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Caterpillar Phacelia
Phacelia cicutaria

About Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria) Phacelia cicutaria (Caterpillar Phacelia or Caterpillar Scorpionweed) is an annual species in the Boraginaceae (Borage) family that is native to California, southern Nevada, and Baja California. It grows mainly in chaparral, frequently in burnt areas or on rocky slopes. Phacelia cicutaria is an upright annual shrub growing up to than 0.6 meter (2') high. Its foliage is deeply lobed, 2-15 centimeter. (1-6") long, with spiked segments. The flower buds are held in tight, hairy coils which uncoil as the flowers open one by one. The flowering stems' resemblance of caterpillars lends this plant its common name. Flowers appear Mar-May and are dirty-white to pale lavender in color.

It should be noted that there are a very large number of species in the genus Phacelia. Most are annuals. Gardeners should look for species appropriate to their area and garden conditions.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Annual herb

Max. Height
0.6 - 2 ft (0.18 - 0.6 m)

Max. Width
2 ft (0.6 m)

Foliage is deeply lobed, 2-15 centimeter. (1-6") long, with spiked segments

Flower Color
Lavender, Cream, White

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Sandy, gravelly or rocky slopes

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
-32' - 7672'

Annual Precip. ?
3.5" - 51.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.42"

Coldest Month ?
27.8° F - 59.1° F

Hottest Month ?
54.2° F - 87.8° F

Humidity ?
0.84 vpd - 38.88 vpd

Soil PH
5.3 - 8.2


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 15° F

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment may give satisfactory germination. Addition of a small amount of charate over the sown seeds greatly improves germination. Oven heat of 248°F for 5 mins. first further improves results. Combined trea tment has synergistic effect (Keeley and Keeley 1982).

Common uses
Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Rarely Available

Other Names
Common Names
Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Caterpiller Phacelia

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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