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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Is it a cat, a tulip, a grass, or a lily?


I'm very grateful to Peter and Carolyn for taking the time to show me this beautiful wildflower today.  All of these pictures are from Bodega Bay on 19 April 2015.

This is Calochortus tolmiei.  It has several common names you might see it called Pussy Ears, Hairy Star Tulip, or Tolmie's Star Tulip.  

I'm guessing you can see how the extremely dense hairs on the petals led to a couple of those common names:


And if you view these flowers from the side, you'll see why "tulip" has sometimes been used in their common name even though they're not tulips!  (Calochortis and tulips are both in the Lily family.)


I was also intrigued by the scientific name.  "Calochortis" means "beautiful grass."  I just mentioned that this wildflower is a type of lily (not a grass).  I don't have great pictures of the leaves, but they are very simple, elongate leaves that are grass-like.  Still, it would be interesting to know the story behind the naming of this genus because it seems a little puzzling that these striking flowers are named after their leaves!

The species "tolmiei" is named after William Fraser Tolmie.  Wikipedia describes Tolmie as a surgeon, fur trader, scientist, and politician (read more here).  He was born in Inverness, Scotland, moved to Washington in 1833 and worked for the Hudson Bay Company there (and then in British Columbia) until 1871.  [MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei) is also named after him.]

I know that was a lot of wondering about the names of these petite white-and-purple lilies.  Here's one more picture to enjoy!

 

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