Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
A little-noticed plant, narrow-leaved collomia probably occurs in every county in North Dakota. Elsewhere, the plant can be found from Quebec to Washington southward to California and New Mexico at elevations up to 10,000 ft.
Narrow-leaved collomia is an annual with simple or branched stems covered with tiny, glandular hairs. The narrow leaves are alternate on the stem and about 2 inches long. They too may be covered with tiny glandular hairs. Flowers cluster at the tip of the stem and on the axils of the upper branches. The white to pink flowers are five-parted and only about 3/16 inch long. Tiny capsules bear seeds that become sticky when wet.
Look for narrow-leaved collomia from May to August on dry native prairie. Grazing pressure seems to have little effect on the abundance of this plant. None of the references available to me list any economic uses for members of this genus. It is unfortunate that the history of use of many Great Plains plants by Amerindians was not recorded.
The plant is a member of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae), the name derived either from Polemon, an early Athenian philosopher, or from the Greek polemos, "war." This is a small family, containing only about 275 species. Most are found in western North America. A few are cultivated for ornament and others are small trees. The generic name Collomia is from the Greek kolla, "glue," in reference to the mucilaginous seeds. Linearis means "linear" in botanical Latin, in reference to the narrow leaves. Narrow-leaved collomia was described for science in 1818 by the famous British naturalist-botanist Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859). He visited the Mandan villages in what now is North Dakota in 1810-1811.