Saturday, February 9, 2013

Phacelia, You're Breakin' My Heart

Desert bluebells (Phacelia campanularia) are one of the easiest wildflowers to grow from seed if you want to add a little color to your suburban landscape. Besides the astonishing electric blue flowers, they are also excellent self-seeders, and will continue to produce flowers with no extra watering for years.  Before you know it, your neighbors will also have bluebells popping up in their yard each spring, courtesy of the wind blowing seeds around. These bluebells are blooming in the yard two houses down from ours, offspring of a crop that flourished in my garden about eight years ago.  A few yellow fiddle necks (Amsinkia intermedia), another hearty native annual, are mingled in with the Phacelia.
Beware, however, the powerful resins exuded from glandular hairs that cover the stems and leaves of these beauties. Skin contact can cause a painful allergic reaction similar to poison ivy. Not everyone is affected, but I'm one of the unlucky people that is severely allergic to Phacilia, so I had to have all of the flowers removed from my yard. There is no remedy for the itchy, blistery skin rash that erupts from contact with the plants, except washing with soap and water immediately after being around them.

Phacelia campanularia is native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. They are abundant in cool, shaded canyons throughout southern California and southwestern Arizona.

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