After 3 more weeks of growth (and more seeds germinating), mature leaves are starting to emerge on some of the annual Claytonia that have germinated from my collections around California in 2013. Cauline leaf morphology is often the most diagnostic character for these taxa, so it is REALLY cool for me to observe these plants through their stages of development!
These annual taxa are well known for hybridization and polyploidy, and it has been suggested that many species complexes are morphologically variable and phenotypically plastic due to these processes, but these plants exhibit quite a bit of ontogenetic variability in leaf morphology in addition to plasticity. Take the Claytonia perfoliata (left) and C. perfoliata X parviflora hybrids (right) below: they still have strap-shaped leaves for the first few whorls, then they will both transition to different versions of ‘spoon-shaped’ and ultimately different degrees of fusion of the cauline leaf pair!
This Claytonia rubra (below) will ultimately look very similar the C. perfoliata x parviflora hybrids (above) in leaf morphology, but in contrast it will have beet red coloration on the abaxial (bottom) surfaces of its leaves.
Being able to identify the various stages of development for any Claytonia collection is imperative for identification–many of these annual taxa can only be distinguished from one another when at flowering maturity, albeit using their leaves!
The Claytonia gypsophiloides seedlings (above) will retain a rather linear leaf morphology of the basal-most leaves through flowering, but as internodes elongate and cauline leaves become more spread apart they will show various degrees of fusion involving leaves of a more lanceolate shape. In addition, these plants will mature to be quite glaucus throughout.
And of course, one cannot forget the ‘ugly duckling’, Claytonia saxosa (below), which is just a bit different from the rest. It will grow to have more oblanceolate-shaped basal leaves with wider cauline leaves that fuse partly at the base. According to a recent survey, Claytonia saxosa is said to be the cutest of all Claytonia!
Still no sign of the tuberous perennials–I hope it gets cold enough for them to show up to the party!
- Is it Spring (Beauty) time already?! (claytonia.org)