Low spears of ruffled purplish leaves sprout from the dappled forest floor of an oak woodland. Small burgundy flowers peer from among the leaves, each shaped like a flattened hood. Three diminutive lip-like petals open upward on the lower edge of the hood, and a strange little proboscis dips downward–shaped like a single eye-stalk from a snail. This is Indian warrior, or Pedicularis densiflora, a common sight blooming in woods and chaparral from January through early spring.
Other cousins of this little flower also have strange appendages on their blossoms; most notable are two species of elephant’s heads that grow in the eastern part of the state–their flowers truly resemble the flared ears and swooping trunk of an elephant.