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Western Peppergrass Lepidium montanum


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Western Peppergrass
credit: J. N. Stuart/CCSA

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Alternate name: Mountain Pepperwort

Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description A round plant formed by many slender branches, each branch ending in a short dense raceme of minute white flowers; variable appearance.
Habit: native, biennial or short-lived perennial, subshrub or herb; with erect to ascending stems, few to many branches at top.
Height: 1.5-48 in (4-120 cm) or more.
Leaf: in basal clump or rosette, stalked, pinnately lobed, with narrow lobes, 0.6-2.4 in (15-60 mm), usually withered by flowering; on stem, alternate, similar below, becoming shorter, linear above.
Flower: very small, white to cream, fragrant, to 0.15 in (4 mm) wide; held in dense terminal cluster or spike.
Fruit: oval or round pod, to 0.2 in (5 mm) long.

Flower March to August, possibly re-blooming after rainstorms.

Flower March - June

Habitat Pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush and other shrub communities, rocky hillsides and crevices, bajadas, spring seepages, washes, gypseous grounds, sandstone cliffs, limestone gravel, playas, knolls, gumbo hills, sandy areas, alkaline flats and lowlands, roadsides, disturbed sites; 4000-9000 ft (1200-2700 m); also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Western U.S. from Oregon south to California, east to New Mexico, north to Montana.

Discussion Also known as mountain peppergrass, mountain pepperweed, mountain pepperwort, Montana pepperweed, pepperweed, peppergrass. Twelve varieties are recognized, some rather rare. Within its range, any bushy perennial mustard with small white flowers is likely to be L. montanum.

The showiest peppergrass is Fremonts Peppergrass (L. fremontii), found from southeastern California to southwestern Utah, western Arizona, and northwestern Mexico; it has white flowers with petals 1/4 (5 mm) long and pods resembling broad hearts about 1/4 (6 mm) wide.

Comments Seeds are used as a peppery spice, thus the common name. This is a short-lived perennial so some seedlings must be allowed to survive for replacement plants.

Exposure Preference Sun to partial sun.

Native Distribution W. Texas to e. Arizona, n. to s. Idaho & Beaverhead County, Montana

Site Preference Sandy, saline, or calcareous sites

Soil Preference Sandy, saline, or calcareous soils.