San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department

San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department Adventures with the native and naturalized plants of southern California and the Baja California peninsula!
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Photos from San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department's post
09/16/2020

Photos from San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department's post

Observations of the Month: Matilija Poppies (Romneya) PapaveraceaeHairy Matilija Poppy (Romneya trichocalyx)https://www....
08/21/2020

Observations of the Month: Matilija Poppies (Romneya) Papaveraceae

Hairy Matilija Poppy (Romneya trichocalyx)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6573028 by johnmartin

Coulter’s Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/42735058 by finatic

The flowers of Matilija poppies are so spectacular that it is easy to overlook other defining characteristics of the two species, Hairy Matilija Poppy (Romneya trichocalyx) and Coulter’s Matilija Poppy (R. coulteri), both of which are found in San Diego County. If present, unopened flower buds are most helpful in separating the two species. The sepals of R. coulteri are without hairs, while the sepals of R. trichocalyx are hairy as seen in our observations of the month. Usually, the sepals of R. coulteri form a distinct beak at the top of the bud; R. trichocalyx has no beaking or only indistinct beaking. Unfortunately, the sepals fall off shortly after the flowers open. The peduncle (flower stem) of R. trichocalyx may be bristly at the top; the peduncle of R. coulteri has no hairs. The flowers, leaves, and fruits of R. trichocalyx may be smaller than the flowers, leaves, and fruits of R. coulteri, but there is much overlap, so measurements of these structures won’t hurt, but often they will not be helpful. Although the fruits appear distinctive, both species have similar hairy fruits. If seeds are present, R. coulteri will have bumpy, dark brown seeds, while the seeds of R. trichocalyx are smooth and usually lighter brown.
When R. coulteri was first described in 1845, it was the only species in the genus. In Asa Gray’s 1878 Synoptical Flora of North America, its distributional range was described as extending from Ventura County (home of Matilija Canyon) south to Baja California. In 1898, Alice Eastwood described Romneya coulteri var. trichocalyx which is currently a separate species (R. trichocalyx) on the Jepson eFlora, the Checklist of Vascular Plants of San Diego County (4th Ed.) and other authorities. The distributional range of naturally occurring R. coulteri is more limited than that of R. trichocalyx. Until widespread introduction of R. coulteri, both were found from north of San Diego County to just a short distance into San Diego County, but only R. trichocalyx was expected in the rest of San Diego County and in Baja California. Matilija poppies have been wildly popular with gardeners for many years. R. coulteri (or a cultivar, possibly a hybrid of the two species) has been planted in many places throughout San Diego County. Plants readily spread through their underground rhizomes.
All this makes it important when posting observations to iNaturalist that you include more than just a photo of the flower to identify which species of Matilija poppy you have observed. Ideally, your observation will include a closeup of an unopened bud. If the Matilija poppy you observed was planted (even if in a “natural area”), be sure to check the box for “Captive/Cultivated” to indicate it is not naturally occurring at that location.
The spectacular blooms of Matilija poppies prompted Mary Elizabeth Parsons to call R. coulteri “the queen of all our flowers” in her 1907 book The Wild Flowers of California. R. coulteri also has the distinction of having the largest flower of any native plant from California.

Photos from San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department's post
08/14/2020

Photos from San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department's post

Observation of the Month: Southern Mule’s Ears (Agnorhiza ovata) Asteraceaehttps://www.inaturalist.org/observations/4898...
07/17/2020
Southern Mule's Ears (Agnorhiza ovata)

Observation of the Month: Southern Mule’s Ears (Agnorhiza ovata) Asteraceae
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/48989713 by lagoondon

They all may have fuzzy leaves resembling the ears of America’s favorite pack animal, but the group of plants commonly known as “mule’s ears” belong to at least 3 different genera, with multiple species, only one of which is native to San Diego County. Southern Mule’s Ears (Agnorhiza ovata) is found in our upper foothills and mountains. They are conspicuous, but not common. The herbarium at the San Diego Natural History Museum holds only 53 voucher specimens of this species collected from our county. Observations from San Diego County of this species on iNaturalist which have been verified by Jon Rebman total only 46.

All too often observations of Southern Mule’s Ears are incorrectly identified as Woolly Mule’s Ears (Wyethia mollis) on iNaturalist. Unfortunately, when photos of Southern Mule’s Ears are uploaded to iNat, Wyethia mollis usually appears as the top suggestion given by iNat’s computer vision model. (Agnorhiza ovata did not appear in the list of suggested species at all when I tested the system with multiple photos of Southern Mule’s Ears probably because of the small number of observations of the plant.) Young leaves of both plants are typically fuzzy or woolly making it easy to be led astray by the “Woolly Mule’s Ears” common name of the top computer vision suggestion. The issue is compounded by the fact that Agnorhiza ovata is still listed under its synonym, Wyethia ovata, by several sources, including Jepson eFlora and Checklist of Vascular Plants of San Diego County, so that Wyethia mollis may “sound right” even though it is not.

