Marin’s Native Clarkia Species

by Doreen Smith

Most of us know that the genus Clarkia was named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and similarly, Meriwether Lewis was honored with the genus Lewisia. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson sent the explorers to cross the lands west of the Mississippi as far as the Pacific Ocean and to investigate and record the natural resources. They discovered many new western genera and species of plants.

Late spring and early summer are when our Clarkias flower. Earliest to bloom is the common Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera, the unusual large C. purpurea ssp. purpurea from Sausalito, and the small rare Marin endemic C. concinna ssp. raichei of the Walker Creek bluffs south of Tomales. Soon Clarkia unguiculata flowers and the rest follow: C. rubicunda, C. concinna ssp. concinna, C. gracilis ssp. gracilis, C. gracilis ssp. sonomensis, C. davyi, and C. amoena ssp. amoena. That last species can carry on blooming until early fall along the coast.

Photos by Doreen and Vernon Smith