Tag Archives: San Francisco Bay

Plant of the day: common catchfly

Common catchfly

This plant is a weed, but I kinda like it. The whole plant is sticky (is that why it’s called catchfly?) and the small pinkish-white flowers are perched atop a vase-shaped calyx. The petals are fused together, with little toothlike projections sticking up like a fringe around the inner edge. There are distinctive stripes running perpendicularly along the calyx (which is all the sepals taken together). The whole thing is a nice bit of floral architecture – if you can forget that it’s an invasive that was introduced from Europe!

Also, Silene gallica is another member of the Caryophyllaceae (a.k.a pink, or carnation) family. So check for the swollen nodes where the opposite pairs of leafs join the stem that I talked about a few posts back!

You may wonder why I always talk about families – the reason is that whether you are keying or looking plants up in a guidebook, being able to confidently narrow your options down to one or two families makes the whole process a lot easier. It also helps train your eye and mind in the detailed way of looking at plants that is needed for good identification.

Silene Gallica

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Plant of the day: fairy lantern

This is one of the most beautiful flowers of the Bay Area. It’s aptly named, with its complex blossom looking like a delicately wrought lantern nodding on a slender stem. The three upper sepals curve upward like a pagoda roof, while the fringed petals below curl inwards as if to protect a flame. It’s not hard to imagine them as fixtures in a tiny magical kingdom. Keep your eye out for these little plants, and when you find one, look close!

The fairy lantern (Calochortus amabalis) is endemic to northern California, and is pretty much restricted to the coast range north of San Francisco bay. As such, Marin County is toward the southern-most end of the species’ range, and it is a rare sight here. These photos were taken in Sonoma county, where it is much more common.

Because all the parts are in threes, you can tell it is in the lily family, like the irises and blue-eyed grass.

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Filed under Native, Plant of the day