Variable-leaved Nemophila

Variable-leaved Nemophila © DSchiel

Canyon Nemophila, White Nemophila, Small Baby Blue Eyes
Nemophila heterophylla

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae)
  • Annual herb
  • Leaves
    • Lower leaves are opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) with deeply-cut, widely-separated, rounded lobes
    • Upper leaves are reduced, with smaller or absent lobing, and may be alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a small, white, bowl-shaped flower from the leaf axil (junction with stem)
    • 5 fused petals and dark anthers (pollen-producing part of the stamen/male structure)
    • Calyx almost separate, with downward-curving appendages between each lobe
      • Calyx is the collective term for sepals (usually green, outer flower parts)
    • 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 5 in.
Calyx © DSchiel


  • Native to California
    • Grows predominantly in shady places of canyons and slopes of chaparral, foothill woodlands, and forests
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows in Oregon
  • Grows at elevations between 100 and 5,600 ft.

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

  • Wildlife
    • Provides pollen and nectar for native bees

Name Derivation

  • Nemophila (neh-MOF-i-la) – from the Greek nemos, “a glade,” and phileo, “to love,” referring to its habitat
  • heterophylla (het-er-OH-fil-a) – from the Greek heteros, “different,” and phyllon, ”leaf,” as the leaves differ on the same plant
Lower Leaf Lobes © DSchiel


  • Lower leaf lobes have been described as “frog-toes”(Muir 2019)
    • Edgewood docents have called it “froggy toes” or “little frog-foot flower”
  • Reclassified in the Waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae) in 2021 Jepson revision
    • 2012 Jepson revision (2nd edition) had subsumed the Waterleaf family into the Borage family (Boraginaceae)

ID Tips

  • May be confused at Edgewood with the less-common Nemophila species, woodland nemophila (Nemophila parviflora var. parviflora)
    • Variable-leaved nemophila (Nemophila heterophylla)
      • Lower leaves lobes are deeply-cut and widely-separated
      • Unique among Nemophila species, petals lack dark spots or striped veins
    • Woodland nemophila (Nemophila parviflora var. parviflora)
      • Lower leaves lobes are more shallowly-cut
      • Petals may have dark spots and striped veins

At Edgewood

  • Found in woodlands
  • Flowers January – April

See General References

Specific References

Blackwell, L.R. 2012. Wildflowers of California: A Month-by-Month Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Laws, J.M. 2019. Sierra Wildflowers: A Hiker’s Guide. Heyday Books, Berkeley, California.