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Linaria triornithophora

Linaria triornithophora

Thank you to Paulo Araújo of Dias com árvores for sharing today's image with us, from a small wooded area in Porto, Portugal (original via the BPotD Submissions forum).

In Portugal, Paulo mentions, the common name for this plant is esporas-bravas — “wild spurs”. In English, the common name of yellow-throated purple toadflax seems to have been pushed aside by a more romantic name, “three birds flying”. To be fair, the latter more closely resembles the epithet triornithophora, meaning “to bear three birds”.

This endemic to the Iberian Peninsula is becoming more widely cultivated. Unfortunately, there is some potential for it to become a weedy invasive like its cousin Linaria dalmatica; it is already listed as an adventive weed in New Zealand. However, it's not simple to assess in advance whether a plant will become invasive or not. Each species has its own spread dynamic (PDF), which, if determined, would have some predictive value.

Like many other former genera of the once-mighty Scrophulariaceae, Linaria has been shifted into the Plantaginaceae, or plantain family. One of the papers documenting the evidence for the change is available online: Olmstead et al.. 2001. Disintegration of the Scrophulariaceae. American Journal of Botany. 88:348-361.


This species is a minor escape throughout Vancouver. The first time I was introduced to it was at VanDusen Botanical Garden, where it happily seeds itself in the duff under Cedrus deodara trees. Here at UBC, it favours the same sort of habitats, in coniferous debris over gravel (e.g., next to pathways) in the sun.

I must say that moving it to Plantaginaceae surprises me. I've always thought that Linaria was a typical plant for Scrophulariaceae. This type of movements will happen more often when more and more people look at Families on gene-level and make new consensus-trees using phylogenetic methods. Confusing sometimes, but very interesting.
Lovely photo, by the way!

Thank you, Daniel, for publishing my photo. BPotD readers might also be interested in looking up here two photos of Linaria caesia, a less well-known species that lives on coastal dunes.

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