Monthly Archives: July 2013

Plant of the day: tinker’s penny

Hypericum_anagalloidesI was surprised to learn that this tiny, unassuming flower is a Hypericum–which is typically a showy and large-flowered genus. And though it has a lot of stamens (15-25 per flower) compared to most flowers,  they still are comparatively sparse–some species have up to 120. Tinker’s penny (Hypericum anagalloides, or creeping St. John’s Wort) is common in wet meadows and marshes. I generally have spotted it in the gaps between clumps of rushes.

Superficially this plant reminds me of the non-native scarlet pimpernel, and the two names are similar: Anagallis arvensis and Hypericum anagalloides. I don’t know much (ok, any) Latin but I wonder if anyone out there has an idea as to why?

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Plant of the day: Sierra bog orchid

A spike of white flowers rises from the coastal grassland like a pale torch, attended by narrow green leaves. The lower lip of each small, fleshy bloom tapers into a protruding, tonguelike point.

This is Sierra bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata), which can be found from the Point Reyes Peninsula to 11,000 feet up in the Sierra. True to its name, it’s generally found in wetlands. You can distinguish it from other white orchids because it does have leaves that grow up its green stem, as well as the spurred lower lip petal. Sierra bog orchid isn’t rare in the state, but it is fairly uncommon in Marin; look for it on Point Reyes and in Potrero Meadows.

The genus Platanthera is one of the largest orchid genera in North America, with a total of 33 different species.

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Plant of the day: coast lily


A flare of orange rises above a marshy thicket. This is coast lily (Lilium maritimum), a secretive yet spectacular flower. Large orange flowers are spotted with dark brown, and each petal curves dramatically backward to the stem. Each plant can grow up to 8 feet tall, and have up to 13 flowers. Look for this Northern California endemic in wet, coastal areas.  In Marin, it is only found in a handful of places on the Point Reyes Peninsula. It’s a perennial, sprouting from a bulb-like rhizome, so once you find one you can go back and visit it each year.

Coast lily can potentially be confused with the more common tiger lily (which it hybridizes with) but you can easily tell the two apart because the first has short stamens tucked well inside the flower, while the second has long stamens that dangle prominently below the bloom.


Coast lily in the coastal scrub


Detail of recessed stamens

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