Small-flowered Leptosiphon

Small-flowered Leptosiphon © AFengler

Small-flowered Linanthus, Variable Linanthus
Leptosiphon parviflorus

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Phlox family (Polemoniaceae)
  • Annual herb
    • Softly hairy
  • Stem generally erect and branching at base
    • Reddish as it ages
  • Leaves
    • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem), appearing whorled
      • Small pairs are widely-spaced along stems
    • Palmately compound (separate leaflets radiating from a single point) with deeply-cleft, needle-like leaflets
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is head-like with few to many flowers
    • Calyx, collective term for sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) is densely hairy and glandular (sticky)
    • Funnel-shaped flower with 5-petaled dish-like face (salverform)
      • Long, narrow floral tube (≤ 1.8 in)
      • Petals may be white, pink, yellow, or purple
        • At Edgewood, petals are white, though nearby populations have bright pink petals (Corelli 2004)
        • Often with red marks at base
        • Throat may be yellow, orange, or purple
      • Stamens (male flower parts) with yellow-orange pollen are exserted (extending beyond petals)
    • Ovary superior (attached above other flower parts)
  • Fruit a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)
  • Height to 16 in.
    • At Edgewood, rarely exceeds 7 in.


  • Native and endemic (limited) to California
    • Grows in open areas as well as chaparral, oak woodlands, and mixed evergreen forests
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Grows at elevations to 3,900 ft.

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

  • No documented wildlife or human uses found for this species

Name Derivation

  • Leptosiphon (lep-toe-SY-fon) – from the Greek leptos, “slender,” and siphon, “tube”
  • parviflorus (par-vi-FLOR-us) – from the Greek parvus, “small,” and florus, “flower”
  • Variable linanthus – alternative common name for this species, refers to the variable number of flowers in the head and the range of flower colors (Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council 2017)


  • Previously in the genus Linanthus
    • Linanthus – from the Greek linon, “flax,” and anthos, “flower”
    • Often still used in common names for Leptosiphon species
  • Most common Leptosiphon species in California (Mitchell 2017)
  • Flowers close at night
    • This process is an example of nyctinasty, which refers to diurnal and nocturnal changes (single or repetitive) exhibited by the leaves and flowers of some plants (van Doorn 2003)

ID Tips

  • May be confused with 3 other species of Leptosiphon at Edgewood, along with one non-native member of the Flax family (Linaceae), narrow-leaved flax (Linum bienne)
    • Serpentine leptosiphon (L. ambiguus)
    • Common leptosiphon (L. androsaceus)
    • Flax-flowered leptosiphon (L. liniflorus)
    • Narrow-leaved flax (Linum bienne)
Serpentine LeptosiphonSmall-flowered LeptosiphonCommon LeptosiphonFlax-flowered LeptosiphonNarrow-leaved Flax
Inflorescencefew-flowered spraymany-flowered headmany-flowered headfew-flowered sprayfew-flowered spray
Flower Shape flat, open-face

flat, open face

very long, narrow funnel
flat, open face

long, narrow funnel
cupped to open face

short funnel 
cupped to open face

no funnel
Floral Tube Length≤ 0.24 in.≤ 1.8 in≤ 1.3 in≤ 0.08 in.
Petal Colorlavender to pinkwhite to cream¹

often with 2 red dots at yellow base
pale lavender to pinkwhite

purple veins
white to blue

purple veins
Pollen Coloryellow-orangeyellow-orangeyellow-orangeyellow-orangeblue
¹ Edgewood’s small-flowered leptosiphons are creamy white, but the species can also be pink, purple, or yellow

Serpentine Leptiosiphon (LL), Small-flowered Leptosiphon (LM), Common Leptosiphon (M), Flax-flowered Leptosiphon (RM), Narrow-leaved Flax (R)
© AFengler (LL, LM, R), SBernhard (M), KKorbholz (RM)

Serpentine Leptiosiphon (LL), Small-flowered Leptosiphon (LM), Common Leptosiphon (M), Flax-flowered Leptosiphon (RM), Narrow-leaved Flax (R)
© See Specific References

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands
  • Flowers April – May

See General References

Specific References

Breckling, B. 2008. Spring Wildflowers of Henry W. Coe State Park and the Inland San Francisco Bay Area. Pine Ridge Association.

Miller, L.B. 2004. Leptosiphon ambiguus, Leptosiphon parviflorus, Leptosiphon androsaceus, Leptosiphon liniflorus, and Linum bienne. [Illustrations.] In T. Corelli, Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve, 2nd. ed. Monocot Press, Half Moon Bay, California. (c) CC BY NC 3.0.

Mitchell, M. 2017. Polemoniaceae: Phlox family Linanthus. Monterey County Wildflowers, Trees, & Ferns – A Photographic Guide.

Prigge, B.A. and A.C. Gibson. 2013. Leptosiphon parviflorus. 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.

Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. 2017. Variable Linanthus.

van Doorn, W.G. and U. van Meeteren. 2003, Aug. 1. Flower opening and closure: A review. Journal of Experimental Botany 54: 1801–1812.