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Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora (Blue-Eyed Mary)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills to sub-alpine. Openings, woodlands, shrublands.  Early spring.
Western San Juan National Forest, May 6, 2019; Can Do Trail, McPhee Reservoir, May 9, 2008 and May 18, 2010;
and Narraguinnep Natural Area, May 10, 2006.

This ubiquitous flower is so tiny that it is almost always overlooked.  Fortunately, it is common to find Collinsia growing in large colonies, very often made a bit more noticeable with its common friend, the tiny, white flowering Microsteris gracilis.  The photograph immediately above was taken from three feet above the ground; you can see how difficult it is to find these plants.

Collinsia parviflora
Collinsia parviflora (Blue-Eyed Mary)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills to sub-alpine. Openings, woodlands, shrublands.  Early spring.
Narraguinnep Natural Area, May 10, 2006.

Single flowers are difficult to spot; the plant itself is a bit easier because of the maroon on the stems and on the underside of the leaves, which frequently are angled upward enough to expose the red underside.

Thomas Nuttall named this genus in 1818 based on plants grown from seeds he collected on his first trip east of Philadelphia in 1810. The type species is Collinsia verna, and it remained one of Nuttall's favorite flowers. David Douglas (of Douglas Fir fame) named the C. parviflora species in 1827.  Douglas shipped seeds of the plant from the Columbia River area to England where it was grown and described. The Philadelphia Herbarium has a collection of this species by Meriwether Lewis on April 17, 1806. Click to read why the Lewis collection is not considered the type.

"Collinsia" was named for Zaccheus Collins, 1764-1831, botanist from Philadelphia and in 1812 one of the founders of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.  "Parviflora" is Latin for "small-flowered".  (More biographical information about Collins.)

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora (Blue-Eyed Mary)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills to sub-alpine. Openings, woodlands, shrublands.   Early spring.
Narraguinnep Natural Area, May 10, 2006 and Sanborn Park Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, May 31, 2013.

The side and front views of the flower are dramatically different.

Seeds are even smaller than the minute flowers.

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora

Collinsia parviflora (Blue-Eyed Mary)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

Foothills to sub-alpine. Openings, woodlands, shrublands.  Early spring.
Left: Lower Calico National Recreation Trail, May 15, 2020.
Below: Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 1, 2006.

One often finds Collinsia parviflora more easily by looking for the red of its cotyledons, stems, and leaves, not its more difficult to discern, minute blue and white flowers.           

                                  Collinsia parviflora

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Collinsia parviflora