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Botany Photo of the Day
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Nemophila maculata

Nemophila maculata
Nemophila maculata

These photographs are from last year's April trip to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where vehicle troubles led to an unintentionally-long stay in the area. Still, outings were made to see some areas of special botanical interest, including the Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Day-hiking was out due to time restraints, so roadside botanizing was the order of the day. These five-spots were found northeast of the formally-protected area, in a grassy open site between the road and a fenced pasture.

The annual Nemophila maculata is relatively common in cultivation in North America and parts of Europe, often found in wildflower seed mixes. It was grown here at UBC last year in plantings surrounding the Food Garden, to give a bit of whimsy and ornament (and, idly hypothesized by us, to attract pollinators to the area to improve fruit set on nearby food plants).

The species is endemic to California, so many additional photographs are available via CalPhotos: Nemophila maculata.

14 Comments

I found that it is Boraginaceae family, subfamily Hydrophyllaceae.
I remember these flowers last summer.

Gosh, these are pretty!

The area where this was photographed is one of the best locations to see these. They are also often found along nearby highway 120.

I do not understand the meaning of "endemic" if it is grown in Europe and other parts of North America. I thought it meant it only grows in one particular locale, but I seem to be wrong. It is adorable and I wish it would grow in my garden in Seattle. Any chance?

A beautiful cirque botanic!!

Dori,
Endemic refers to where the plant occurs naturally, which is only in Califorina for this species, not other places where it has been brought into cultivation. It grows in places where the summer is very dry, so in Seattle, I would suspect it needs very good drainage to do well.

Nadia, we use Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classifications. A few years ago, it was uncertain whether these should be Boraginaceae or Hydrophyllaceae. It has seemingly been firmed up in the Hydrophyllaceae the last few years.

These should easily grow in summer-dry Seattle, given how successful ours were in the Garden.

These grow here in Little Rock from wildflower mixes. I've seen them in a few places. Our summers are more like Texas and Oklahoma than Alabama or Georgia in terms of rainfall.

I never saw this species in the wild - only it's much more common sibling, Nemophila menziesii.

That is absolutely charming. What a lovely flower.

It looks like seeds are available commercially. I just googled the name and found several sources...even one on Amazon...that sell the seeds. Oddly, some of the photos show flowers with dark, almost gentian violet-colored dots, not the bright magenta dots in the photo, here. I don't know if that's just an artifact of the photography lighting or variability of the plants.

A few of the sites referred to the plant by a local name - "Buffalo Eyes", which I thought was interesting.

I think I'll have to find a spot for this in my garden. It's irresistible. If it is a food source for pollinators, so much the better.

:-D

This is such a lovely summer flower and good infiller in any border. The color of the spots can differ somewhat.
Makes my heart sing to see it on a snowy winters day in Sweden

Any info on why colour is confined only to the tip of the petals? I understand that colour plays a role in attracting pollinators but have no idea about why they are used in certain ways in some flowers.

Karthik, I don't have a full answer for you. It seems reasonable to suggest that the pattern is attractive to some pollinators, but I don't know if anyone has tested it. Another genus with spots on the outer tips of its flowers in many of its species is Delphinium, though it is more evident when white-sepaled variants or UV light is used. Here's an example where you can see the spotting without UV/colour mutation (particularly on the lower sepals): Delphinium ceratophorum.

Daniel,

Thanks for the reply. A few years ago I saw a plant while I was travelling. The flowers were about a centimeter across, and had 5 petals (I think). Three of these had a single dark spot in their centre. I checked and found that the number (of petals with spots) never changed, at least in the flowers in that area. Haven't found out more about it yet.

Hello!! So I am growing some of these in my yard, and they have mutated to having 6 petals... Do you have any idea why this is happening?

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