Montana Outdoors

July 10, 2010

Clarkia

I first found this flower last year high on a steep hillside above Weeksville Creek: there was just the one, and I thought it was quite rare. This year I stumbled onto an entire hillside covered with them five or six miles from last year’s encounter.

Ragged Robin

This was one of the plant species collected by Lewis with the Corps of Discovery in 1806. His description of it was his most detailed, nearly 500 words. In the spring of 1807 Lewis turned over his plant specimens to the young German-American botanist, Frederick Pursh, who gave this flower the scientific name Clarkia pulchella, in honor of William Clark; pulchella means beautiful. Appropriately, the best of its common names today is clarkia.

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

“Curiously, the pollen of Clarkia pulchella helped make an important contribution to science. The phenomenon called Brownian motion, whereby particles suspended in a fluid move randomly, was first observed by botanist Robert Brown in the vacuoles of Clarkia pulchella pollen grains. Brownian motion was eventually used as evidence of the atomic nature of matter (i.e., that matter was composed of atoms and molecules) by Albert Einstein, Jean Perrin and other physicists.” (Excerpt from UBCbotanicalgarden.org )

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