Mentzelia laevicaulis

Today’s photo and article come from Tom Wheeler. Tom is a horticulturist working on the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland project at UBCBG.

Mentzelia was named by Linnaeus in honour of Christian Mentzel (1622-1701), a German physician, botanist and lexicographer. The epithet laevicaulis (laevi = smooth + caulis = stalk) refers to the comparatively smooth stems of this species in comparison to other Mentzelia species.

To see Mentzelia laevicaulis, or blazing star, on gravelly cuts and slopes in BC’s southern dry interior region is to revel an exquisitely different representative of the region’s flora. This biennial or short-lived perennial is native to much of western North America from near sea level in the north to 2440 m (8000 ft.) in the southern parts of its range.

The fragrant, lemon yellow flowers can be up to 16 cm across, opening at mid-morning and remaining open past dusk and throughout the night. Carpenter bees and hawk moths are the blazing star’s vespertine (evening) and nocturnal pollinators, and daytime opening enables other pollinators, including European honeybees, to visit, as well. When its flowers are open, their presence dominates the plant, but the short, barbed, hairy upper stems and branches give this species its other common name, stick-leaf, for its leaves and stems easily stick to clothing.

Mentzelia includes annuals, perennials, sub-shrubs and shrubs. The centre of diversity is southwestern North America, but the range of the genus extends to Argentina and Chile. California is home to more than half of the 50 species. While the family Loasaceae is well known for nasty plants with stinging hairs (e.g., Cevallia, the stinging serpent and Petalonyx, the sandpaper plant), the blazing stars are generally easily handled.

Mentzelia laevicaulis

8 responses to “Mentzelia laevicaulis”

  1. Christian from Portland, OR

    Like the description says, I have only found this plant in the cinder and gravel on roadsides. I bet it work well in a native seed mix to be applied in recently disturbed areas by road crews and other industries in dry areas. We have weedy native plants that might be able to lessen the impacts of invasives if applied immediately after disturbance to create a seedbank in the soil.

  2. Sue in Bremerton

    Christian from Portland, OR, has an excellent idea. One of the problems my friend, the bird watcher has noticed this year is lack of song birds, only sees wrens and a handful of crows and, of course seagulls. Seems we have poisoned our weeds to get rid of bugs that we have no birds for the bugs to eat.
    Christian’s idea would bring back the bugs, thus bring back the birds, and perhaps those lovely delicate plants/flowers would manage to keep the scotch broom from spreading so quickly. Our recent activities along our freeway has taken out all ALL of the scotch broom because so many peope are allergic to the pollen. I, however, am not allergic to it, and live in a rather woodsy almost acre, most of which is not ‘lawned’ and I let my scotch broom bloom and grow. I hate my neighbors anyway, HA HA HA.
    But, I digress. I just loved those delicate flowers, and their color is so refreshing. Amazing the wonders I see on this site.
    Thank you all so much.

  3. Marilyn Brown

    This dazzled my garden for season, and then vanished, probably longing for a gravelly road cut. I loved its sparkle.

  4. Annie Morgan

    Wonderful to see what we common folk call ‘wild flowers’ – so pretty.

  5. Eric Simpson

    Agree 100% with Christian. Excellent idea!
    Sue: I think you meant to say that there are “no bugs for the birds to eat”, rather than “no birds for the bugs to eat.”
    I, too, have planted Mentzelia laevicaulis in my yard in the past, but unlike the Clarkia unguiculata, Oenothera elata and Eschscholzia californica, it never managed to reseed itself.

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    i live in florida and the song birds
    are less and less in sight
    all flowers were wild flowers
    in the long a go past i would think
    thank you ubc hey daniel

  7. Connie

    Great photo! I am on the East coast, so have never seen this lovely flower.
    Yes- we need real native American seed mixtures to put down on disturbed soil. Most of such that I find for sale include mostly prairie flora, which aren’t regionally native here.
    Have you read “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy? It addresses this very topic, losing our birds because we refuse to tolerate their “food items”.

  8. bonniel

    since I’m too cheap to but bug poison.I have wrens. robins,song sparrow,jays that start rhat CALLING AT 4 am.

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