Thanks to retired UBC BG staff member David Tarrant for sending along today’s photograph. Much appreciated! David also made suggestions for the written part of the entry, which I’ve incorporated below.
Loeselia mexicana (close-up image) is a woody perennial member of the phlox family. In Mexico, it is most commonly known as espinosilla. An English common name used is Mexican false calico. David writes that it is widely distributed locally to where he lives in the high central desert area of Mexico (Guanajuato and neighbouring Querétaro). Some reports mention that its range extends into Texas, but it is not shown in the USDA PLANTS database as occurring in the state (though Loeselia greggii is found there).
Folk medicinal use of this species by indigenous peoples as an antipyretic, antidiarrheal and antiseptic has led to modern research into its medicinal properties, e.g., Garcia et al. 2006. Antifungal and Antibacterial Activity of Four Selected Mexican Medicinal Plants. Pharmaceutical Biology. 44(4):297-300, with a conclusion of “the methanol extract from Loeselia mexicana showed the best antifungal activity against dermatophytes“.
David also commented that “its normal blooming time ends with the last of the rains in October. However, many plants still continue to bloom long after their spiny foliage has faded and turned brown, and its scarlet flowers create a great food source for hummingbirds well into November and early December.”