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Owens Peak #2B: Shrubs & Wildflowers (Cont.)
  List Of Native & Naturalized Plants In The Hills North Of Palomar College  

© W.P. Armstrong (Updated 9 November 2021)

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Popcorn Flowers Or White Forget-Me-Nots?

  Images Of The Borage Family (Boraginaceae)  
Species of Cryptantha are often referred to as white "forget-me-nots," although some people call them "popcorn flowers." I think the latter common name is best applied to members of the closely related genus Plagiobothrys. Both genera have white flowers in tight coiled clusters called scorpioid cymes. In my humble opinion, the flower clusters of Plagiobothrys look a little more like popped grains of corn, technically referred to as exploded endosperm. This is particularly true of spreading, low-growing varieties of P. collinus, appropriately named California popcorn flower. From a distance, the white flower clusters do resemble popcorn scattered on grassland and open ground in coastal sage scrub. In spite of what you might have heard, I must say that the popcorn analogy is not a good way to separate white forget-me-nots from popcorn flowers.

To accurately separate the genus Cryptantha from Plagiobothrys you must carefully examine the nutlets to see if they have a keel (ridge) above the elevated attachment scar or a distinct groove above the recessed attachment scar. One to four nutlets are enclosed within five calyx lobes covered by glistening hairs (trichomes). Depending on the species, the nutlets range in size from 0.5 to several millimeters. This requires a good 10x or 20x hand lens or a dissecting microscope.

There is a slight resemblance between the tight, coiled flower clusters of white forget-me-not (Cryptantha intermedia) and Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn; however, there is a big difference in taste! Actually, you should not eat the flowers. The irritating hairs (trichomes) could cause an unpleasant reaction.

Plagiobothrys collinus var. californicus. Members of the genus Plagiobothrys are the true popcorn flowers. In my opinion, the flower clusters with distinct yellow centers (throats) resemble popcorn more than the flowers of Cryptantha species, particularly from a distance. Note: The above species may be the very similar P. collinus var. fulvescens.

Cryptantha intermedia, a common white forget-me-not on Owens Peak. This extreme close-up image shows the roughened (tuberculate) nutlets.

Cryptantha micromeres from the southern Merriam Mountains & Owens Peak. The nutlets are only 0.5 mm long, slightly larger than an average grain of table salt (NaCl) that is 0.3 mm on a side. The spreading corolla limb is approximately 1.0 mm in diameter. By way of comparison, the world's largest flower (Rafflesia arnoldii) of the Malay Archipelago is 3,000 mm in diameter! This is the smallest Cryptantha flower and one of the smallest "complete" flowers in San Diego County. Our local desert species (C. micrantha) is almost as small. The flowers of our closely-related Pectocarya species are also minute. Complete flowers have all 4 major floral parts, including calyx, corolla, androecium (stamens) and gynoecium (pistil). There are smaller flowers, such as those in the euphorbia and arum (duckweed) families, but they are incomplete and imperfect (unisexual).

Boraginaceae Now Includes Genera Formerly Placed In Hydrophyllaceae

Caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida), a common spring wildflower on sunny slopes of Owens Peak. The flowers are produced in hairy, coiled clusters that uncoil as flowers open.

Poison Oak: Look But Don't Touch!

Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum): "Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, poisonous sight." This shrub is fairly common on the north side of Owens Peak. The pinnately trifoliate leaves turn bright red in the fall. The fruits are white with black veins (resin ducts). The allergen urushiol (causing cell-mediated immune response) occurs in the resin canals of the stems, leaves, fruit & flowers. For details on this complicated reaction see following link.

  Wayne's Poison Oak Article: More Than Just Scratching The Surface  

The Large & Diverse Euphorbia Family (Euphorbiaceae)

Sandmats are low-growing wildflowers that thrive on sun-baked sandy slopes. What appear to be tiny white flowers are actually inflorescences technically called cyathia. Each cyathium contains unisexual male & female flowers reduced to stamens and a single pistil (gynoecium).

  The Diverse Euphorbia Family  

Dichelostemma (formerly in genus Brodiaea) on Owens Peak

Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum (wild hyacinth or blue dicks). Formerly placed in the Amaryllidaceae, now moved to the Themidaceae with Bloomeria, Brodiaea & Muilla.

