Sunday, January 3, 2010

Caulanthus inflatus

Desert Candle - Caulanthus inflatus - Brassicaceae

Striking and beautiful, the desert candle is a native herbaceous plant that can usually be found on sandy hillocks and in washes, where they grow in large, spectacular stands. Deriving its common name from the apical nature of its flowers, this member of the mustard family can grow to be nearly three feet tall, and bears numerous purple flowers at the apex of its inflated main stem. Found predominantly in the Mojave, and to a lesser extent the surrounding regions, they typically bloom from March till May. Though typically unbranched, they can form lateral stalks on occasion, forming a living candelabra.

Desert candles are bee pollinated annuals, specifically the smaller native bees found in the desert. When in bloom, they can be heavily visited by these insects. Their fruit, however, is a dry, dehiscent silique that releases its seeds near the parent plant without animal dispersion. The parent plant dies in the late summer-early fall, and is replaced next year by its offspring.

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