Common Phacelia

Phacelia distans

Overview

Overview 

Common phacelia (Phacelia distans) is an annual herb that blooms in the spring. It is also known by the common names blue phacelia and wild scorpionweed, since the clusters of flowers are composed of pale lavender to violet-blue individual flowers arranged in a coil that resembles a curled scorpion’s tail. 
 
Common phacelia is native to southwestern US and northern Mexico, and can be found in many plant communities. In San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve it is found in open or disturbed areas along the trails.
 
 
                             

Description

Description 2,4 23,59

Common phacelia is an annual herb with sprawling to erect reddish stems 6 to 30 inches (15 - 75 cm) long. The entire plant is coated with stiff hairs that are often glandular and sticky-tipped. Leaves alternate on the stem. They are usually 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) long, deeply divided, resembling the leaves of ferns.

Individual flowers of common phacelia are pale lavender to violet-blue with five round petals and stamens that extend slightly beyond the petals. Flowers are produced along a coiled stalk (a "scorpioid cyme”) with developing buds in the center of the coil. As the stalk unfurls, new flowers open at the base of the coil while seedpods develop along the older stalk, often giving the stalk the look of a caterpillar. Petals are deciduous.

Fruits are spherical, 5/64 to 1/8 in (2 – 3 mm) in diameter, on 3/64 to 1/8 in (1- 3 mm) stalks.

Common phacelia blooms from March to June.

 
        

 

 

 

 

Other Common Names: 
Blue phacelia, distant phacelia, wild scorpionweed, distant scorpionweed, wild heliotrope.

Distribution

Distribution  67,89

Common phacelia is native to southwestern US and northern Mexico,112 but it has also been found in other states, such as Nevada,2 Rhode Island, Massachusetts114 and Wisconsin.113

It can be distributed in many plant communities, including woodlands, coastal sage scrub and chaparral, grasslands, meadows,7 and deserts.110, 115

In The Reserve, it is found in open areas or among exotic grasses along the south side of the Central and East Basins.

             

This plant occurs primarily in the following vegetation types in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve: 
Chaparral
Coastal sage scrub

Classification

Classification 

Common phacelia is a dicot angiosperm in the Borage family (Boraginaceae).2 It was previously placed in the Waterleaf family (the Hydrophyllaceae), but these two families were merged when genetic information suggested that some members of each family are descendants of a common ancestor.106 
 
Perhaps the best known members of this family are the ornamental forget-me-not, and borage, an annual herb native to Central and Eastern Europe that is used in soups and salads.41
 
The family Boraginaceae contains approximately 120 genera and 2,300 species. Plants in this family are coated by small, stiff hairs, and have flowers that are often located along a coiled stalk.2
 
Other plants in the borage family that are found in the Reserve include fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum), coast fiddle neck (Amsinkia menziesii) and popcorn flower (Cryptantha spp. ).48
 
The genus Phacelia contains approximately 210 annual and perennial species mostly with blue to purple flowers with stamens that project beyond the corolla.2 Three other species of Phacelia have been reported from the Reserve (P. grandiflora, P. cicutaria ssp. hispida and P. ramosissima).48
 
              
Alternate scientific name(s): 
Phacelia cinerea, Phacelia leptostachya.

Ecology

 Ecology

Common phacelia attracts native bees, honey bees and butterfly adults. Therefore, it has been considered for enhancing pollinator habitat.109

 

         

Human Uses

Human Uses

The Kawaiisu, a Native American group from southeastern California, gathered and steamed the leaves and stems of common and branching phacelia (Phacelia distans, and P. ramosissima, respectively) during the spring, and they ate them as greens.75
 
Other species of phacelia were also used as vegetables by other Native American tribes. The Cherokee ate the leaves of P. dubia, and the Navajo and Kayenta, the leaves of P. heterophylla.107

           

              

Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts

The name Phacelia comes from the Greek word “phakelos”, which means bundle, referring to the clusters of flowers typical of the species of this genus.21
 
               

 

Photos

Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014
May 2009; photo courtesy of Barbara Wallace
Rios trailhead; March 2008
Santa Carina; April 2010
Santa Carina; April 2010
May 2009; photo courtesy of Barbara Wallace
May 2009; photo courtesy of Barbara Wallace
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
Rios trailhead; April, 2010
Santa Carina; April 2010
Santa Carina; April 2010
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); April 2014; photo courtesy of Lea Corkidi
April 2008; photo courtesy of Denise Stillinger
April 2007; photo courtesy of Denise Stillinger