Sunday, April 25, 2010

Desert Alyssum or Bush Peppergrass

Desert alyssum, also known as bush peppergrass (Lepidium fremontii)
is a member of the mustard family and is native to the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.
These plants were photographed in the southern portion of Joshua Tree National Park near the Cottonwood entrance and off of the Hayfield Road exit of the I-10. These particular stems are just getting ready to flower.
Fremontii is a tribute to John C. Fremont, the explorer of the American southwest.
From March to May
it has great masses of small, four-parted white flowers
in branched, leafy clusters,
which make the normally drab plant look white and conspicuous.
Quarter-inch long, flattened, rounded fruits have a notch in the top.
The plant resembles a large garden alyssum. Indians ate the leaves and seeds. Crushing the foliage yields a smell similar to broccoli or cabbage. Much of the information for this post came from Mojave Desert Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Mojave Deseert, Including the Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park by Pam MacKay.

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