Wildflower of the Week - a charming darling
With these lovely blossoms we bid Spring adieu.
Farewell-to-Spring or Summer’s Darling, Clarkia amoena
Commemorating William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, these lovely blossoms most often make their appearance when the green grass of spring turns brown, thus the common name Farewell-to-Spring or Summer’s Darling. The species epithet, amonena, means “charming.”
In total, this species ranges as far north as British Columbia and as far south as the San Francisco Bay area. There, the Miwok Indians of northern California historically collected the seeds of this Clarkia, which were first parched and then pulverized for food.
Oregon’s botanists recognize four subspecies of Clarkia amonena, all occurring in western portions of the states west of the Cascades. California also recognizes one additional subspecies. The differences between these subspecies are slight, and there is presumably hybridization wherever they come in contact with one another.
While Oregon has a total of seven separate Clarkia species, this particular Summer’s Darling is one of the loveliest, sometimes with a central red spot on each of its large petals. Like other Clarkias and many other members of the Evening Primrose Family, all Clarkias have 4 sepals, 4 petals, 8 stamens, and a 4-parted pistil – evidenced by the 4-lobed, terminal stigma. The base of the pistil, which matures by September as a seed capsule, is said to be “inferior” as it lies below, rather than above, the circular attachment of the sepals and petals.
In this flower, and a few other species of Clarkia, the sepals remain attached together, appearing like one large bract swept completely to one side, rather than symmetrically or evenly arranged as 4 green lobes below the colorful petals.