to pale blue flowers, with long exserted stamens.  The midrib and veins in the calyx are usually raised.  The plant is erect, simple, or branched near the base.  Leaves are pinnately lobed.  It is uncommon, but may be found in great quantities in the southeastern part of the county (for example, along Hwy 25 north of Hwy 198), turning whole fields blue.  It could be mistaken for the blue-purple form of Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans).  However, the throat of this flower has no lavender spots.

Divaricate Phacelia – Phacelia divaricata

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

9–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open areas, grassland, woodland

Notes:

The cauline leaves of this annual phacelia are mostly entire, rather than compound or deeply lobed.  Leaves are longer than wide, elliptic to narrowly ovate and clearly petioled.  Flowers are pale lavender to violet.  Stems are decumbent to erect.  Uncommon in Monterey, apparently confined to the Diablo Range.

Douglas’ Phacelia – Phacelia douglasii

Blooms:

Mar–May

Plant Height:

6–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Sandy areas, occasionally conifer woodland

Notes:

This is a low-growing, short-hairy plant with bell-shaped flowers ranging from pale blue to deep bluish-purple.  On Fort Ord, they are pale colored; those at higher elevations in the Santa Lucia Mountains are darker.  Leaves are mostly basal, and pinnately parted.  Darker colored petals are usually paler towards the base. Larger plants are exceptionally striking.

Branching Phacelia – Phacelia ramosissima

Blooms:

Apr–Oct

Plant Height:

30–150 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Many, both coastal and inland

Notes:

One of the few perennial and woody phacelias, much-branched as its common name suggests.  Its flowers can be either whitish or lavender, often with backwards-folding petals.  Leaves are compound with coarsely toothed or lobed leaflets, often but not always hairy.  Photo #3 by CJH.

Phacelia, Branching

Tansy-leaved Phacelia – Phacelia tanacetifolia

Blooms:

Mar–May

Plant Height:

15–100 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open flats and slopes

Notes:

The bluish-purple, bell-shaped flowers might be mistaken for those of Great Valley Phacelia (Phacelia ciliata, see above).  However, the stamens and style are more prominently exserted, 9–15 mm long (compared to 8–12 mm for Great Valley Phacelia).  Also, some of the flowers are persistent (remaining on the inflorescence), even after withering.  Leaves are generally compound, oblong to ovate with clearly separated, toothed or lobed leaflets.

Sticky Phacelia – Phacelia viscida var. viscida

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

20–100 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open sandy and disturbed places

Notes:

Immediately recognizable by its intense royal-blue flowers.  The plant is erect, sometimes many-branched, with leaves that are elliptic to broadly ovate and irregularly toothed. Most commonly seen in the Arroyo Seco area.