Gilia latiflora subsp. davyi

Note: this entry was rewritten on Sept. 23, 2008 due to a misidentification. Thanks to David (see comments below) for the correct ID.

Broad-flowered or hollyleaf gilia is an annual plant. A California endemic, it is found in the southern portion of the state in the southwestern Mojave Desert and adjacent foothills. These photographs were taken while I was developing the worst sunburn of my life in late March. This was thanks in part to the cool winds that gust through the Antelope Valley from the nearby mountains in spring, which deceived me into believing I wasn’t being slowly roasted by the sun.

The closely-related species (and the name of my original, incorrect identification) Gilia tricolor is a popular annual ornamental, if search engine results are any indication. For a comparison between the correct identification and my original misidentification, Calphotos provides an extensive set of photographs of both Gilia latiflora subsp. davyi and Gilia tricolor.

As for the insect in today’s photograph, I believe it is Hyles lineata (source: Butterflies and Moths of North America Database), or the white-lined sphinx. Wikipedia has some photographs of the larvae (caterpillars), as does this site. While many moths are nocturnal, it is noted that the white-lined sphinx will often be active during the day (and this one was plenty active!). I think I’ve linked to it before, but if you haven’t seen the US Forest Service’s site on Celebrating Wildflowers, it is worth investigating. They even have a section on moth pollination.

Gilia tricolor
Gilia tricolor
Gilia tricolor

18 responses to “Gilia latiflora subsp. davyi”

  1. Meg Bernstein

    Amazing photos, thank you, thank you.!

  2. Annie Gladden

    What lens did you use for these photographs?

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Lens? A Canon 70-200 USM f/2.8 (non-IS version) mounted on a ballhead.

  4. Rob B

    I do not think I have ever seen a shot of a moth feeding on a flower before. Amazing that it is part of the BOPD.

  5. Debby

    Fab fotos, Daniel!

  6. Eric Simpson

    Wow! Great shot, especially the moth.
    I’ve had great success (in coastal San Diego County) growing both of the identifiable flowers in these pics, the Gilia and Poppies, in spite of considerably higher organic content than in the soil seen here. I also frequently have white-lined sphinx moths in my yard, though I’ve never seen them in full daylight. I guessing it’s because they are mostly interested in my Oenothera elata (an evening primrose), which doesn’t start opening until early dusk. The larvae also feed on the primrose, and can get alarmingly large ;-).

  7. Toni Alexander

    The sphinx moth is also a staple of the Swainsen’s hawk that migrates thru the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park annually. The Hawks have been observed catching and feeding on the moths while continuing to fly. Quite a site!! I have seen acres of flowers completely eaten out by the larvae in less than 3 days.

  8. Old Ari

    Watch out for that sunburn. It can lead to Actinic Sclerosis, and even Melanoma,

  9. john murtaugh

    What great photos and a most interesting series you started yesterday.
    I had never thought of flies and mosquitoes as important pollinators.
    I spent a part of this morning trying to take pictures of pollinators,mostly butterflies and bees, in a beautiful wild flower field at the base of Toronto’s outer harbour.
    I will have to go back tomorrow, if it isn’t rainng again, and see if any flies are in action.

  10. David

    Given the location of the plants (desert vs. Central Valley)and shape of the cauline leaves you more likely have Gilia latiflora here.

  11. Knox

    Excellent pictures. Congratulations. Watch out for sunburn especially in the future as that can stimulate long-lasting problems. We do not want your health to be jeapardized. You are too valuable an asset to UBC and to all us readers you constantly enlighten.

  12. Lilly

    Wonderful pictures! We went camping at Anza Borrego and we saw thousands of caterpillars of this moth. It is so interesting to see the adult so beautifully feeding on this flower. I had never seen so many fat plump caterpillars running around in one place in my life. I wondered what the heck they could eat in the desert. I wonder if the hawks also eat the caterpillars. Thank you for these great botany pictures!

  13. J

    Stunning photos! Thanks, Daniel!

  14. claudia

    What a phenomenal photo!!

  15. Barbara Lamb

    An extroordinary photo and a wonderful idea for a series!

  16. David

    Gilia latiflora ssp. davyi, to be subspecific; endemic to the southwestern Mojave and adjacent foothills; frequently mistaken for G. tricolor.

  17. Daniel Mosquin

    Thank you, David! I’ll update the page in a bit.

  18. Scott Zona

    Amazing photos!!!! Well done!

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