Unusual Variability of Cat’s Ears at Bristow Prairie

Here is a sampling of the amazing variety of cat’s ears (Calochortus spp.) at Bristow Prairie. I believe they are a mix of elegant cat’s ears (C. elegans) and mountain cat’s ear (C. subalpinus) and possibly Tolmie’s cat’s ear (C. tolmiei) as well. The ranges of the first two species barely cross, and this is right about where the edges of their ranges meet—C. subalpinus to the north and C. elegans to the south. Interestingly, it is the also the border between Lane and Douglas counties. Whatever they are, they sure are gorgeous!

Calochortus tolmiei is the only one of the three that has purple-black seeds; the seeds of the others are very light (see some in the seed gallery). It will be interesting to try to find seeds later in the season and see if any are dark. It is not an easy task, though, as the capsules hang down and drop their seeds quickly.

Calochortus5@BristowPrairie Calochortus4@BristowPrairie Calochortus3@BristowPrairie Calochortus2@BristowPrairie Calochortus1@Bristow Prairie

3 Responses to “Unusual Variability of Cat’s Ears at Bristow Prairie”

  • Charmaine Rehg:

    All the Calochortus mixtures are beautiful. I really wish that I had been there to see them. Thank you so much for sharing the photos with me. I still hope to have an opportunity to go with you sometime. Charmaine

  • Travis:

    Interesting how the second one down on the left has a fourth petal! Could this just be a one time mutation?

    C. tolmiei in itself is quite variable, some with long pointed sepals and thin petals while on others the petals overlap and cover the sepals. I like when they are in bud, the backsides have a mauve-ish gradient.

    I wonder if there are some hybrids pictured here?

  • Hi Travis,

    The bottom left one also has extra petals—in this case five. I’m guessing there are lots of hybrids in this area, but I can’t prove it. It’s a very interesting population, whatever they are.

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