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    According to Polemoniaceae expert, J. Mark Porter, the photographs on this page are Eriastrum diffusum, not Eriastrum sparsiflorum, but the plants key to Eriastrum sparsiflorum using Stanley Welsh's A Utah Flora and Cronquist's Intermountain Flora. William Weber's 2012 edition of Colorado Flora: Western Slope lists only Eriastrum diffusum.

Eriastrum sparsiflorum
Eriastrum sparsiflorum (Sparse Starflower)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

This dainty beauty can grow branched to about ten inches tall but often remains unbranched and two-to-five inches tall.  The plant is very difficult to find and, in fact, these are the first published photographs of it in Colorado.  It had never been found in the state until Marion Rohman and my wife, Betty, independently spotted it within three days of each other in several locations within ten miles of each other.  Almost all plants found were just an inch or two tall.  The flower opens around mid-morning; plants are, therefore, even more difficult to find before that time.

The genus was named by Elmer Wooton and Paul Standley and this species was at first named Gilia sparsiflora by Alice Eastwood in 1902 from a specimen she collected in the Kings River Canyon, California, July 1899.  It was renamed Eriastrum sparsiflorum by Herbert Mason in 1945. "Eriastrum" is from the Greek for "early star".

Eriastrum sparsiflorum (Sparse Starflower)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings. Spring.
Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, May 17, 2007.

These photographs show E. sparsiflorum in eastern Utah where it has seldomly been recorded.  It is most commonly found in the far western states and in a few far western Utah counties; it is not found in New Mexico or Arizona.

Eriastrum sparsiflorum (Sparse Starflower)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

Eriastrum sparsiflorum (Sparse Starflower)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

All the above photographs show just one flower on each plant with a relatively slender swelling of the ovary below the petals.  The photograph at left shows plants maturing with, from left to right, an increasing number of flowers clustered together and swelling the floral area.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Eriastrum sparsiflorum