Needle Navarretia

Bach’s downingia, which I mentioned in my last post, is a resident of vernal pools and inhabits the depressions in our pastures that take longer to dry in the spring. Needle navarretia (Navarretia intertexta) also occurs in vernal pools and open wet areas, however, it seems in our pastures to prefer drying pools and depressions – a little less moisture than downingia.

Needle navarretia is a small plant, only a few inches in height, that is native to Western United States. In addition, pincushion plant, as navarretia is also commonly called, can be found in Iowa, Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusettes, Nebraska and the Dakotas. I wonder about this scattered distribution and assume, perhaps naively, that the occurrence of navarretia outside of the western states is due to human intervention.

The stems of needle navarretia are erect, brown and have short white hairs. At the tip of the stem is a head of flowers, the inflorescence. The flowers of this annual are small pale blue to white trumpets with five petals. The stamens stick out from the floral tube. The spiny leaves are divided into many needlelike lobes. When the plant is young and green the spines are rather soft. As the plant matures and dries out the spines do become very sharp. The common names are well deserved.

As far as I know, needle navarretia has no commercial, medicinal or culinary uses.

The genus name honors Father Ferdinand Mavarette, a Spanish physician. The Latin for “intertwined” forms the species name.

These needle navarretia were photographed in our pastures (Modoc County CA).

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