Castilleja exserta (A.A. Heller) Chuang & Heckard


=Orthocarpus purpurascens var. purpurascens


Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)  




Purple Owl's Clover         


Owl's Clover    

                                       May Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Annual, stems, erect, +/- slender, often corymbosely branched from base upward, 1-4 dm. high, +/- reddish, hirsute; lvs. 1-5 cm. long, deeply pinnatifid into several filiform thickened divisions; spikes dense, pale to deep purple; bracts 1-2 cm. long, palmately 5-7 lobed, typically with greenish hirsute base, greenish-purple in the middle and velvety and rose-purple at tips; corolla 1.2-3 cm. long, crimson or purplish, scarcely exserted, the lower lip mostly purplish often with white or yellow toward the tip and with purple dots; galea slender, +/- hooked at tip, bearded; caps. 10-15 mm. long, seeds in a loose alveolate coat.


Habitat:  Open fields, grassy slopes, etc.; below 3000 ft.; V. Grassland, Coastal Sage Scrub, etc.; n. L. Calif. to n. Calif.; Ariz.; Santa Rosa, S. Cruz, S. Catalina and San Miguel Ids.  March-May.


Name:  Greek, orthos, straight, and karpos, fr.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 816).  Latin, purpurascens, purplish.  (Jaeger 214).  Castilleja, named after D. Castilleja, a Spanish botanist.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 793).  Latin, excertus, protruding.  (Jaeger 99).


General:  Uncommon in the study area, found only on the Santa Ana Heights bluffs.  Much of the area where this species was found was destroyed in 1987 when new housing was built.  Found just easterly of the Delhi Ditch in April 1993.  (my comments).     Why this plant should be called Owl's Clover is not obvious.  One book suggests that the flower faces have an owlish look.  The Spanish Californians called them Escobitas "little whisk brooms" which is quite descriptive.  Like Indian Paint Brush, Owl's clover is partially parasitic.  (Dale 186).       Blackfoot Indian tribes used Orthocarpus lutens to dye animal skins red.  (Meyer 211).             Orthocarpus purpurascens var. purpurascens  was put in the genus Castilleja  in the 1993 Jepson Manual (my comment).        C. exserta is highly variable and hybridizes easily (Hickman , Ed. 1020).          Most evidence for plant evolutionary relationships has come from a comparison of DNA sequences of various genes, usually those found in the chloroplast of a plant cell. A single gene, or even three genes as used in the study on which this article is based is likely to have more information about the evolutionary relationships of plants than the anatomy and morphology on which traditional classifications are based.  The genus Castilleja is now included in the Orobanchaceae family.  (Olmstead, Richard G. “Whatever Happened to the Scrophulariaceae?” FREMONTIA, A Journal of the California Native Plant Society   Vol. 30, No. 2  April 2002  p. 13-22).         The above information is noted but no changes will be made in my study at this time.  (my comment).


Text Ref:  Dale 186; Hickman, Ed. 1020; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 817.  

Photo Ref:  May 3 83 #9,11; March 3 85 # 4,5.

Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by F. Roberts.

Computer Ref:  Plant Data 279.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 7/3/03.


                         March Photo                                                                     May Photo