Years ago I came across a book of small or “pygmy” wildflowers, those tiny plants we tend to overlook in favor of larger or more showy plants. Because of their size, these little flowers are often ignored, both in general identification guides and by casual observers. However, these miniatures are just as beautiful as their larger relatives. At the time I did not purchase the book of little flowers and have rued that decision ever since, as I have never again been able to find that specialized gem.
Bolander’s linanthus (Leptosiphon bolanderi) is a tiny annual native found from Central California to Washington. A member of the phlox family, Bolander’s linanthus was previously classified as Linanthus bakeri with a common name of Baker’s linanthus.
Growing from two to eight inches in height, The thin stems tend to branch in pairs and have oppositely arranged leaves that are divided into needle-like lobes. The single flowers at the terminal end of the stems are pink or whitish and have five petals. The funnel-shaped flower tube at the end of a long pedicel (stalk) is hidden by glandular sepals. The throat is tinted yellow inside.
The genus name for Bolander’s linanthus comes from the Greek and means “slender tube” because members of this genus often have long flower tubes. Henry Nicholas Bolander (1831-1897) was the California State Botanist in 1864 and is honored by both the species and common names.
These Bolander’s linanthus plants were growing near Crystal Lake (Shasta County CA).
Now if I could only remember the name of the book on tiny flowers or find it again.