Fiesta Flower

Pholistoma auritum

Overview

Overview

Fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum) is a sprawling, branching annual vine that blooms in the spring. The long weak stems grow up through surrounding plants, covering the less exuberant shrubs with tangles of cheerful purple flowers.

The stems and leaves of fiesta flower are covered with hairs that are bent backwards, allowing the plant to cling and climb. It is said that Spanish señoritas decorated their party skirts and blouses with sprigs of fiesta flowers, which stuck tightly to the fabric. This gives rise to the flower’s common name.

 

                         

Description

Description  1,3,4,11,23,59

Fiesta flower is a trailing, weak-stemmed annual that uses woody shrubs for support. Stems are square and up to about 5 feet (1.5 m) in length. Stems and leaves are provided with small, stiff, downward-directed prickles that give the plant a grabby, sticky feeling.

Leaves are pinnately divided into 5-9 lobes; lobe margins are smooth. Individual lobes often point toward the base of the leaf. The leaf petioles have broad leafy flaps that wrap around the plant stem.

The showy flowers occur in loose clusters, opening one-at-a-time at the top of a coiled stem that gradually unfurls. Flowes are bisexual and radially symmetrical, broadly cup shaped, usually less than 1 inch (25 mm) wide. Petals are purple to lavender (rarely blue), paler near the base. In the throat of the flower five small purple scales surround the base of the stamens, closing the throat and giving the flower a dark eye. Stamens have violet filaments and dark purple anthers which protrude from the flower cup and split longitudinally to release pollen. Sepals have small. leafy appendages that curl outward in the gaps between the unfused sepal tips.

There are one to four seeds in  two-chambered, subspheroid capsules. Sepals enclose the developing capsule. With the curling appendages, the structure looks a bit like a green lantern.

 

               

Other Common Names: 
Blue Fiestaflower

Distribution

Distribution 7,11,59

Fiesta flower is a California native that is restricted to the western United States. In California it occurs primarily south of San Francisco and below 6000 feet (1800 m). It is found in chaparral, sage scrub and oak woodlands, especially in damper areas, such as canyons and north-facing slopes.

Fiesta flower occurs sporadically in the Reserve; the best display is found along the south side of Central Basin, between the Rios trailhead and the Gemma Parks loop trail.

      

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

Classification

Classification 2,59

Fiesta flower is a dicot angiosperm in the borage family (Boraginaceae).2 Plants in this family often have flowers produced along a coiled stalk (a "scorpiod cyme"). As the stalk unfurls, new flowers open just below the coil while seedpods develop along the older stalk. Plants often have small, stiff hairs. Perhaps the best known members of the Boraginaceae are borage, which is an annual herb native to Central and Eastern Europe and used in soups and salads, and the garden forget-me-not.41Other plants in the borage family that are found in the Reserve include  common phacelia (Phacelia distans), coast fiddle neck (Amsinkia intermedia) and popcorn flower (Cryptantha spp. and Platybothrys collinus).48

Plants in the borage family are coated by small, stiff hairs, and have flowers that are often located along a coiled stalk. Species of Pholistoma were previously placed in the waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae), based on similar morphological characteristics. Subsequently, the availability of molecular data led to several reinterpretations of these plants including the merging of the waterleaf family into the borage family. This is the system currently used by Jepson,2 the authority for this Plant Guide. In 2016, the Boraginales Working Group reevaluated the borage complex and recommended a separate waterleaf family.422 Many botanists have accepted this revision and Pholistoma is found listed in the Hydrophyllaceae in both oldest and most recent literature. Research into the relationships between the two families is continuing and the systematics may still be evolving.

The genus Pholistoma is a small genus with just three species. All three occur in the Reserve; the other two (San Diego fiesta flower, P. racemosum and white fiesta flower, P. membranaceum) have small white flowers. Two varieties of blue fiesta flower are recognized. Ours is P. auritum var. auritum. A second variety (var. arizonicum) is not found in the Reserve and is classified by the California Native Plant Society as rare in California but possibly common elsewhere (2B.3).45

 

                

Ecology

Ecology

The small, stiff, downward-directed prickles that cover stems and leaves help fiesta flower cling to and scramble through the  surrounding vegetation.59

Fiesta flower is reported to be more abundant after a fire.23

 

                  

Human Uses

Human Uses

Sources attribute the common name to the story that young Spanish señoritas decorated their party gowns with sprays of fiesta flowers, which, because of their peculiar spiny hairs, adhere tightly to fabric.23,35

 

                            

Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts

The scientific name, Pholistoma auritum, loosely translates as "scaly mouth with ears".21 Pholis is Greek for scale, and stoma for mouth. Together they refer to the dark purple scales that close the throat of the flower; auritum is Latin for eared, a reference to the wing-like ears at the base of the leaf.

 

               

Photos

April 2008; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
April 2010; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead)
April 2010; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead)
April 2010; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead)
April 2010; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
April 2010; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); note the downward-directed spines that facilitate climbing;
April 2010; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead)
March 2011; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2011; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2014; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead)
March 2015; Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); courtesy of Prof. David Checkley
April 2008; photo courtesy of Denise Stillinger
April 2008; photo courtesy of Denise Stillinger