Wyethia mollis is found in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains and farther north, not in Southern California. In addition to distributional range, the plants have other differences. The flower heads of A. ovata are smaller with fewer ray flowers compared to W. mollis. In general, the leaves of A. ovata are ovate and have a distinct petiole; W. mollis’s leaves are lanceolate and may not have a distinct petiole. Agnorhiza ovata lacks basal leaves, while W. mollis has more basal leaves than cauline (distributed along the stem) leaves. The outer phyllaries of A. ovata are leaf-like but those of W. mollis are narrow and barely, if at all, leaf-like.

Our local species of mule’s ears is assigned to a genus that was apparently given its name from the Greek agnostos (unknown) and rhiza (root), due to initial uncertainty about the plants’ roots. Despite its name, don’t be agnostic when you identify mule’s ears! Be confident that mule’s ears observed in San Diego County are Agnorhiza ovata.

southern mule's ears from San Diego County, CA, USA on June 08, 2020 at 11:13 AM by Don Rideout

Some local botanists just brought us in a specimen of this new plant record to San Diego County. Unfortunately, it is a ...
06/26/2020

Some local botanists just brought us in a specimen of this new plant record to San Diego County. Unfortunately, it is a non-native annual composite species named Pulicaria arabica ssp. arabica that we do not want to spread throughout our County or California. This species was found in vernal pool habitats in the Miramar/Kearney Mesa area. It is just now coming into flower and has not yet set fruits this year. If you see this plant in the field anywhere in our region, please let us know! You can post it on iNaturalist and tag jrebman or send an email to [email protected]. Thanks and please be on the look out for it!

Some local botanists just brought us in a specimen of this new plant record to San Diego County. Unfortunately, it is a non-native annual composite species named Pulicaria arabica ssp. arabica that we do not want to spread throughout our County or California. This species was found in vernal pool habitats in the Miramar/Kearney Mesa area. It is just now coming into flower and has not yet set fruits this year. If you see this plant in the field anywhere in our region, please let us know! You can post it on iNaturalist and tag jrebman or send an email to [email protected]. Thanks and please be on the look out for it!

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, in western San Diego County within the last week. ...
06/03/2020

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, in western San Diego County within the last week. Enjoy!

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, in western San Diego County within the last week. Enjoy!

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during the holiday weekend in the vicinity of Chih...
05/25/2020

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during the holiday weekend in the vicinity of Chihuahua Valley to the north of Warner Springs in northern San Diego County.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during the holiday weekend in the vicinity of Chihuahua Valley to the north of Warner Springs in northern San Diego County.

Another week and another plant photo album! Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during...
05/18/2020

Another week and another plant photo album! Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Another week and another plant photo album! Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork this last week.
05/07/2020

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork these last couple of we...
05/01/2020

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork these last couple of weeks.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, during botanical fieldwork these last couple of weeks.

Members of the genus Salvia have a specialized pollination system where the two parts of the anther containing the polle...
04/21/2020

Members of the genus Salvia have a specialized pollination system where the two parts of the anther containing the pollen are separated by an elongate stalk and create a lever mechanism that moves the stamens down onto the pollinator’s back when visiting the flower.
The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin salvere meaning “to feel well and healthy or heal” and refers to the healing properties for which many of its species are used. The genus is the largest in the mint family with almost 1000 species known (at least for right now).
Here are a few examples of Salvia from our region.

Members of the genus Salvia have a specialized pollination system where the two parts of the anther containing the pollen are separated by an elongate stalk and create a lever mechanism that moves the stamens down onto the pollinator’s back when visiting the flower.
The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin salvere meaning “to feel well and healthy or heal” and refers to the healing properties for which many of its species are used. The genus is the largest in the mint family with almost 1000 species known (at least for right now).
Here are a few examples of Salvia from our region.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman during botanical fieldwork this last week.
04/19/2020

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Here are some plant pics taken by J. Rebman during botanical fieldwork this last week.

Here are a few plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, this last weekend while doing botanical research ...
04/10/2020

Here are a few plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, this last weekend while doing botanical research over in Imperial County.
Thanks to a little mail merge help from Judy Gibson, we can now more easily put in the scientific names, plant families, and common names in the caption fields. Thank you Judy!

Here are a few plant pics taken by J. Rebman, SDNHM Curator of Botany, this last weekend while doing botanical research over in Imperial County.
Thanks to a little mail merge help from Judy Gibson, we can now more easily put in the scientific names, plant families, and common names in the caption fields. Thank you Judy!

The legume family, Fabaceae (= Leguminosae), was classically divided into 3 subfamiles (Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae (= P...
04/09/2020

The legume family, Fabaceae (= Leguminosae), was classically divided into 3 subfamiles (Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae (= Papilionoideae), and Mimosoideae) that were easy to recognize based on flower type in our region, but recent taxonomic data has shown that this family should be recognized with six subfamilies (Cercidoideae, Detarioideae, Dialioideae, Duparquetioideae, Papilionoideae, and a recircumscribed Caesalpinioideae that includes a lineage with the species that were previously recognized in the Mimosoideae). In respect to this new family classification, legumes in our region are categorized in three of these subfamilies (Cercidoideae, Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae). Here are some regional examples of these subfamilies.

