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A Humble Wayside Flower

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Through our new virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Howard Lee

I first heard of scarlet pimpernels in a movie adaptation of the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel set during the French Revolution. The title character takes his alias from a "humble English wayside flower." This is quite accurate because scarlet pimpernels (Anagallis arvensis) are usually found low to the ground along the edges of full-sun trails. They are native in Europe and invasive in the Bay Area.

During the COVID-19 shelter-in-place, my favorite hiking spot was closed, and I have been walking near my house. It was a surprise to see these familiar red-orange wildflowers on my new regular route.

The small colorful flowers are about a centimeter across with five bright red-orange petals, purple at the center, and long yellow-tipped stamens. They are found at the edges of sunny trails in late spring and early summer. The flowers open during daylight and close in the late afternoon.

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