Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) blooming in the foothills outside Yosemite

Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

Aliases:  Woodland Clarkia, Elegant Fairyfan, Mountain Garland

Family:  Evening Primrose (Onagraceae)

Elegant Clarkia is a foothill flower easily recognized by its slim-waisted, paddle-like petals and long, undulating stamens. The flowers each have eight long stamens (the male bits), four apiece of two different styles, and an even longer pistil (the female bit) with a pinkish-white tip. (The pistil is hidden behind two stamens in this photo and only partially visible.)

If you're anywhere in Yosemite other than the Hetch Hetchy area and you spot a flower you think is Elegant Clarkia, look more closely, and you'll probably notice that the petals have wider waists and, in many cases, dark speckles; if so, you've found Clarkia rhomboidea instead. Clarkia unguiculata is generally found only at elevations below 4,000 feet.

Blooms:  May - July

Lifespan:  Annual

Origins:  Endemic to California (see distribution map)

Clarkia unguiculata etymology:  Clarkia is named for William Clark (1770 - 1838) of the Lewis & Clark expedition. Unguiculata derives from the Latin word unguiculus, meaning fingernail or toenail. When used in botany, it means that some part of the plant, generally the petals, has a claw-shaped base. I suppose you can make that claim for Elegant Clarkia, but if I'd been in charge, it would be called Clarkia propellerii.

This photo:  Near the Fresno River north of Oakhurst, late June

Other Resources:   CalFlora  ·  CalPhotos  ·  USDA  ·  wildflower.org

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