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Jackass Clover Wislizenia refracta


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Jackass Clover - flower
credit: Anthony Mendoza/CCSA

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Alternate name: Spectacle-fruit

Family: Capparaceae, Caper view all from this family

Description Habit: native annual or perennial herb; many-branched; forms large dense colonies.
Height: 1.3-6.5 ft (0.4-2 m)
Leaf: long-stalked, palmately compound, 3 leaflets; leaflets ovate to obovate, 0.5-2 in (1-5 cm) long, 0.2-0.8 in (4-20 mm) wide.
Flower: small, yellow, 0.125 in (3 mm) long; 4 petals, 6 stamens; in dense terminal spike, about 0.5 in (12 mm) long.
Fruit: double pod, 0.125 in (3 mm) long; 2 tiny round lobes joined to resemble eyeglasses.

Warning Malodorous and poisonous to livestock, this plant is probably distasteful and rarely eaten. Humans should avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.

Flower April to September.

Habitat Low, sandy or alkaline soil in deserts and arid grasslands; frequent along roads and washes, dry sandy flats, desert scrub, roadsides; 1600-8000 ft (500-2400 m).

Range California's Central Valley east through the Mojave Desert, southern Nevada to trans-Pecos Texas, and south to Mexico.

Discussion Also known as spectacle fruit. Three subspecies are proposed. Although the plant parts are poisonous if eaten, this is a valuable honey plant nevertheless. The three leaflets give it a resemblance to clovers (Trifolium) in the pea family (Fabaceae), but the plants are not related. The origin of the word "jackass" in the common name is unknown.