Castilleja ambigua var. ambigua
Stems ± short-decumbent proximally, becoming ascending to erect, often branched. Leaves widely lanceolate, sometimes linear or narrowly oblong, rarely ovate, not fleshy, apex rounded. Bracts proximally greenish, rarely dull brownish, distally white, rarely fading pinkish, on lobe apices; lobes ascending, linear to oblong, 12–15 mm, usually arising near or above mid length. Calyces with all 4 clefts subequal; lateral clefts 2–3 mm, 20% of calyx length. Corollas 14–21 mm; beak pale to bright yellow or white, rarely pink, 4–6 mm; abaxial lip pale to bright yellow; teeth white, rarely pink or reddish purple.
Phenology: Flowering Apr–Aug(–Oct).
Habitat: Sandy coastal bluffs, inland grasslands, upper margins of salt marshes.
Elevation: 0–500 m.
B.C., Calif., Oreg., Wash.
Variety ambigua is highly variable among populations. Much of the variation tends towards two ecotypes. One ecotype has thin leaves with narrow, often acute lobes and more or less spreading-ascending stems. Plants of this ecotype inhabit sandy coastal bluffs and short-grass, herbaceous meadows, often well inland, in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma counties in California. Plants of a second ecotype have fleshy leaves and bracts with more or less obtuse lobes and more upright stems. These are found in Salicornia-dominated coastal salt marshes and range from southern Vancouver Island to San Francisco Bay. Plants found around Tomales Bay, Marin County, may have pink beaks. Variety ambigua occasionally hybridizes with Castilleja exserta and reportedly with C. rubicundula.