Friday, April 9, 2010

Peirson's Brown-Eyed Primrose

Peirson's brown-eyed primrose or brown-eyed primrose is one of many different types of primrose, some also known as suncups.
Determining that this flower and plant was a Peirson's brown-eyed primrose has been an interesting process. During the last few weeks as I have been doing plant posts, I have been developing a collection of bookmarks to websites devoted to plants and wildflowers, and particularly those of the Sonoran Desert that I have been focusing on. I am gradually gaining a better feel about how to go about identifying flowers. I found these flowers in Sonora, Mexico, in and just outside El Pinacate Gran Desierto. Using the Sonoran Desert Plants website, put up by the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association, I used the plant identification link. The flower color is yellow and it has four petals.
Inserting those facts in, I was provided 11 potential matching plants. Two matches appeared promising: sand evening primrose (camissonia arenaria) for which there was no picture and California suncup or mustard evening primrose (camissonia californica). I rejected the Peirson's brown-eyed primrose, which was listed, because the poor picture did not look like the ones I'd found and it was listed as "rare." The mustard evening primrose seemed particularly promising because the flower looked very similar: it had four petals, was yellow and had markings in the center, although the markings were splotches of red rather than dark brown. However, the flower did look a little different and the plant itself did not look similar at all.  After determining that the primrose family was what I was looking for, because they had the right number of petals, stamens and looked similar, I started researching using primarily the scientific name. Ruling out the two I'd picked from the website, I started to focus on some types of primrose for which I couldn't find pictures. I ultimately decided that the Peirson's brown-eyed primrose was the likely candidate, because of the brown spot in the center of the flower, forgetting that that flower was listed on the plant identification website I'd looked at initially, but had ruled it out. Eventually I finally found some pictures, but they were all of white flowered specimens. Finally, on the Calflora website, I found some photos of the yellow version under camissonia claviformis ssp. peirsonii. The brown-eyed primrose is an annual which grows from a rosette of long oval leaves.
At the top of the stem, or inflorescence, is one to many blooms, with four white or yellow petals. The pistil may be quite long and it has a bulbous stigma at the tip.
The stamens are shorter and have long hairy anthers. It has a bright red to maroon or brown spot in the center of the flower.  One place we found it, it was mixed in with Arizona evening primrose and desert sand verbena.
The other place we found it it was mixed in with desert sand verbena.

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