Onagraceae (Evening Primrose Family)
Onagraceae are mostly herbaceous (lacking a woody stem) although some imported South and Central American Fushias become woody. The flower typically has 4 sepals, 4 petals and 8 stamens attached to a portion of the calyx; slightly below this point, the fruit forming section of the pistil unites with the calyx. Some exceptions, of course, exist.
Onagraceae can be aquatic, grow in mud, sand, rocks or grassy plains. Family members include Evening Primrose, Fushia, Suncups, Willowherb, and Clarkia - on Montara Mountain, Onagraceae representatives include the Coast Sun Cup (Camissonia ovata) and Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia rubicunda).
Coast Sun Cup
Flowers: Bright yellow, cuplike, with light yellow centers, four petals; nestled in circle of bright green leaves.
Blooms: March - June.
Leaves: Bright green in prostrate ring.
Location: Open fields, Grassy Trails, Gray Whale Cove Trail.
Status: Native - Common.
Further description & Comment: 2 inches tall; note petal base leave-like sepals when flower fully opened.
Sun Cups are at their most impressive when, in early spring, they join with Ranunculus californicus (California Buttercup) and Sanicula arctopoides (Footsteps-of-Spring) to create bright yellow displays in the midst of green fields of new grass.
Flowers: Rose-pink to lavender with distinct red center basal zone, four ruffled petals separate but held in a bowl shape. One to two inches across.
Blooms: June - July.
Leaves: Narrow, along stem and tinged with red.
Location: Bluff trails - Gray Whale Cove Trail in McNee Ranch State Park is the best.
Status: Native - Common.
Further description & Comment: Low and spreading plant, up to one foot tall. Flower buds erect.
Watch for a big bloom of Clarkia in the early summer along the bluffs and rocks at Devil's Slide. One year, the entire north face of Devil's Slide Promontory turned scarlet. We first assumed it to be iceplant, until binoculars revealed it to be thousands of blooming Clarkia rubicunda.
Clarkia in general tend to be late bloomers, often persisting into the summer. Sometime these flowers hang around so long into the summer people start calling it "Hello-to-Autumn".
More Common Name confusion: this plant's close relative, Clarkia amoena, is often referred to as "Herald-of-Summer", and some books refer to this flower as "Ruby Chalice Clarkia".
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