Another very early spring wildflower – the dagger pod (Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides).
A perennial member of the mustard family the dagger pod occurs in the high plains and open forests of the Great Basin. The thick, woody rootcrown, comprised of grayish, narrow elliptical leaves, hugs the ground and rarely grows higher than about 8″. The pinkish-purple flowers have four petals arranged in Maltese cross fashion and form thick racemes (elongated flower clusters along an axis) on leafless stems. These leafless stems are reddish in color and form a ring about the central leaves. The common name derives from the broad, twisted, dagger-like seed pods. (Pictures of them in the fall.) What a pretty sight the dagger pod flowers present when the drab grays and browns of winter still persist.
The generic name is from the Greek: phoeni meaning reddish purple and caulis, stem. The species name, also derived from the Greek, translates as “hand of flowers”.
I know of no medicinal or culinary uses for the dagger pod. Its beauty in the early spring is enough.
These plants grow in the natural area on our ranch in Lookout CA. Very young grass shoots are visible around the dagger pod plants.