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Cleome serrulata Pursh

Rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderBrassicalesMustard, cabbage, caper, papaya, nasturtiums, many others; most produce mustard oil
FamilyCleomaceaeCaper family
GenusCleomeAn ancient name of some mustard-like plant
SpeciesserrulataMinutely serrate

About plant names...

I slammed on the brakes when I first saw these arresting wildflowers along Rte 117 in the El Malpais National Mon­ument Badlands in New Mexico. They are North American natives, often found along roadsides, in disturbed soils, in meadows, or in rangelands. They prefer dryer cli­mates at elevations of 3000-9500' (914-2895 m).

The Lewis and Clark Expedition collected samples in South Dakota in 1804, later examined and described by Frederick Taru­gott Pursh and included in his monumental Flora Amer­icae Septentrionalis in 1814. Southwestern Indian tribes extract a yellow-green dye from the plants, used for wool rugs and blankets. Concentrated further by boiling, the dye makes a thick black resin that is used to paint designs on pottery or baskets.

Plants: A single erect stem is 4-59" (10-150 cm) in height.

Leaves: Arranged spirally. Each leaf has three leaflets (trifoliate), often with tiny teeth. Each leaflet is ⅜-2½" (1-7 cm) long.

Flowers: Flowerheads are a spray of lavendar or pink flowers, each with four petals and four darker sepals. Green-tipped purplish stamens poke out from each flower. Almost looks like an exploding firework! Flowers appear from May to September.

Fruits: Capsules similar to beanpods are 1-3" (2.5-7.6 cm) long. Each contains several seeds.

Edibility: Southwestern Indian tribes used these plants for potherbs. Seeds are edible raw or cooked, ground to make gruels or bread. Leaves, flowers and shoots can be cooked and eaten as a cooked vegetable or added to cornmeal porridge, though the bitter, unpleasant taste of the leaves is often masked with chilis. (There are many unsavory names for the plant’s odor. Go figure.) Plants are high in vitamin A and calcium. Note: the plant is high in nitrates and can cause nitrate/nitrite poisoning if consumed in large quantities.

Medical: Teas made from the plants were used to treat fevers and stomach ailments.

These are somewhat similar:

 

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/26/2014 · Rte 117, El Malpais National Monument Badlands, El Malpais, New Mex­ico
≈ 7 × 10" (16 × 25 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico
≈ 7 × 10" (18 × 26 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico · By Susan M. Kent
≈ 14 × 9' (4.1 × 2.8 m)

 
Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma

Cleome hassleriana
You are here
Cleome serrulata
Common Name

large-flowered redwhisker clammyweed

spider flower

rocky mountain beeplant
Plant 12-24" (30-60 cm) tall. The stem is usually unbranched, and green to reddish purple. Both the stem and leaves are covered with sticky hairs. The plant has a strong odor. Erect annuals, up to 5' (1.5 m) in height, with round, slightly ridged stems. A single erect stem is 4-59" (10-150 cm) in height.
Flowers Clusters of flowers are about 3" (7.6 cm) around and up to 8" (20 cm) high. Each flower has four white notched petals up to ⅜" (9.5 mm) long, with prominent red stamens that are more than twice the length of the petals. Flowers appear from July to September. In compact racemes at stem tips. Purple, pink, or white, strongly scented, with four petals and six long, graceful stamens. Flowers appear from June to frost. Flowerheads are a spray of lavendar or pink flowers, each with four petals and four darker sepals. Green-tipped purplish stamens poke out from each flower. Almost looks like an exploding firework! Flowers appear from May to September.
Leaves Near the base of the plant, leaves are in groups of three. Further up the stem, they are single, alternate, elliptic, and nearly sessile. The upper leaves remain roughly constant in size along the stem, at up to 1½" (3.8 cm) × ½" (1.3 cm). Leaf tips may be blunt or pointed. Arranged in a spiral pattern around the stem. Leaves are palmate—shaped like fingers on a hand—with 5 or 7 leaflets. Each leaflet is narrowly oval, toothed, finely hairy, up to 4½" (12 cm) × 1½" (4 cm), on petioles (leaf stems) up to 6" (15 cm) long. Arranged spirally. Each leaf has three leaflets (trifoliate), often with tiny teeth. Each leaflet is ⅜-2½" (1-7 cm) long.
Fruit Yellowish green pods, on reddish stems emerging almost horizontally from the main stem, are angled upward. They remind me of a cross between a pea pod and a milkweed pod, though they are not related to either of these. Like the rest of the plant, the fruits are covered with sticky hairs. Capsules up to 6" (15 cm) × ⅛" (3 mm). Capsules similar to beanpods are 1-3" (2.5-7.6 cm) long. Each contains several seeds.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 2-11

Habitats They prefer full sun and moderately moist to dry, gravelly or sandy soil. They are found on river banks, streamsides, roadsides, and other disturbed sites. Gardens and occasional garden escapes. Along roadsides, in disturbed soils, in meadows, or in rangelands. They prefer dryer cli­mates at elevations of 3000-9500' (914-2895 m).
Type Wild Escaped cultivar Wild

 

Online References:

Cleome serrulata on santafebotanicalgarden.org

Cleome serrulata at the U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site

Cleome serrulata on Wikipedia

Cleome serrulata at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Cleome serrulata on www.nrcs.usda.gov (PDF)

Cleome serrulata on www.gothichorrorstories.com

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/26/2014 · Rte 117, El Malpais National Monument Badlands, El Malpais, New Mex­ico
≈ 8 × 12" (21 × 31 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico
≈ 7 × 11" (18 × 28 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico · By Susan M. Kent
≈ 7 × 4½' (2.1 × 1.4 m)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico
≈ 7 × 8" (16 × 20 cm)

Peritoma serrulata (Pursh) DC.

Cleome serrulata Pursh var. angusta (M.E. Jones) Tidestr.

 

Cleome serrulata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 6 Sep 2021.

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Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/26/2014 · Rte 117, El Malpais National Monument Badlands, El Malpais, New Mex­ico
≈ 7 × 7" (16 × 18 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/30/2014 · New Mex­ico
≈ 4½ × 4½" (11 × 11 cm)

Cleome serrulata (rocky mountain beeplant, stinkweed, stinking clover, Navajo spinach)

8/26/2014 · Rte 117, El Malpais National Monument Badlands, El Malpais, New Mex­ico
≈ 8 × 5" (20 × 13 cm)

Range:

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