In late spring, look for the pink wildflower, Clarkia, in the foothills and meadows of California. Over forty varieties of Clarkia adorn the western states from late May to September, thirty in California alone. Many have pink cup-like faces with inner markings of purple; others have petals like shredded red silk ribbons. Romantic names like 'Farewell to Spring,' 'Wine Cups,' 'Scarlet Ribbons,' 'Godetia,' 'Elegant Clarkia,' represent some of the many cultivars of Clarkia, a member of the evening primrose family.
Clarkia have four sepals and four petals united at the base of the flower tube. There are 4 to 8 stamens and the leaves are slender and lanceolate, 1 to 3 inches long. San Francisco even has its very own Clarkia franciscana growing in the Presidio on serpentine soil. Its rosy petals are widely separated but still united at the base.
The San Andreas fault and the subsequent shifting of tectonic plates, one over another, created serpentine rock. Recognizable by its greenish color, serpentine soil is beneficial to native plants which after eons of time have adjusted to its lack of vital elements like calcium and its excesses of magnesium and iron. Some of the finest displays of wildflowers in California are found on serpentine soil. It is the state's official rock though it is found in only 1% of the state.
||Need light, sandy soil; full sun to partial shade
||Pink/Purple flowers appear in late spring and summer
||Annual planting bed or area when you want color in early to mid-summer
||Named after Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition
Clarkia is in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae), which include Fuchsia and Epilobium
Clarkia can be found in the California Native Garden.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor
Text by Docent Kathy McNeil
Profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler