Phlox Family

Small-flowered Leptosiphon © AFengler

Polemoniaceae (po-le-moh-nee-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Often small annuals
  • Tubular flowers with flat faces
  • Usually with 3-lobed stigmas

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Annual or perennial herbs, vines, and small shrubs
    • Most California phloxes are small annuals
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) or compound (divided into leaflets)
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem) or opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem)
    • Usually narrow
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in many forms
    • Bisexual, radially or bilaterally symmetric tube-shaped flowers with flat, dish-like faces (salverform)
    • Flower parts generally in fives
      • 5 partially-fused sepals (usually green, outer flower parts), often connected by a translucent membrane
      • 5 petals, usually fused, twisted in bud
      • 5 stamens (male flower parts)
    • Single pistil (female flower part) with a 3-lobed stigma (pollen-receiving structure)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit a generally 3-chambered capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)


  • Approximately 314 species in the Northern Hemisphere and South America
    • Greatest diversity of species in western North America, particularly California
    • Includes skunkweeds, leptosiphons, phloxes, and gilias
    • Many cultivated as ornamentals
    • All 78 wild-growing species documented by CalFlora in the Bay Area are native
  • Seeds in the genus Collomia swell and are gelatinous when wet
  • Scientific name from the included genus Polemonium, possibly from the Greek polemonion referring to plants associated with the Greek herbalist Polemon of Cappadocia
  • Common name from the Greek phlox, “flame,” an old name for the genus Lychnis (campions or catchflies) in the Pink family (Caryophyllaceae)
  • Represented by 12 species at Edgewood

See General References

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family