Blue-Eyed Mary, Spring Blue-Eyed Mary, Chinese Houses
Synonyms of Collinsia verna (4) (Updated on 3-3-21): Collinsia alba Raf., Collinsia bicolor Raf., Collinsia tricolor Raf., Linaria tenella F.Dietr.
Collinsia verna Nutt. is the correct and accepted scientific name for Blue-Eyed Mary. The genus and species were named and described by Thomas Nuttall in Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1817.
Plants of the World Online lists 21 species of Collinsia (as of 3-3-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Plantaginaceae with a total of 106 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made. This species was formerly in the plant family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort).
The distribution map above for Collinsia verna is from Plants of the World Online. The map on the USDA Plants Database for North America is similar but doesn’t include Texas or Alabama (as of 3-3-21). The species could have a broader range than what the maps show.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND FOR BETTER ID.
Collinsia verna is a native species of North America happily growing throughout central and eastern United States and up into Ontario, Canada. It prefers growing in moist soil in partly shaded to open woods and is considered a winter annual, seeds germinating in the fall.
I found a HUGE colony of Collinsia verna growing on a friend’s farm outside of town when I was exploring for wildflowers and Morels on April 27 (2020). It was my first time to visit this area and my first siting of this species. Besides the huge colony growing in a fairly open area, they were hit and miss throughout the woods. After several hours walking through the woods, I went home with lots of photos but no mushrooms.
After uploading the photos and saving the best, I went to iNaturalist to make correct identifications and save the observation. As it turned out, this species is Collinsia verna, most commonly known as Blue-Eyed Mary. If you haven’t tried iNaturalist, the site is a great way to identify your wildflower finding practically anywhere in the world. It is very easy to use and share your observations.
While there are several identifying features of the species, the flowers are of course the first thing you notice. I short, the flowers are two-lipped with two white upper lobes, two blue lower lobes, and a fifth lobe that is folded and concealed. A complete description is more complicated…
The leaves in the center of the plant are clasping, broadly lanceolate, fairly pointed, have irregular margins to slightly toothed. Many plants have secondary flowers emerging from long pedicels above the leaf axils.
The main stem of the plant terminates with an inflorescence bearing 2-6 flowers on pedicles up to an inch or so long. Lower petals can be blue or purplish and rarely white. I didn’t see any flowers with white lower petals
The lower leaves on the stem are oval to orbicular with a few blunt teeth along the margins. They are smaller than the other leaves and seem to have short petioles
The photo above is a closer look at the auxiliary flower emerging from a leaf axil with a long, narrow pedicel, up to 1 1/2″ long.
The above photo shows a terminal inflorescence on the main stem of a plant. You can see the leafy bracts where the pedicels emerge.
Pedicels are light green, round (terete), with short, fine hairs (pubescent)). Each flower is approximately ½-¾” across, consisting of a green calyx with 5 teeth and blue and white corollas. The calyx is light green to purplish green. The calyx is often pubescent and its teeth are narrowly triangular in shape. The corollas are short, tubular, and are divided into an upper and lower lip. The upper lip is cleft into 2 large rounded lobes that are white, while the lower lip is cleft into 3 lobes (one appears to be hidden until later).
The above photo shows flowers that are more purplish in color.
The above photo shows flowers with blue lower lips and a plant with more purplish lower lips. I think it is possible as the flowers get older they turn more purplish.
The lower leaves seem to be sessile but not clasping with rounded tips and lack the “teeth” seen on the upper leaves. The leaves and stems are slightly pubescent (fuzzy).
Ahhh… There it is!
There seems to be a lot going on in the above photo. Here you can see the fifth lobe between the two lower lobes that is usually folded and concealed. This middle lobe contains the stamens and style of the flower.
Flowers persist after setting fruit. I think the black spot in the tube must be an insect. Surely is it isn’t a seed capsule… The next time I see this I check. Sometimes you don’t notice things when you are taking photos.
Toward the end of my wildflower excursion I ran across a nice colony wanting to be photographed.
April 27 was a great day for wildflower hunting even though I only found one morel. I saw many wildflowers I had not seen before including the delightful Collinsia verna.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at email@example.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky
NOTE: Plants of the World Online is the most up-to-date database. It is very hard for some to keep with name changes these days so you may find a few discrepancies between the websites. Just be patient. Hopefully, someday they will be in harmony. 🙂