Thursday, June 28, 2018

Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)

Scarlet Gilia; Timpooneke Trail, 6/19/2018, David Kenison

In the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae). Also known as Skyrocket, Scarlet Trumpet, Skunkflower, Polecat Plant. Found throughout western North America. The plants thrive in areas with little water, part shade, and sandy soil.

The clusters of flaring trumpets of the Scarlet Gilia are a delight to examine up close. The color ranges from deep red to pale pink. The plants are often 2-3 feet high, displaying the 1-2" blossoms prominently.

The narrow tubes of the red blossoms attract hummingbirds, who probe with their beaks for the nectar at the base of the tube, pollinating the outer flower in the process. Often a drop of nectar can be tasted at the base of the bloom when plucked from the stem. The plant does emit a skunky odor from basal glands among the leaves, leading to some of the less complimentary nicknames. This odor is more prominent in the whiter varieties, which are often pollinated by moths attracted by the smell.

Reportedly some Plateau Indian tribes boiled Scarlet Gilia as a drink for kidney health. The plant is a favorite for grazing by wildlife.

The Latin genus name Ipomopsis means "striking appearance." The species name aggregata refers to the clustered groupings of the blossoms. The lighter variety, found at higher elevations, is classified as I. aggregata var. macrosiphon.

These photos were taken by the author at a variety of locations around Utah.  Click to view enlargements.

Additional information:
USDA information page
USDA profile
Lady Bird Johnson Profile

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