Driving up to Bass Lake, we passed beautiful grazing hills scattered with, what looked like from a distance, a grand dusting of powdered sugar. Popcorn flowers. I had hoped to find a place where I could trespass to take closer pictures, and then we found Ahwahnee Hills. Perfect.
Pfft. In CA, we have a lot of popcorn flowers (66 Calflora records of Plagiobothrys spp./var.) and look-alikes, aka white forget-me-nots (92 Calflora records of Cryptantha spp./var.). Ha! Good luck with ID. There is no way I would have been able to figure these out, if I hadn't found Ahwanee Hills Regional Park's flowers page. It's the same style as Yosemite Hikes - same person? same web host? For now, I'm totally trusting whomever put the park's site together, because even if I refine my Calflora search, I still end up with too many possibilities. Which also means, I can't assume all the tiny white flowers I saw in the distance were rusty popcorn flowers.
Apparently, the tinged hair on the calyx and stem gives this sp. its rusty common name. Wayne's Word has an excellent discussion of Plagiobothrys and Cryptantha, including the scary-looking bloody red dye. It's a good thing I'm not in the habit of fondling plants, because that would have freaked me out. Plus, he shows some excellent pictures of nutlets. Finally! I've been searching for nutlet pictures ever since my first Hickman's popcorn flower, which grow much closer to the ground than rusty's actively popping reach.
As a final note, what is that distinctive collar around the yellow and white throats in my first picture? I couldn't find it on any other popcorn flower pictures online. Is that unusual?