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Rocky Mountain Bee Plant Cleome serrulata


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Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
credit: Clarence A. Rechenthin

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Family: Capparaceae, Caper view all from this family

Description Branched stems have palmately compound leaves and, in racemes at ends of branches, pink or reddish-purple flowers (sometimes white).
Habit: native annual herb; erect, branched, leafy stem.
Height: 0.5-5 ft (15-150 cm)
Leaf: palmately compound, 3 leaflets, leaflets narrowly lanceolate, 1-3 in (25-75 mm) long, 0.2-0.6 in (5-15 mm) wide, sometimes finely toothed; becoming simple and smaller above.
Flower: pink to magenta (rarely white), to 0.5 in (12 mm) long, stalked; 4 petals, 6 long protruding stamens; in elongated or rounded terminal spikes.
Fruit: long, narrow pod, 1-3 in (25-75 mm) long, on long drooping stalk; many dark, ovoid seeds.

Flower June to September.

Flower July - September

Habitat Light or sandy soil; prairie, pasture, open woodlands, flood plains, arroyos, roadsides, disturbed areas; to 8500 ft (2600 m).

Range Native to western North America, from eastern Washington to northern California, east on the Great Plains to the Dakotas and Iowa, south to northern Texas; introduced eastward to Ohio, New York, and Maine, and northward to southern Canada.

Discussion Also known as bee spiderflower, toothed spider-flower, stinking-clover. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas. Flowers produce copious nectar and attract bees, hence the common name. Indians boiled the strong leaves for food and as a stomachache remedy. In times of drought early Spanish-Americans made tortillas from the barely palatable but nourishing seeds.

Comments Members of this genus have been cultivated as garden ornamentals. Rocky Mountain beeplant is recommended for short-term stabilization and beautification.

Exposure Preference Sun to partial sun.

Native Distribution E. Washington to California, e. to Saskatchewan & extreme n.e. Texas; introduced eastward

Site Preference Prairies; open woods; wash areas; disturbed sites

Soil Preference Well-drained, sandy soils.

Wildlife Value Bees are attracted to the pink flowers, and seeds are important food for doves and other small birds.