Plants of Southern California: Gilias of Lowermost Tahquitz Canyon, west of Palm Springs

This page gives the distinguishing characteristics, each illustrated with pictures, of three gilia species found in Tahquitz Canyon on 6 April 2011: G. angelensis, G. australis (=Saltugilia australis) and G. stellata.

These three species appear to be the only gilia species in the Palm Canyon / Tahquitz Canyon area, and in any case are the most commonly-vouchered species here by far. There are two other species vouchered from this area, each with a single voucher, but it is doubtful that these species exist here, or exist in any abundance here:

These three species found in lowermost Tahquitz Canyon are easily separated by their leaf and calyx characteristics, with G. stellata separated also by its flower color.

Table 1 gives the characteristics of each species, with each characteristic shown in photographs on a corresponding row in Fig. 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of G. angelensis, G. australis and G. stellata

CharacteristicG. angelensisG. australisG. stellata
Base of PlantUsually a single delicate stem from baseOften multiple stems from baseUsually a single robust stem from base
Leaflet Shapelong linear~linear, but not long linear, somewhat sickle-shapedshort and pudgy
Leaf hairstranslucent ~lineartranslucent ~linearbent opaque white
Pedicel glandslong-stalked, clear, gland width much less than stalk length, glands mostly sphericalshort-stalked, glands about same width as stalk length, mostly flat-toppedlong-stalked, clear to dark, gland width much less than stalk length, glands mostly spherical, some flat-topped
Calyx hairslong, translucent, non-glandularnone to sparse like pedicel glandsdensely glandular, glands clear to black
Flower colorlobes lavender to white;
throat yellow or yellow-spotted at base
lobes lavender to white;
throat yellow or yellow-spotted at base
lobes white to pink to pink-purple;
throat yellow, usually with purple spots near top

Pollen color is not a trustworthy distinction for most gilia species with blue or white pollen. Nearly every species with blue pollen also has variants with white pollen, just as many species with blue, purple or pink lobes have variants with white lobes, and many species with purple spots have variants without those spots.

Fig. 1 shows thumbnail pictures of each species. Click on any picture to get a larger version.

The pictures here were not taken with the idea of putting them online, and hence they were not optimized for this presentation. They were taken solely to identify these species as part of a survey of the plants here, since both the G. angelensis and G. australis plants here appeared significantly different from plants of the same species I've seen elsewhere.

All photographs in Fig. 1 are from Tahquitz Canyon on 8 April 2011 except for the leaf, leaf rosette, and full-on flower view of G. stellata, which are from Harper Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and so labeled. The leaves of the Tahquitz plant were too dried up for good picture for anything except the hairs, and the flowers were not open.

The color of the flowers for G. stellata may be more pinkish than the pink-purple flower shown from Harper Canyon, judging from the partially closed flower photographed at Tahquitz.

The single photograph showing a full-on flower view of G. australis shows a somewhat-unusual asymmetric flower. I would expect other flowers to be more symmetric.

No attempt has been made to present the photographs at the same scale.

Fig. 1. Photographs showing the characteristics of three Gilia species.

G. angelensisG. australisG. stellata
Base of Plant
(Photo from Harper Canyon)
Leaflet shape
(Photo from Harper Canyon)
Leaf hairs
Pedicel glands
Calyx hairs
(Photo from Harper Canyon)

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Copyright © 2011 by Tom Chester
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 8 April 2011