Mystery Plant ID

Mystery plant
Mystery plant is White Scorpion-weed

During our October 2008 workday at Crellin Lake, a large, odd-looking dried plant was spotted by Judy and Harry. They pulled it up from the north east lake shore and kept it through the winter. During our April Ecology meeting,  Judy turned over the unusual specimen to me.  I just got back from the CSU Herbarium where Jennifer Ackerfield, Research Associate, identified the plant and showed me the pressed, reference specimen. The name of the plant is White Scorpion-weed or White Phacelia (Phacelia alba Rydberg).

Scorpion weed
Scorpion weed

We have two Phacelias in our GVM Plant List: Scorpion-weed (Phacelia hastata) and White Scorpion-weed (P. . The full image is at Colorado wildflowers website . I found in that:  “Phacelia, the phacelias or scorpionweeds, is a large genus. It contains about 200 species of herbs, native of Western North America (the most), Eastern USA and South America. 

Many species are cultivated as garden plants and for honey plants. Contact with some species of Phacelia can cause a very unpleasant rash similar to that from poison oak and poison ivy in sensitive individuals.”

2 thoughts on “Mystery Plant ID

  1. The genus Phacelia occurs in the Waterleaf Family, Hydrophyllaceae. Weber & Wittmann’s “Colorado Flora – Eastern Slope” lists seven species, one of which is P. alba, referring to its white flowers. They say it’s “Common in the intermountain basins, from Larimer County to the southern border, especially in the San Luis Valley.” The scorpionweed common to Glacier View Meadows, P. hastata, has distinctly purplish flowers, the leaves with appressed silvery hairs. The genus is best recognized by the floral shape that is “usually tightly coiled into a helix when young, gradually uncoiling as the flowers open.” Like a scorpion’s stinger. P. alba needs to be added to the provisional list of the plant species for GVM, which has well over 200 species.

    OK, Ellen, how do I italicize the generic names? I wrote this on my email, then copied and pasted. To no avail!

  2. Thanks for the great background on Colorado Phacelias from Weber & Whitman. It looks like comments can not be formatted so, we’ll just have to do without!

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