Identifying Fritillaries

About this time last year I was running down Forbush trail toward the Grotto when I blundered into a patch of fritillaries.

Now I was a little perplexed by them because the didn’t look like any of the fritillaries that Cal Flora says bloom in SB county. But the SB Hikes website had a picture that matched along with a comment that SB had an odd color morph. Going back to Cal Flora I discovered that the latin name used by SB hikes had changed and F. lanceolata was now called F. affinis.

Hmm. And Clifton Smith doesn’t list either name as blooming in SB. Disturbing.

A few months later I was handed a species list for the back side of Arroyo Burro trail which included a rare species F. ojaiensis, and no other fritillary. I have an automatic assumption that I’m not likely to see any rare species — I just don’t look hard enough — but there, on the trail, were some fritillary seedpods. So I knew something was growing there.

A couple of weeks ago I found fritillary plants with flower buds growing on both Forbush and Arroyo Burro trails.

Yesterday I went out for a hike on Arroyo Burro, but before I went I got out my Jepson and read up on both species. And I began to think that what I had seen on Forbush trail might really be F. ojaiensis. It was the right color, in the size range, the whorls of leaves seemed to be within the range for them…

When I got to the fritillary patch on Arroyo Burro the plants were in full bloom, but the flowers were tiny. The blooms looked just like the ones on Forbush trail from last year — except they were about a third the size.

So I was perplexed. Were they both ojaiensis and the size difference was unimportant? had I found plants that were at the two far edges of the size range? After all, they weren’t the standard color for affinis.

I went back home and spent some quality time with Jepson. The bits I understood seemed to say that both flowers might be ojaiensis, while, yes, the bigger one might be affinis. The bulbs were different, but I wasn’t going to dig up bulbs on a rare species. And the nectaries were different. Well what on earth is a nectary? Actually it’s pretty clear what a nectary, it’s something that gives out nectar, but what does it look like?

Ah. Thank you Fritillary Group. The nectary is a differently colored blot at the base of the petal (technically tepal, or perinath part). And yes, close inspection reveals that the nectaries of the two flowers are different. The larger flower has a dark broad line, while the smaller flower has a light diamond shape. So the large flower is affinis and the smaller one is ojaiensis.

Yay! Now I understand how to look at fritillaries. Or at least these ones

Nope. My memory wasn’t accurate. The flowers on Forbush are blooming now (7 April) and they are the same size as the ones on Arroyo Burro. And the nectaries look just the same. Both sites appear to have F. ojaiensis.


One Response to “Identifying Fritillaries”

  1. Adger Says:

    Pretty cool.

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