C. Michael Hogan PhD
February 3, 2009
This attractive perennial herb has bright red to pink-red flowers that attract hummingbirds. Indian Warrior is a hemiparasite that attaches to roots of certain oaks, manzanita or chamise species as hosts. It typically occurs on well drained slopes at elevations below 2100 meters. Historically the plants are said to flower from February to July, but climate change appears to be moving this window forward, such that I observed a number in full flower in January, 2009. Extracts of this species are known to induce strong pyschoactive drug responses in humans.
There are two subspecies of the Indian Warrior: P.d. densiflora and P.d. aurantiaca. The former taxon manifests short calyces with fully exserted floral tubes, enlarged lower labia, and smaller galea openings; however, the latter exhibits (Monfils) large calyces with floral tubes included at anthesis, reduced lower labia, and enlarged galea openings.In fact Monfils suggests that P.d. aurantiaca should be elevated to a separate species, P. aurantiaca, due to the significant established morphological differences.
Indian Warrior is quite variable in height, ranging from six to 55 cm. (Jepson) The greater stature is typically achieved when a host root is obtained for parasitic activity. The plant is finely pubescent, save for the stem and influorescence, which are coarsely hairy. (Abrams). This dicot exhibits stout green or occasionally magenta stems along with fern-like leaves, and lengthy spikes of deep red flowers having toothed petals
The oblong-lanceolate leaves are basal, and extend five to 28 cm; segments number 13 to 41, and are linear to ovate, doubly toothed to lobed. The showy inflorescence measures four to12 cm. Calyx is typically hairy and meaures eight to15 mm, with lobes more or less equal. The deep red to purple (sometimes yellow) corolla measures between 2.3 and 3.6 cm; it is straight, club-like, minutely hairy, with hooded upper lip eight 17 mm. The lower lip measures two to four mm, with equal lobes, and anthers two to three mm with acute bases . The slightly decurved capsules have characteristic size seven to 13 mm, and are dehiscent to the base. The netted seeds (one or two per cell) are 2.5 to 4.5 mm long.
P. densiflora occurs in chaparral, foothill woodland and yellow pine forest, typically on sandy or gravelly soil, which are often serpentine in nature. Hummingbirds such as Anna's Hummingbird are frequent pollinators of P. densiflora, even though species of Bombus genus are known to be chief pollinators of the primordial Pedicularis genus taxa. Perhaps the most specialized plant association in which Indian Warrior is found is the serpentine cypress chaparral, such as the McLaughlin Reserve in Napa County or The Cedars in Sonoma County. The McLaughlin association includes such understory plants as Cordylanthus tenius, Galium andrewsii and Hesperolinon disjunctum; The Cedars includes associates such as Parnassia californica, Streptanthus morrisonii, Garrya elliptica, Eriophorum criniger, Epipactus gigantea, Carex mendocinensis and Aspidotis densa. Both of these serpentine cypress areas contain Polygala californica.
The Del Puerto Canyon and some other populations (Andrewartha) of the Checkerspot butterfly, Euhydras editha, utilize P. densiflora as a host plant, but other populations of this butterfly, such as the Jasper Ridge occurrence, eschew P. densiflora in favor of Plantago erecta and Orthocarpus densiflora.
Parasitic activity is facultative and are most often associated with taxa of the heath family, particularly Arctostaphylos. The Indian Warrior extracts nutrients and water from the host's roots, but is capable of independent survival if no host is readily available.
The nectar of P densiflora is used as a food source by certain bird species (Moerman) as well as prehistoric peoples of the Pomo and Wailaki tribes. Prehistorically and in current times the buds of P. densiflora were used as a tobacco to produce strong psychotropic responses, including muscle relaxant, tranquilizer sedation agent and mood transformance. This author does not recommend experimentation with P.densiflora as a pharmaceutical substance.
* Anna K. Monfils and L. Alan Prather. 2007. Pedicularis aurantiaca and Pedicularis densiflora (Orobanchaceae): Taxonomy, Phenology and Floral Morphological Variation, Madroņo 54(4):306-321.
* Jepson Manual. 1993. University of California Press, Berkeley, California
* Le Roy Abrams and Roxana Stinchfield Ferris. 1923. An Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States: Washington, Oregon, and California, Stanford University Press, 866 pages ISBN 0804700052
* H. G. Andrewartha and L. C. Birch. 1986. The Ecological Web: More on the Distribution and Abundance of Animals, University of Chicago Press, 520 pages ISBN 0226020347
* Daniel E. Moerman. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany, Timber Press, 927 pages ISBN 0881924539