With tight masses of brilliant color, phlox (from the Greek for “flame”) brightens the spring and summer landscape. Over 65 species of phlox inhabit North America, many of which are cultivated in gardens. Phlox flowers are usually pink, but blue, lilac and white specimens occur. In general, phlox plants are low, shrubby and cushionlike with extensive branching.
Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) is a common perennial throughout the high sagebrush plains of the Western United States. Found in exposed rocky sites, it forms showy mats or clumps with a woody base. The five pink petals are fused to form a trumpet shape with flaring lobes. The petals can be narrow or rounded with a dark area near the center that forms a ring. Neither the stamens nor style extend above the tube. The narrow, gray-green leaves are sharp at the tips and hairy. What a beautiful sight when phlox colonizes a rock outcrop covering it with pink tufts.
Some indigenous people used tisanes of phlox for upset stomachs and would apply phlox poultices externally to boils. But phlox is not used today for food or medicinal purposes.
Spreading phlox is common in our area – Modoc County CA. However, these pictures were taken near the Lower Campground at Ash Creek in Lassen County CA.