  Brodiaeas In Nearby San Marcos Vernal Pool Field  
Index Of All Brodiaea Pages On Wayne's Word

Golden Stars (Bloomeria crocea var. crocea), an attractive wildflower that appears among dried annual grasses in late spring. It is related to the genus Brodiaea in the family Themidaceae (formerly in the onion family Alliaceae).

2 Species Of Soap Lilies (Chlorogalum) on Owens Peak

Two species of soap lilies (Chlorogalum): C. pomeridianum has large, fibrous bulbs and blooms at night. C. parviflorum has smaller flowers, nonfibrous bulbs and blooms during the daytime. The bulbs were eagerly sought after by native Americans who inhabited this region. Surprising enough, DNA botanists have moved these interesting lilies into the agave family (Agavaceae).

  Soap Lilies In California  

One Or More Subspecies Of Morning Glories on Owens Peak

There may be several subspecies of native morning glories (Calystegia macrostegia) on Owens Peak. They are difficult to separate in taxonomic keys and there appears to be intergradation between some subspecies. I have seen populations in the hills northwest of Palomar College (before they were covered with houses) that resembled ssp. arida, ssp. intermedia and ssp. tenuifolia (see plant list for hills northwest of Palomar College). At this time I am torn between ssp. arida and ssp. tenuifolia for Owens Peak; however, it depends on which flora you are using. By the way, most of our beautiful cultivated morning glories, including the sweet potato, belong to the genus Ipomoea.

Using the Jepson Manual (2012), the best name I can come with for this species is "narrow-leaf morning glory" (Calystegia macrostegia ssp. tenuifolia). In "Jepson" this ssp. seems to fit leaves puberulent (minutely hairy) vs. leaves hairy (ssp. arida). Beauchamp's Flora of San Diego County (1986), based on Flora of Southern California by Munz (1974), describes ssp. arida as leaves & stems cinereous with dense, tomentulose pubescence. In "Beauchamp," ssp. tenuifolia keys out under leaves & stems glabrous or nearly so. The Jepson Manual also states that ssp. tenuifolia intergrades with ssp. arida & ssp. intermedia, and "narrowness of leaves determined by environment (vs. genetics)." It also states "Needs Study."

Conclusion: Under a dissecting microscope I can see varying degrees of hairiness on morning glories from Owens Peak, especially on new growth. When I used the original "California Flora" by Munz (1959) this species keyed out nicely to Convolvulus aridus. In that edition there were no confusing subspecies to worry about until the supplement came out in 1968. So, in my opinion you can also call this species Calystegia macrostegia ssp. aridus and site Munz (1959) as your reference! Please read the following discussion by Tom Chester:

  Calystegia macrostegia Subspecies intermedia & tenuifolia Are Bogus!  

Sweet Potatoes Are A Blue Morning Glory With Fat Storage Roots

How Did Sweet Potatoes Get To Polynesia?

  Amazing Morning-Glory Family: Sweet Potatoes To Mary's Bean  
Ornamental Sweet Potatoes On The Palomar College Campus

In his book, Sea Routes to Polynesia (1968), Thor Heyerdahl postulated that sweet potatoes were carried across the Pacific by Peruvian Indians before Europeans began to sail the world's oceans; however, an article by Muñoz-Rodriguez, et al. in Current Biology (2018) offers convincing DNA evidence that Heyerdahl's hypothesis is incorrect. The article disputes the longstanding mystery of how sweet potatoes showed up in Polynesia before the Europeans set foot in South America where the plant evolved. This latest study suggests it is more likely that seeds of the sweet potato floated across the Pacific Ocean on sea currents more than a 100,000 years ago--ruling out human transport. Other Ipomoea species, such as I. pes-caprae, have excellent drift seeds (see R in following image). In fact, I have found this species on beaches of the Galapagos Islands. According to S.L. Kochhar (Economic Botany: A Comprehensive Study 5th Edition, 2016): The seeds of sweet potato, "which have an almost impervious seed coat, germinate after immersion in seawater."

Muñoz-Rodriguez et al. 2018. "Reconciling Conflicting Phylogenies in the Origin of Sweet Potato and Dispersal to Polynesia" Current Biology 28: 111 (April 23, 2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.03.020

Drift seeds and fruits collected at Drunk Bay on the island of St. John.

