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Desert Candle Caulanthus inflatus


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Desert Candle
credit: Annie's Annuals & Perennials/CCSA

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Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description A stout, swollen, yellow-green stem resembling a yellow candle, sometimes branched to resemble a candelabra.
Habit: native annual herb; erect, hollow stem, to 16 in (4 cm) diameter, rises from a basal rosette.
Height: 6-40 in (15-100 cm)
Leaf: in basal rosette, stalked, obovate to oblanceolate, sometimes finely toothed; on stem, alternate, becoming fewer and stalkless above; 0.5-8 in (12-200 mm) long, 0.2-2.75 in (5-70 mm) wide.
Flower: small, 0.3-0.6 in (8-14 mm) long, with 4 maroon to purple brown to white petals; held in dense terminal cluster rather like a chrysanthemum; while white flowerheads, sometimes tipped with purple, are held singly on thin stalks, to 1.25 in (32 mm) long, projecting from the stem.
Fruit: long thin pod, held erect next to stem, 1.4-5 in (35-127 mm) long, around 1/8 in (3 mm) wide.

Flower February to June.

Habitat Open, dry, sandy or gravelly locations: brushy slopes, desert plains, dry hillsides, creosote bush scrub, joshua tree woodland, washes; 500-5000 ft (150-1500 m); also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Central and southern California; possibly into southwestern Nevada. Common in the southwestern Mojave Desert.

Discussion Also called squaw cabbage.

Wild Cabbage (C. crassicaulis) is similar, but its leaves lack backward-projecting lobes and its sepals and petals are purplish or brownish; it generally grows in sagebrush from western Nevada to southern Idaho, western Wyoming, and northwestern Colorado.