The legume family, Fabaceae (= Leguminosae), was classically divided into 3 subfamiles (Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae (= Papilionoideae), and Mimosoideae) that were easy to recognize based on flower type in our region, but recent taxonomic data has shown that this family should be recognized with six subfamilies (Cercidoideae, Detarioideae, Dialioideae, Duparquetioideae, Papilionoideae, and a recircumscribed Caesalpinioideae that includes a lineage with the species that were previously recognized in the Mimosoideae). In respect to this new family classification, legumes in our region are categorized in three of these subfamilies (Cercidoideae, Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae). Here are some regional examples of these subfamilies.

Observations of the Month: Owl’s-Clover (Orobanchaceae)Purple Owl’s-Clover (Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta) https://w...
04/06/2020
Purple Owl's-Clover (Variety Castilleja exserta exserta)

Observations of the Month: Owl’s-Clover (Orobanchaceae)
Purple Owl’s-Clover (Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta)

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/40729470 by jrebman
Parish’s or Graceful Owl’s-Clover (Castilleja densiflora subsp. gracilis) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/39212245 by jrebman
In San Diego County, we have two kinds of Owl’s-Clover that are annuals with mostly pinkish-purple inflorescences: Purple Owl’s-Clover (Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta) and Parish’s or Graceful Owl’s-Clover (Castilleja densiflora subsp. gracilis). Both plants are widespread in our county, but Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta is more common and ranges farther inland than Castilleja densiflora subsp. gracilis. When you examine either of these plants, it can be difficult to figure out the parts of the flowers. Forget easily recognized structures like petals and sepals. Instead, you need to become conversant with lips and beaks.
The 5 petals of each of these two taxa are fused, forming corolla lips. One of the more obvious features of the plants are the shorter, pouch-like, 3-lobed lower corolla lips that are usually pinkish below and white with yellow and darker purplish markings at the top. In Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta this lip is rather subdued, but in Castilleja densiflora subsp. gracilis the lower corolla lip is widened and appears to bulge out . (Occasionally, you may find “albino” plants with the pinkish parts replaced with white, but usually those plants are mixed in with more typically colored ones.)
The beak is the fusion of the 2 upper petals and in both of these species is pinkish and projects above the lower corolla lip. In Castilleja exserta subsp. exserta the beak is “shaggy hairy” and is hooked at the end and the stigma appears to be perched below the hook. In Castilleja densiflora subsp. gracilis the beak is much less hairy, straight, and the stigma appears to be perched at the tip.
When you post an observation of one of these plants, be sure to include a close-up, side view photo of the beak and corolla lip as the first photo in the observation for ease of identification.

purple owl's-clover from San Diego County, US-CA, US on March 25, 2020 at 01:29 PM by jrebman

Here are a few plants that were out and flowering in southern San Diego County this last week. It is turning out to be a...
04/06/2020

Here are a few plants that were out and flowering in southern San Diego County this last week. It is turning out to be a really nice year out there for botany!

Here are a few plants that were out and flowering in southern San Diego County this last week. It is turning out to be a really nice year out there for botany!

Our Museum may be closed, but nature does not shut down! Here are a few pics of plants taken by our Curator of Botany in...
03/27/2020

Our Museum may be closed, but nature does not shut down! Here are a few pics of plants taken by our Curator of Botany in San Diego County this week.

Our Museum may be closed, but nature does not shut down! Here are a few pics of plants taken by our Curator of Botany in San Diego County this week.

Here are a few pics of the genus Justicia from San Diego County and the Baja California region. The genus name Justicia ...
03/23/2020

Here are a few pics of the genus Justicia from San Diego County and the Baja California region. The genus name Justicia honors James Justice (1698-1763) who was a Scottish botanist, author, and horticulturist. He was an extreme plant enthusiast who became so crazed about horticulture that he died bankrupt from spending all of his money on plants, greenhouses, and botanical experiments. I think that many of us can relate to that type of obsession, I mean passion for plants!

Here are a few pics of the genus Justicia from San Diego County and the Baja California region. The genus name Justicia honors James Justice (1698-1763) who was a Scottish botanist, author, and horticulturist. He was an extreme plant enthusiast who became so crazed about horticulture that he died bankrupt from spending all of his money on plants, greenhouses, and botanical experiments. I think that many of us can relate to that type of obsession, I mean passion for plants!

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Of course you want to know what wildflowers you found in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and surrounding area. We have a great website with high-resolution photos. https://borregowildflowers.com Use our iOS or Android app as off-line field guide. https://borregowildflowers.com This app is intended for the casual flower user and experienced botanist alike. Find plants by color, common name, scientific name or family name. The app includes keys, descriptions and many photo's of plant details.
Good work, Jon, John, and Jose! And thank you National Geographic, for your support of basic field work!