Three of the approximately 170 North American Phacelia species can be found in Maryland: Coville’s phacelia, small-flowered phacelia (P. dubia), and Miami mist, aka fringed phacelia or purple scorpion-weed (P. purshii). The second and third of these are both classified S3/watchlist:
Vulnerable/Watchlist—At moderate risk of extinction or extirpation due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors. Typically occurring in 21-80 populations.*
P. purshii is found in Prince Geroge’s, Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, and Garret counties. P dubia has a simliar but smaller range. I haven’t seen this species myself yet, but am always watching for it at this time of year.
P. purshii, though, I see every year, along the Billy Goat B and C trails. There are a few populations in other areas east of the Appalachians, but for the most part this species is found in the Ohio River basin.
Like Coville’s phacelia, Miami mist is an annual, though it gets a little taller (maybe as tall as a foot and a half). The flowers are fairly small, but markedly larger than those of Coville’s phacelia. It has typical Phacelia traits: hairy leaves, hairy stem, hairy calyces. The five-lobed flowers are borne in a helicoid cyme, though the shape isn’t as pronounced as in some of the western Hydrophylloideae species (pictured here).
Is fringed phacelia blooming now on Billy Goat B? I walked the whole length Thursday, saw Coville’s and small-flowered but not fringed. I went to the spot where I see it each year (just before the rocky spot where the kayakers play in the standing waves) but not only couldn’t find the flowers, I couldn’t even find the plants. Deer browse? The small-flowered phacelia patch was much sparser than I remembered, as well. Coville’s was plentiful and lush.
Not sure about Billy Goat B, as I haven’t been there in two weeks, but I’ve seen it there in previous years. It’s on Billy Goat C just downstream of the east end, where the trail turns sharply to head back to the canal (there’s an unmarked trail that continues downstream).
Where did you see small-flowered phacelia?
The small-flowered phacelia patch I’ve seen (hope I’m right about the ID) is towards the western end of Billy Goat B. If you enter the trail from the Anglers end, you walk along a fairly flat trail with the river far below on your right. After awhile of that, just before the trail goes down and makes the sharp turn east, the phacelia is off the trail to the left. You actually have to leave the trail to see it, but it’s only about ten feet or so off the trail. It’s right before the spot on the trail where there is often a small pond or mud wallow. It’s rocky there, and I think there might be an evergreen tree or two on the trail at the spot. Does that help? Will look for a landmark next time I’m there. Lots of Coville’s on the trail near there.
That helps a lot – I know exactly where you mean. I’ll go have a look tomorrow morning. Thanks!
Any luck finding it?
I didn’t see it. Spent about half an hour combing the area. Lots of spring beauties, and lyre-leaved rockcress on the rocks, and little ebony spleenworts unfurling, but I didn’t see any phacelia.
I went back today and it’s in full bloom; there’s a lot of it, but it all seems to be in one small meadow. I’m sure of the ID now. If you want to try again, here are better landmarks: take Billy Goat B from the Anglers Inn end and follow it almost to where it descends and turns left to parallel the river. Before that, you’ll see a small evergreen tree (juniper/red cedar, I think) that’s sort of broken at the top. Go just a little further, and just before you enter a little grove of these trees, you’ll see one of them has fallen or bent over and is lying parallel to the ground on your left just a few feet off the trail and just past a large rock. The phacelia meadow is just behind that tree, so walk a few steps further to go around it and backtrack a few feet. They’re mostly white, so from a distance you might think it’s chickweed.
If that doesn’t work, try this: go all the way to where the trail drops down and turns left near the river. When you get down there, turn around and walk back the way you came. You’ll climb up one rock that has some yellow sorrel growing on it. This puts you in the marshy/little pond area (currently dry and full of dead tall grassy stuff). I think if you look ahead and slightly right of the trail from this spot, you can see the phacelia blooming in a little clearing, and you can just pick your way over there. If not, climb up another rock that has a blaze painted on it and has viburnum on either side of it. Now you’re in the cedar grove. As soon as you get to the far edge of it (not very far!) exit the trail off to your right, pick your way for a few feet over rocks, and you’re in the little clearing.
Also, thanks for the tip on the fringed phacelia on Billy Goat C. I want there today and saw it, very nice! Found some on Billy Goat B today, too. There are small patches of it on both sides of the trail along the river after you descend and turn left.
LW, thank you so much for the detailed directions – I found it! Spent a long time just perching on a rock nearby, enjoying. Such a big patch, too. Glad you found the fringed phacelia. I have been too busy to hike the length of BGB in several weeks. Need to make that a priority.
Pingback: Yet Another Phacelia. Last One For Awhile. Really. | Elizabeth's Wildflower Blog