Common name: Popcorn-flower

Scientific name: Plagiobothrys stipitatus var. micranthus
Family: Boraginaceae (fiddleneck)
Habitat: vernal pools
Size: plant 2 to 10 inches tall, flower 3 to 6 mm

Fun facts: Small butterflies like to sip nectar from these tiny white flowers.

Description: Popcorn-flower is a member of the fiddleneck family. Flower buds are held in a tight coil (spiral) at the top of the plant. The flowers open starting from the bottom of the plant moving toward the top. This causes the stem to uncoil. The seeds are produced in fours and many species have small hooked spines with which they hitchhike on fur or socks.

Many species of Popcorn-flower occur at Mather Field. This species is the most common one found in vernal pools. The other species are either upland plants or have a more sprawling growth form.

Life cycle: Popcorn-flower is an annual. This species germinates while underwater. The young plants produce long floating leaves in order to get air and sunlight and to hold the plant upright. It blooms from April to May and is often the dominant plant in patches in a vernal pool.

Ecology: Nectar from the Popcorn-flower is a favorite of small butterflies in the Lycaenidae family. These small blue, gray, or copper (as in the color of a penny) butterflies can sometimes be quite abundant on the flowers.

Investigate: Another member of the borage family at Mather Field is the Fiddleneck. Can you see how they are similar?