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Antirrhinum nuttallianum f. alba

Common name: Nutall's Snapdragon

It’s snapdragon season in Southern California! Two years ago, in April 2017*, it was a Coulter’s Snapdragon (Antirrhinum coulteranium), then still unknown to me and an unexpected find on a trail at Lake Hodges, that heightened my attention and focus to the native wildflowers here San Diego County*. So maybe it was fate that a few days ago, I found an almost entirely white Antirrhinum nuttallianum (Nuttall’s or Violet Snapdragon) at Lake Hodges. A coincidence really of course, but it’s like a little snapdragon anniversary for me. :-)

Now Nuttall’s Snapdragon isn’t a new flower to me – I’ve seen and photographed them in the past. Just not with white flowers! There is no recording and observation of Antirrhinum nuttallianum with white flowers on either CalFlora and CalPhotos. Certainly it was some kind of an abnormality and not a different species but needless to say, it was an exciting find! :-)

I only had the camera with my 105mm macro lens with me that day (the “just in case” equipment for hand-held photos) so I returned the following morning, with my tripod and the 200-500mm lens… and then none of the photos made with the 200-500 made it into the gallery below in the end. :-P Thanks to the marine layer it was overcast, which allowed for nice and evenly lit portraits of the plant(s).

I’ve sinced learned from my friend Tony Gurnoe (fellow Chaparralian from the inaugural Chaparral Naturalist class in 2015, and now Director of Horticulture at the San Diego Botanic Garden) that plants with purple flowers, for whatever reason (genetics or a spontaneous mutation), sometimes express flowers that are entirely white (Tony sent me a photo of an entirely white Collinsia heterophyllia, which looked absolutely unreal). That also explained the entirely white Castilleja exserta (Purple Owl’s Clover) that I had seen a few days earlier and wasn’t sure about (I’ve yet to show the photos). He told me that such a color deviation could be referred to as the “alba” form of the species (“alba”, Latin, obviously meaning white). This is written as “f.” or “forma” in the scientific name – and not italicized.

In the case of my Antirrhinum nuttallianum f. alba there’s a slight bit of pink at the “ears” of the flower. It’s really, really pretty. You can see in some of the photos below that the plants cling to one another in places, so it was a bit of a chaotic tangle, but as far as I was able to determine, the white flowers were not mixed with regular purple or violet colored flowers. The white ones were on separate stems. I made plenty of photos to hopefully present a comprehensive gallery of images, and I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed seeing this plant and photographing it.

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*) another part of it was seeing Carrizo Plain National Monument in such a wonderful bloom that year: Carrizo Plain, My Love; Back to Carrizo Plain; Carrizo Plain, Once More

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3 thoughts on “Antirrhinum nuttallianum f. alba”

  1. I like the “chaotic tangle” and the faint wash of pink is beautiful. The information about purple flowers sometimes expressing in a white form is interesting. Just last week, I saw my first tiny Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa). It was in a local park, very close to the trail. A few days later, I found another one that was very pale – almost white. It didn’t photograph well, unsurprisingly. I read that people regularly find white forms of this purplish flower. Maybe that’s another example of the phenomenon your friend spoke about. Nature always surprises.

    • Thanks Lynn – happy to hear that my post was helpful in explaining a similar phenomenon that you saw. I had to chuckle about your words “it didn’t photograph well” – I know all about that!!! :-)


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