Small White Flowers

I have a charming aunt who was an English War Bride. Her name for ANY small, brown bird is “dickie bird”. Why get frustrated attempting to distinguish those difficult to identify birds? They are all simply dickie birds.

Many people have the same attitude about all those tiny, white wildflowers that blossom in the early spring. Usually measuring millimeters or barely a centimeter across and often not more than a few inches above the ground, these little gems are easy to overlook or ignore in favor of their larger, more colorful and showy neighbors. They become generic “small white flowers”. Yet once you get down on the ground to their level, “small white flowers” are as spectacular as any wildflower. It is simply a matter of scale.

Small-flowered nemophila (Nemophila parviflora) is a member of the waterleaf family. The small white flowers of this hairy annual arise from the leaf axis on a stem that becomes prostrate as it grows up to two feet in length. Five overlapping petals, five stamens and one superior ovary form the blossom. The pinnate leaves of small-flowered nemophila are opposite low on the stem and become alternate toward the stem top. The leaves’ five lobes have a distinctive shape.

A native, small-flowered nemophila is found in forested areas and on shady slopes throughout the western states and British Columbia. The genus name, Nemophila, derives from the Greek “nemos” meaning grove and “philos” meaning lover because it does prefer shady groves of trees.

The “small white flowers” also get ignored because very few of them have any culinary or medicinal applications.

These small-flowered nemophila were growing in a mixed forest next to the Lower Pit River below Lake Britten (Shasta County CA).

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