Montana Outdoors

July 10, 2010


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 )


  1. Interesting flower. I wonder if it is related to the garden flower, Clarkia, even though it doesn’t look at like it.


    Comment by kateri — July 10, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

    • I’m not familiar with that garden flower. I know this one has a very limited distribution though.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  2. Interesting info…
    The petals remind me of oak leaves.
    Pretty purple, too!


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — July 10, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

    • I think they are quite pretty, but I would surmise that they are seen be very few people in this area.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  3. That is a beautiful flower and interesting information about the historical connection. It caught my eye because one of my ancestors was acquainted with William Clark in Kentucky.


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — July 10, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    • That’s a cool connection! What a small world this is sometimes!


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  4. I go away for awhile and your images become even better Terry, love the color and detail in this, well done !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — July 10, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    • Thanks Bernie! This has turned out to be a pretty good year for wildflowers so there has been a lot on which to practice.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

  5. Wow, wow, wow! Gorgeous!


    Comment by Barbara — July 11, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    • They really are pretty, aren’t they! Very unusual blossoms.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  6. How large is it, Terry? It reminds me of antlers, and If it was naming it, that would be in there somewhere.

    I love the second shot.


    Comment by sandy — July 11, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

    • THey are about the size of a fifty cent piece. One of their common names is “Deerhorn”, so someone else saw that too.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

  7. I especially like the 2nd photo. What a delicate and unusual petaled flower.


    Comment by Anna — July 11, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    • I was so pleased to have found them in what I considered to be an unusual place.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

  8. I wonder why he didn’t name it after Lewis?


    Comment by Candace — July 11, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    • I sort of gathered that Clark was the one who was working with the plant species, this one in particular.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

  9. Wow! beautiful and smart too! thanks for the science and history lesson along w/ the beautiful photos


    Comment by silken — July 14, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

    • I usually research the plants that I post and found the information on this one kind of interesting.


      Comment by montucky — July 14, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

  10. Very special flower. It is looking so “different”. I checked if we have it and there was only one observation in 2007!


    Comment by sartenada — July 15, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

    • I find it interesting that there was at least an observation there! That’s cool!


      Comment by montucky — July 15, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  11. Hi montucky, I’m also interested in this. (Please see my latest article.) Your post was enjoyable to read; you have most certainly provided me with some food for thought.


    Comment by Jessica — July 17, 2010 @ 11:00 am

    • Thanks for the visit and comment, Jessica. I was surprised to find that bit about the plant and still wonder how Brown got started with pollen from this plant which isn’t all that available.


      Comment by montucky — July 17, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

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