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   The genus Gilia is highly inclusive and variable and many of its members hybridize.  A Utah Flora, The Intermountain Flora, and Colorado Flora, Western Slope give various names, descriptions, and keys for the Gilia genus.  Many Four Corners Gilias are lumped into Gilia inconspicua by the first two books and into Gilia ophthalmoides in the latter.

     Utah flora expert, Stanley Welsh, says, "the large number of names [given to each Gilia species] is indicative of the variation within... annual, small-flowered Gilias".

     The Gilia genus has been reexamined often. Especially from the work of Verne Grant, Alva Day, and Mark Porter a number of Gilia species have been placed in other genera: Giliastrum, Saltugilia, Navarretia, Ipomopsis, Aliciella, Allophyllum, and Linanthus.

     Ruiz and Pavon collected the first Gilia, Gilia laciniata, in Peru or Chile and they described it in their 1794, Prodromus Florae Peruvianal et Chilensis (A Preliminary Treatise on the Flora of Peru and Chile).  Ruiz and Pavon named Gilia for Filippo Luigi Gilii (1756-1821), Italian clergyman and naturalist.  The species name should be pronounced with a soft g: "Gee lee uh".  See Biographies of Naturalists for more information.

     More Gilia species.

Gilia ophthalmoides
Gilia ophthalmoides.  Synonym: Gilia inconspicua(Eyed Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

This very slender Gilia has the typical Gilia basal rosette of leaves, tiny flowers that can range from white to blue to pink, and penchant for seemingly inhospitable, barren, hot ground.  Gilia ophthalmoides is very common in the Four Corners area but because it is so slender it goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

The very similar Gilia clokeyi has smaller corollas (4-8 mm vs. 7-12 mm) with white to pale blue vs. yellow throats, and the corolla lobes are equal to or longer than the throat vs. lobes shorter than the throat.

The nomenclatural lineage of this plant is convoluted and disputed: It was collected prior to 1804 by someone, probably in America, grown from seed in England, and named Ipomopsis inconspicua in 1804.  Frederick Pursh renamed it Cantua parviflora in 1814, Rydberg named it Gilia inconspicua in 1904, August Brand named it Gilia ophthalmoides, in 1907, and it has  endured many other names in its two hundred year scientific history.  20th century Gilia expert, Verne Grant, accepted the name, Gilia ophthalmoides subspecies clokeyi.

The species name, "ophthalmoides", is from the Greek for "appearing like the eye".

 Gilia ophthalmoides
Gilia ophthalmoides.  Synonym: Gilia inconspicua(Eyed Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

The corolla (the flower with both its yellow and pink segments) is much longer than the calyx (red striped surface surrounding the base of the corolla).  The corolla tube (yellow) is much longer than the pink lobes.  These are some of the characteristics that separate this Gilia from other Gilia and Polemoniaceae species.

Gilia ophthalmoides

Gilia ophthalmoides 

Gilia ophthalmoides.  Synonym: Gilia inconspicua(Eyed Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 2, 2005 and
Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, April 10, 2016.

Gilia ophthalmoides' lower stem is often twice the diameter of the upper stem, especially when the plants are young.  Cobwebby hairs cover the stem on young plants.  Hairs are not evident on the older plant above.  It is common for plants to lose their hairs as the plants age.

Gilia ophthalmoides

Gilia ophthalmoides

Gilia ophthalmoides 

Gilia ophthalmoides.  Synonym: Gilia inconspicua(Eyed Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring.
Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, April 10, 2016 and
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 2, 2005 and April 11, 2010.

A close look with a hand lens or a close-up camera lens shows a myriad of ball-tipped glandular hairs. Depending on the species, such hairs can impart a stickiness and/or a pleasant smell to the plant.

Navarretia sinistra 
Navarretia sinistra subspecies sinistra. Synonym: Gilia sinistra.  (Alva Day's Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 2, 2005.

This is a species primarily of Northern California with rare occurrences in Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado.  In the Four Corners area it is known only from Montezuma County, Colorado.

The most obvious characteristic that separates Navarretia sinistra from Gilia ophthalmoides is Navarretia sinistra's lack of a basal rosette of leaves.  Further, Navarretia sinistra is branched from the base; Gilia ophthalmoides branches above the base.  And finally, notice, as shown in the photographs below, the more numerous, tack-like, glandular hairs on the stem of Navarretia sinistra.

This species was first named Gilia sinistra by M. E. Jones and was renamed Navarretia sinistra subspecies sinistra by L. A. Johnson.  "Sinistra" is Latin for "on the left hand", but the reference is unknown. 

The common name, "Alva Day's Gilia", honors Alva Day, who, with her husband, Verne Grant, was the 20th century authority on the Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae). Alva Day wrote a widely accepted key to Gilia. 

The "Navarretia" genus was named by Ruiz and Pavon (who also named the Gilia genus).  Francisco Navarrete was a Spanish botanist and physician of the 18th century.

Navarretia sinistra 
Navarretia sinistra subspecies sinistra. Synonym: Gilia sinistra.  (Alva Day's Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 2, 2005.

Navarretia sinistraNotice the minute, tack-like, glandular hairs on the stem.

Navarettia sinistra 
Navarretia sinistra subspecies sinistra. Synonym: Gilia sinistra.  (Alva Day's Gilia)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Openings. Spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 18, 2007.

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 Gilia ophthalmoides

Range map for Navarretia sinistra

Note: The Navarretia sinistra shown on this page extends this range map into the southwest corner of Colorado, Montezuma County.