San Francisco Collinsia

San Francisco Collinsia © DSchiel

San Francisco Blue-eyed Mary
Collinsia multicolor

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae)
  • Annual herb
  • Stem may be loosely branching
  • Leaves
    • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem)
    • Middle and upper leaves attached directly to the stem (sessile), sometimes clasping
    • Narrowly triangular and often toothed
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of 2-3 flowers rising from the leaf axils, appearing as a series of whorls
    • Each flower is 2-lipped, with 2 fused upper petals and 3 fused lower petals
      • Upper lip is white and sometimes dotted or lined
      • Lower lip is lavender to purple
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)
  • Height to 24 in.
    • At Edgewood, rarely exceeds 16 in.
Flower © KKorbholz


  • Native and endemic (limited) to California
    • Grows in shady, moist habitats of forests and coastal chaparral scrub
    • 50-54% of plants occur on ultramafic soils, e.g. serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calfora per Safford and Miller 2020)
  • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • California Rare Plant Rank: 1B.2 (rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere)
  • Grows at elevations to 980 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Larval food source (host) for the larval stage of several butterfly species, e.g. variable checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedon) and Edith’s checkerspot (E. editha)

Name Derivation

  • Collinsia (kol-IN-see-a) – named for Zaccheus Collins (1764-1831), a Philadelphia mineralogist and botanist, by Thomas Nuttall in 1817
  • multicolor (mul-tee-KOL-or) – for the multi-colored flowers


  • Previously classified in the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

ID Tips

  • May be confused with few-flowered collinsia (Collinsia sparsiflora var. collina)
    • San Francisco collinsia grows in woodlands at Edgewood
      • Grows to 16 in. and has multi-colored, white and lavender to purple flowers
    • Few-flowered collinsia grows in serpentine grassland
      • Grows to 6 in. and has smaller lavender to purple flowers

At Edgewood

  • Found in woodlands
    • No iNaturalist observations are documented because locations of rare species are obscured
  • Flowers March – May

See General References

Specific References

Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine soils and why they limit plant survival and growth. Fremontia 38/39: 28-31. 

Safford, H. D. 2010, Oct. and 2011, Jan. Serpentine endemism of the California flora. Fremontia 38/39: 32-39.

Safford, H.D. and J.E.D. Miller. 2020. An updated database of serpentine endemism in the California flora. Madroño 67: 85-104. BioOne Complete.

Shapiro, A.M. and T.D. Manolis. 2007. Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.