Campanulaceae: Bellflower Family

Cuspidate Downingia – Downingia cuspidata

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

Prostrate

Flower Size:

Small-medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Vernal pools, meadows

Notes:

Downingias are a close relative of the cultivated lobelia, and are uncommon in Monterey County.  They are found only in the vicinity of the Jolon-Bradley road, where they can be seen in large quantities.  This downingia is quite variable.  Its flowers are 7-15 mm across, generally bluish-lavender, with a white area in the center which includes 2 ovate yellow spots.  Some flowers are pure white apart from the yellow spots.  Aside from any other differences, lobelias can be distinguished by the presence of a distinct pedicel, while downingia flowers are sessile in the axils of leafy bracts.

Rothrock’s / Dunn’s Lobelia – Lobelia dunnii var. serrata

Blooms:

June–Oct

Plant Height:

20–85 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Moist canyons

Notes:

This is the only wild lobelia in Monterey County, and one of only two in California.  Like Downingia and also like the cultivated lobelia, the blue flowers are bilateral.  Each has three acute-tipped, ovate lower lobes.  Also, two smaller, narrow, almost vertical and sometimes swept-back upper lobes.  Unlike Downingia, the flowers are clearly pedicelled, with narrow and widely spreading calyx lobes (as in the cultivated lobelia).  Its linear-lanceolate leaves have tiny, gland-tipped teeth.  This plant is uncommon, found in various locations in the Santa Lucia Mountains (including Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park), but nowhere else north of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.  The right hand photo is the cultivated lobelia, included to show the similarities in structure.

Venus’ Looking Glass – Triodanis biflora

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

5–40 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open, disturbed places or burns, many communities, generally near coast

Notes:

An unusual plant which, as its scientific name indicates, produces two kinds of flower. Towards the top of the stem are 5–9 mm, bell-like, pinkish-purple flowers. Lower down the stem, clearly visible in the photo on the right are “cleistogamous” flowers that pollinate themselves without ever opening. The flowers are sessile, subtended by leaf-like bracts.