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(2): 85-104. BioOne Complete. PDF hosted by San Diego State University, San Diego, California.

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.