Brown Eyes

Brown eyes (Chylismia claviformis) gets some of its common names from the color of its hypanthium, which is red, maroon or brown. The hypanthium is the fusion of the corolla, calyx and stamens at their bases enclosing the ovary or joined to it. Other colloquial names for C claviformis include brown-eyed primrose and clavate fruited primrose.

A member of the Evening Primrose Family (Onagraceae), brown eyes is a native annual found below 5,000 feet in Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Its habitat is arid, sandy washes.

A variable species, brown eyes has eleven named subspecies, mostly regional. Formerly it was classified as Camissonia claviformis and before that, Oenothera claviformis. The current genus designation comes from the Greek “chylos” meaning juice. I do not know why. The species name is Latin for club-shaped and refers to the fruits.

Brown eyes leaves are grey-green to reddish and pinnately divided into irregularly shaped and toothed lobes. The largest lobes are at the apex. Most leaves are arranged in a basal rosette. Those higher up the stem are reduced in size. The stems of brown eyes are reddish.

The inflorescence is a nodding panicle. Each flower has four rounded petals that can be white to buff or pale yellow and wither to a deep pink color. There are four greenish, pointed sepals that often angle fully backward. The pistil is long with a bulbous stigma at the tip while the eight stamens are shorter than the pistil and have long, hairy anthers with white or yellow pollen. The brown eyes ovary is inferior.

Brown eyes fruits are capsules with a definite pedicel (stalk). The capsule is club-shaped with four chambers, each containing two rows of seeds.

Brown eyes flowers open late in the day and close by the mid-morning.

These brown eyes were photographed in Furnace Creek Wash (Death Valley National Park CA) in March.

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2 Responses to Brown Eyes

  1. Lin Erickson says:

    Chris, I am enjoying your posts from Death Valley‼️ The one time I was there it was 117 degrees…not exactly conducive to exploring vegetation, or anything for that matter🥴


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