Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum

Common name: Salt Heliotrope, Chinese Parsley, Seaside Heliotrope, Quail Plant

Salt Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum) is a perennial herb that often creeps along the side of trails. As far as I can see, we only have the variety oculatum here. It is generally quite low-growing; when it gets half a meter (1.5 feet) high, it is already exceptionally tall. I’ve observed it from May into August. This makes it one of the “summer joys” of San Diego County, when it adds little splashes of color and green to an otherwise drying landscape.

Here are a few photos. I should make one from down low with a very long lens this summer. :)


According to Wikipedia: The name “heliotrope” derives from the old idea that the inflorescences of these plants turned their rows of flowers to the Sun.[6] Ἥλιος (helios) is Greek for “Sun”, τρέπειν (trepein) means “to turn”. The Middle English name “turnsole” has the same meaning.

The epithet curassavicum refers Curacao, an island of the Lesser Antilles (Dutch West Indies), where apparently, the first specimens were collected. The variety name oculatum is a form of the Latin adjective oculatus, “having eyes”, “eye-shaped” or “easily seen” (from oculus, eyes). Perhaps this is in reference to the darker center of the individual flowers.


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Next: Sisyrinchium bellum

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