Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Owl-clover in Broad Daylight

Clump of owl-clover
Owl-clover clump
in mid-summer bloom
Pink and yellow thin-leaved owl-clover (Orthocarpus tenuifolius) is blooming in our sunny grassland areas. Owl-clover looks like a feminine version of the more common red paintbrush (Castilleja spp.). Both of these natives belong to the figwort family, but the main difference (besides color) is that owl-clover is annual while paintbrush is perennial. Both are semi-parasitic, growing their roots around those of other plants to obtain nutrients. But they also grow green leaves to convert sunlight into carbohydrates, so they aren't considered true parasites. Besides, "parasite" carries a harsh connotation that's hard to square with something so delicate looking.
Owl-clover (c) John Ahsley
Close-up of Owl-clover sepals (c) John Ashley