Blow-wives

Blow-wives © DSchiel

Achyrachaena mollis
NATIVE

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
    • Only species in its genus
    • Annual herb
    • Leaves
      • Opposite and hairy at plant base
      • Alternate and hairy-glandular (sticky) along upper stem
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a radiate head (see Sunflower family)
        • Cylindrical, with a flat top
        • Phyllaries (vase-like floral bracts, collectively called the involucre) are hairy and glandular (sticky), 3-8 in a single series (row), each enveloping a ray flower ovary
    • Individual flowers are tiny and nearly invisible
      • Disk flowers (4-35) are yellow to red, bisexual, and fertile
      • Ray flowers (3-8) are orange to red, female (pistillate), and fertile
    • Ovary inferior (attached below other flower parts)
    • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open) with pappus (modified sepals, outer flower parts)
      • Pappus of 10 white scales in 2 series (rows) of different lengths look like long, flat flower petals (Ladybird Johnson 2007)
      • Only the disk flowers produce scales
    • Height to 12 in.

    Distribution

      • Native to California
        • Grows in grasslands and open woodlands, often on clay soils
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows from southern Oregon into northern Baja California, Mexico
      • Grows at elevations to 4,000 ft.

      Name Derivation

        • Achyrachaena (ak-i-ra-KEE-na) – from the Greek for “chaffy achene,” alluding to the pappus
        • mollis (MOLL-is) – from the Latin for “soft,” referring to the velvety hairs
        • Blow-wives – as with “tidy-tips” and “goldfields,” this name can be singular or plural
        Flower in Bloom (L), Developing Pappus Scales (M), Full Fruit with Pappus Scales (R)
        © KKorbholz (L,M), DSchiel (R)

        Notes

          • When in full bloom, the flowerhead appears to be still in bud
            • Green phyllaries are visually dominant
          • When seeds are developing, scales appear as clustered white petals
            • From the top of the flowerhead, they look like a honeycomb
          • When in full fruit, the scales spread out in a showy round cluster
            • Pappus scales are shiny, papery-white, and conspicuous
            • Aid in wind dispersal

          ID Tips

            At Edgewood

              • Found in grasslands
              • Flowers April – May

              Specific References

                Borders, B.D. Achyrachaena mollis. CSU Stanislaus, Valley Flora Propagation Center Species Profiles.

                  Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. 2007. Achyrachaena mollis (Blow wives) | Native Plants of North America.

                    Prigge, B.A. and Gibson, A.C. 2013. Achyrachaena mollis. A Naturalist’s Flora of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, California. Web version, hosted at Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. National Park Service. US Department of Interior.