Jupiter’s Beard

Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber) is native to Southern Europe and North Africa. Planted as an ornamental it has naturalized and grows wild in Europe, the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii.

A perennial, Jupiter’s beard is bushy, well-branched, woody based and clump forming, often taking the form of a shrub or sub-shrub.

The grey-green, opposite leaves of this Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae) member are fleshy and oval to lanceolate in shape. The lower leaves have petioles while the upper are sessile (not stalked).

The Jupiter’s beard inflorescence is a cyme – branched in which the uppermost flowers mature before the lower flowers. The individual flowers are crimson, pink or white and are formed by five fused petals and a spur.

The seed heads have dandelion-like tufts and are widely spread by the wind. Jupiter’s beard can become invasive.

Jupiter’s beard does well in poor, infertile soils, preferring full sun.

Centranthus ruber is also commonly called red valerian or spur valerian, among other names.The genus designation comes from the Greek and refers to the spurred flowers – “kentron/spur” and “anthos/flower”. The specific epithet means red in Latin.

In May these specimens were photographed either along California Highway 299W near Helena (Trinity County CA) or along the Hiouchi Trail next to the Smith River in Redwoods State National Park (Del Norte County CA).

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