Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Globe Gilia

Gilia capitata

Globe Gilia: photo by Cliff Hutson
Globe Gilia: photo by Cliff Hutson

Gilia capitata, a member of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae) is an annual herb that is native to California that is also found outside of California, but confined to western North America. Common names for it are Blue Field, Blue-headed, and Globe Gilia.

Globe gilia is an annual which can bloom from April to July with 25 to 100 small blue five-lobe flowers per round head. The stamens protrude slightly from the flower's mouth and can be white with white, blue, or pink anthers. Its leaves are finely dissected in to small linear lobes on stems - sometimes having glandular hairs - which can grow to a height of anywhere from 10 to 90 centimeters. Couple that variability with the fact that there are eight subspecies with differences in the degree of hairiness and the size and shape of the individual flowers, and you have the makings for some interesting discussions out in the field.

That field would most commonly be in a sandy or rocky area below 7,000 feet throughout most of the state. And, here again, the variability crops up as this could be in any of the Mixed Evergreen Forest, Douglas-Fir Forest, Yellow Pine Forest, Northern Coastal Scrub, Coastal Prairie, Red Fir Forest, Foothill Woodland, Coastal Strand, Coastal Sage Scrub, or Chaparral communities.

The binomial name is also open to discussion.  Capitata simply refers to the way the flowers form in a head-like cluster. But, Gilia is after Filippo Luigi Gilii (1756-1821) an Italian naturalist.  Thus, some say, its pronunciation should follow the Italian rule which makes a 'g' before 'i' soft. Also in Italian the 'i' is pronounced as 'ee,' so in order to preserve the pronunciation of the original name, Gilia should properly be said as 'JEE-lee-uh." But, it seems the Spanish pronunciation is more commonly heard.

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