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Clammyweed Polanisia dodecandra (Polanisia trachysperma)


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credit: JerryFriedman/CCSA

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Alternate name: Red-whisker Clammyweed

Family: Capparaceae, Caper view all from this family

Description Sticky short hairs cover this strong-smelling, branched plant which has palmately compound leaves and racemes of white or cream flowers.
Habit: native annual (rarely perennial) herb; sticky, hairy, unbranched stems; taprooted.
Height: 4-36 in (10-90 cm) or more.
Leaf: long-stalked, palmately compound with 3 leaflets; leaflets oblanceolate to obovate or elliptical, 1-2.5 in (2-6.5 cm) long, 0.2-1.2 in (0.5-3 cm) wide.
Flower: white to cream to pink to purple, to 0.5 in (12 mm) long; 4 petals, narrowly heart-shaped, with 10-20 pink to purple stamens much longer than petals; in loose, round, terminal cluster, 2-8 in (5-20 cm) long.
Fruit: long slender capsule like pointed pea pod, 1-3 in (25-75 mm) long, with many tiny, dark seeds.

Flower May to October.

Habitat Sandy slopes and flats, common along washes, in deserts, on plains, and among pinon and juniper, stream banks, disturbed sites; to 6000 ft (1800 m).

Range Throughout North America, from Quebec and New Hampshire, south to Georgia, west to California, north to Washington and Alberta; not reported in the Carolinas or Alabama.

Discussion Also known as red-whisker clammyweed, large-flowered clammyweed, roughseed clammyweed, dwarf cleome. Endangered in Maryland, of special concern in Connecticut. Three varieties are proposed. The common name, Clammyweed, is also used for other Polonisia species; it refers to the sticky, moist glands on the surface of this plant. The specific epithet dodecandra means "having twelve stamens" in botanical Latin. This species is a member of the caper family (Capparaceae), named after similarly pungent capers, the edible flower-buds of Capparis spinosa.