Polemoniaceae: Phlox Family — Linanthus

The beautiful flowers in the phlox family are mostly tubular.  Instead of distinct petals, they have spreading lobes, fused to the tube at their base.  They may be bell-shaped with gradually spreading lobes, or funnel-shaped, with a slender tube and abruptly spreading lobes.  Typically, there are 5 lobes, with 5 stamens attached to the tube, and 3 stigmas on the pistil.

Linanthus used to include what are now separated into two genera, Linanthus and Leptosiphon, depending upon whether or not the flower tube is exserted from the calyx.  The common name Linanthus may apply to members of both genera.

False Babystars – Leptosiphon androsaceus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

4–45 cm

Flower Size:

Small-medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy areas or open or shaded woodland

Notes:

This is very similar in color and appearance to Variable Linanthus (Leptosiphon parviflorus, see below).  It is most easily distinguished by its calyx, which is not densely hairy but merely ciliate (with marginal hairs), and more or less glabrous beneath.  The corolla is a little larger, generally a little over 16 mm across.  The color is usually white, but may be pink or purple.  It lacks the red marks at the base of the lobes, which are sometimes found on Variable Linanthus.  The corolla tube (not a pedicel) is 10–33 mm long, generally pink to lavender.  The throat is generally violet at the base and yellow above.  Note the prominent, 6 mm long, exserted stigma.  As with other linanthus, the leaves are whorled.  It is believed to be present in Monterey County only on Fort Ord.

Bicolored Linanthus / True Babystars – Leptosiphon bicolor

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

2–21 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy areas or open woodland

Notes:

This linanthus has small flowers, < 1 cm across, which may be white or pink.  The corolla tube (part of the flower, not a pedicel) is reddish, 12–32 mm long.  The throat is yellow.  The stamens and style are not as exserted as those of Variable Linanthus (Leptosiphon parviflorus, see below), and the 1 mm long stigma is much shorter.  As with other linanthus, the leaves are whorled.

Whisker Brush – Leptosiphon ciliatus

Blooms:

Mar–July

Plant Height:

2–30 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry, open sunny places, many communities

Notes:

Unlike Variable and Bicolored Linanthus (Leptosiphon parviflorus, see below, and bicolor, see above), Whisker Brush has its flowers in dense, white-hairy, bracted heads, not to be confused with the whorled leaves lower down the stem.  The corolla is pale to dark pink with a darker pink or red spot at the base of each lobe.  Corolla lobes are 2–4 mm long, rarely more than 1/5 the length of the corolla tube.  Unusually the membrane connecting the calyx lobes is broader than the lobes themselves.

Large-flowered Linanthus – Leptosiphon grandiflorus

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

4–20 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Rare or endangered?

Yes – 4.2

Habitat:

Open woods and slopes near the coast

Notes:

This has much larger flowers than Variable Linanthus (Leptosiphon parviflorus, see below), and generally has multiple flowers in a single head.  Corollas are generally white but may be lavender, sometimes on the same plant.  The throat is yellow.  Stamens and style are not exserted.  Leaves are whorled in the typical linanthus style.

Flax-flowered Linanthus – Leptosiphon liniflorus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Woodland, openings, common on serpentine

Notes:

This plant is open and diffusely branched, on a single stem.  Flowers have white to pale blue lobes (with purple veins), and are on a thread-like, 1–3 cm long pedicel.  The flower tube is very short, with a wide throat that is longer than the tube.  Stamens are exserted, and hairy at the base.  Leaves are deeply lobed into linear segments.  Very common in the Indians.

Variable / Common Linanthus – Leptosiphon parviflorus

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

4–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small-medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy areas or open woodland

Notes:

This is the most common linanthus.  It is similar to Bicolored Linanthus (Leptosiphon bicolor, see above), but larger.  One important difference is the prominent, 1–7 mm long, exserted stigma.  The corolla is about 10–15 mm across, usually white but may be pink or purple, often with red marks at the base of the lobes.  The corolla tube (not a pedicel) is 11–46 mm long and may be maroon, pink or yellow.  The throat may be either yellow or deep maroon.  As with other linanthus, the leaves are whorled.

Pygmy Linanthus – Leptosiphon pygmaeus subsp. continentalis

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

2–10 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry openings, generally away from coast

Notes:

This is a seriously small plant, with tiny, exquisite white to pale purple flowers.  They are no more than 5 mm across, with a corolla tube < 3 mm long.  Each one is located at the tip of a capillary pedicel, which is 4–15 mm long.  The plant may be widely branched with very delicate stems, and threadlike leaves.

Pygmy Linanthus

Evening Snow – Linanthus dichotomus subsp. dichotomus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

5–20 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry sandy places, generally away from immediate coast

Notes:

Aptly named, the flowers of this plant do not open until early evening.  The plant produces several thin waxy stems, with clusters of flowers.  The flowers remain tightly furled, like a diminutive cigar, until early evening.  When fully open, the flowers are similar to those of Large-flowered Linanthus (Leptosiphon grandiflorus, see above), but pure white with purple shading on the undersides.

All but the photo on the right are by Bruce Dormody and reproduced with his permission.