A collection of flora from the pacific wonderland.

Toothed Owl’s Clover (Orthocarpus cuspidatus)

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Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, OR, 7/2019.

At one point in the spectacular Hobart Bluff-Soda Mountain section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, we found the trailside covered in these pretty Owl’s clovers we had never seen before.  Similar to other flowers called Owl’s clover (such as the previously posted imbricatus), this is not a clover, but a member of the broomrape family, Orobanchaceae, and more closely related to Castilleja, or Paintbrush. Like Paintbrush, the actual flower (which here is white) emerges from between a tower of colorful (in our case pink-tipped) scale-like bracts.

Nobody seems to know exactly how this plant became associated with owls.  This from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas site:  “It may refer to the swollen, head-like ends of the erect corollas (flowers) that seem to peer from the bracts as owls peer from the leaves of a tree”.  Or this from Lilian L. Haskin’s Wild Flowers of the Pacific Coast (1934):  “…it is probable that the peculiar, two-lipped corolla is supposed to suggest the face of an owl.”  Hmm…

 

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