Hooker’s Fairybell

There is another member of the Prosartes genus, Hooker’s fairybell (Prosasrtes hookeri), that upon first glance looks, to my untrained eye, exactly like Smith’s fairybell, which I discussed in my previous post (Smith’s Fairybell on 05-21-18). Both plants grow in moist shady forests, have horizontal stems arising from rhizomes and have identical-looking clasping leaves arranged parallel to the ground. The white to greenish bell-shaped flowers at the tips of the stems are hidden under the leaves. The fruits are dark yellow to red berries. Smith’s fairybell and Hooker’s fairybell look nearly the same when casually glancing at the plants.

Hooker’s or Smith’s?

To tell the difference I must turn the tip of the stem over and look at the flowers. The six white tepals (structures not definitively a sepal or a petal) of Smith’s fairybell are not spread and competely cover the anthers and stigma, while the Hooker’s fairybell tepals are spread slightly and reveal the anthers and stigma.

Another difference between the two fairybells: The stigma of Hooker’s fairybell is straight and not split at the tip, while the Smith’s fairybell stigma has three lobes.(I pulled the anthers of the one Hooker’s fairybell flower off to expose the straight stigma. The petals already were off the second flower.)

Hooker’s fairybell is a perennial native found in Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana. There is also a population in Michigan.

Another common name for  Hooker’s fairybell is drops of gold. Like Smith’s fairybell, Hooker’s was classified in various genera over the years. In the recent literature Hooker’s fairybell is often seen as Disporum. The species name honors Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785 – 1865), a British botanist, professor and a director of the Kew Gardens.

These Hooker’s fairybell specimens were photographed along the Hiouchi Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (Del Norte County CA).


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