Boraginaceae – Borage Family
This rather large family is a made up of almost 150 genera, 3,000 species world-wide with 22 genera in North America alone.[i] Members of the Boraginaceae have round stems, are hairy (sometimes to the point of being rough), with simple, alternate leaves.[ii] Not unlike the shape of an emerging fiddle head or coiled scorpion tail, this family is known for distinctive terminal inflorescences of long unfurling cymes curled at the end.[iii] Flowers are small, with sets of five distinct sepals and five united petals.[iv] In our region, flowers display radial symmetry. Reproductive parts consist of five stamens connected to the corolla tube, alternating between petal lobes.[v] After maturity, the superior ovary ripens into four dry nutletles, although some genera produce less than four seeds.[vi]
Plagiobothrys figuratus var. figuratus – Fragrant Popcorn FlowerSpecies Code: PLFI
Habit: Low growing annual forb reaching 10 to 40 centimeters tall.
Stems: Several to many prostrate sprawling to ascending stems ranging from 1 to 4 dm (~4 to 15 in) long, with hairs (pubescence) pressed close to the main stem of the plant (appressed). Usually one main stem forks into a few smaller branches near the top leading to a curled inflorescence.[vii]
Leaves: All Plagiobothrys leaves are sessile, meaning that they are directly attached to stems. Towards the bottom of the plant along the main stem, leaves are long and narrow, arranged in opposite pairs. Whereas leaves of the forked upper branches are relatively smaller and arranged alternately.[viii] Leaves range from 6 to 15 cm long.[ix]
Flowers: Inflorescence is a long, coiled, and loosely flowered cymes shaped like a scorpion’s tail (a.k.a. scorpioid). Fragrant flowers have small, bright white corollas 5 to 10 mm in diameter with five petals fused at the base into a small, yellow tube.[x]
Fruits: Four ovate nutlets ranging from about 1.2 to 1.7 mm long.[xi]
Ecology: Facultative Wetland Species, tends to form a thick carpet at the edges of vernal pools or areas that are extremely wet during the winter, but dry in summer.[xii]
Notes: The bright white flowers of these short statured plants do not blossom all at once, but in succession along the unfurling scorpioid cymes. This plant is easily mistaken for Plagiobothrys scouleri (Scouler’s popcorn flower), which has much smaller white flowers with 1 – 4 mm wide blossoms.[xiii]
Plagiobothrys scouleri – Scouler’s Popcorn Flower
Myosotis laxa – Small Forget-Me-Not
Myosotis verna – White Forget-Me-Not
[i] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010. 389
[ii] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010.
[iii] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010. 391
[iv] Pojar, J., Mackinnon, A., Editors Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, Canada. 2004.
[v] Pojar, J., Mackinnon, A., Editors Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, Canada. 2004. 238
[vi] Elpel, T. J., Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. HOPS Press, 2004. 128
[vii] Guard, J. (1995). Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta. 121
[viii] Turner, M., and P. Gustafson. 2006. Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
[ix] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 343
[x] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 339
[xi] Guard, J. (1995). Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta. 121
[xii] USDA Plants Database: < https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PLFI>