Legend: A. Mango (Mangifera indica), B. beach bean (Canavallia maritima), C. coin plant (probably Dalbergia monetaria), D. hog plum (Spondias mombin), E. West Indian locust (Hymenaea courbaril), F. tropical almond (Terminalia catappa), G. tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum), H. manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella), I. seaside hibiscus (Thespesia populnea), J. nothing nut (Cassine xylocarpa), K. sugar apple (Annona squamosa), L. sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), M. sea coconut (Manicaria saccifera), N. mammee apple (Mammea americana), O. oak acorn (Quercus sp.), P. grenade pod (Sacoglottis amazonica), Q. Asian swamp lily (probably Crinum asiaticum), R. beach morning-glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae), S. sea heart (Entada gigas), T. pod in the Sterculiaceae (possibly Sterculia sp.), U. red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), V. sea bean (Mucuna urens), W. gray nickernut (Caesalpinia bonduc), X. yellow nickernut (probably Caesalpinia ciliata or C. major), Y. dog almond (Andira inermis), Z. coconut endocarp (Cocos nucifera), AA. calabash (Crescentia cujete), and AB. box fruit (Barringtonia asiatica).

Oxalis micrantha: First Seen March 2020 On Hill East Of Palomar College Campus

Oxalis species (Oxalidaceae) have always been special to me. Bermuda buttercup (O. pes-caprae) was the first plant I keyed out in my plant identification class (Botany 110) every spring at Palomar College. Each lab I gave the class several unknown plants to key out with their text (Jepson Flora of California), including helpful illustrations and/or photo images (see links below). I eventually placed all of this material on-line when I started my website Wayne's Word. Oxalis was perfect for beginning students because all the characteristics were easy to see and the plants keyed out perfectly. Flowering O. rubra was the first macro photo I ever took with my first SLR camera. During the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing of March-April... 2020 I discovered dwarf wood-sorrel (O. micrantha) along a trail just north of the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Garden. I never saw an Oxalis with flowers this small. This species is naturalized in the foothills of central California. The San Diego Natural History Museum herbarium has one reported location for this species in the City of San Diego. This may be a new naturalized South American wildflower for San Diego County.

There are four species of Oxalis on Owens Peak and the Palomar College campus: Three naturalized species from the Mediterranean, South Africa and South America; and one species native to California and Baja California. They are often called "sour grass" or "sour clover" due to the lemony taste of oxalic acid in their stems and leaves. Probably everyone remembers chewing on an Oxalis plant as a child.

Dwarf Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis micrantha): The flowers of this diminutive South American species are only about 5 mm across (at widest point), much smaller than our native species O. californica in the local coastal sage scrub and chaparral.

California Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis californica), our native species in the chaparral and coastal sage scrub near Palomar College. This specimen was growing at the summit of Owens Peak.

  My First Oxalis Flower Image & First SLR Camera In 1964   
Oxalis Diagram For Plant Identification Lab (Botany 110)
Oxalis Photos For Plant Identification Lab (Botany 110)
My First Image Of Mechanical Seed Dispersal In Plants

Duckweeds (Subfamily Lemnoideae) In Abeja Pond NW Of Owens Peak

As of 21 Oct 2020 I have found 2 species of Lemna (duckweed) in Abejo Pond, L. minuta and L. turionifera. To my great astonishment I also found one Wolffia plant mixed with a large clump of duckweeds. It appears to be the Asian species W. globosa that I have found in Florida and occasionally in California (including San Diego County).

  Abeja Pond Northwest Of Owens Peak  

Two Native Species In Madder Family (= Coffee Family) On Owens Peak

Two native species of bedstraw (Galium) on Owens Peak. They belong to the madder family (Rubiaceae), the same family ias coffee (Coffea arabica). Left: Climbing bedstraw (G. nuttallii ssp. nuttallii), and Right: Narrow-leaf bedstraw (G. angustifolium ssp. angustifolium). Female flowers and fruits of latter species are covered with long hairs. It is quite possible that one or both of these interesting species occur in the coastal sage scrub east of the Palomar College campus bordering the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum.

There Are Many Additional Wildflowers on Owens Peak: Stay Tuned!

  List Of Native & Naturalized Plants In The Hills North Of Palomar College  
Native & Naturalized Plants In The Hills Northwest Of Palomar College