Flatpod

Generally I try to keep my posts seasonal. However, I have such a backlog of “spring” and “early summer” topics that I decided to be a little less tied to the calendar in the future.

Flatpod (Idahoa scapigera) is a very tiny early spring wildflower – so small that it is easy to ignore or miss entirely. A native annual, flatpod is a plant that prefers a habitat that is vernally moist or wet,  preferably with open, rocky soil. It can be found from the Great Basin to Central California and as far north as British Columbia at elevations between 2,000 and 6,000 feet.

Flatpod leaves are oval with petioles (stalks) and form a basal rosette. The white flowers are inconspicuous and occur singly at the tip of threadlike, leafless stems. Look closely and the flower can be seen to have four petals in a Maltese Cross arrangement and red-purple sepals. What is usually observed are the solitary, flattened, oval or nearly circular pods that develop from the flowers on the stem tips. Each pod contains two seeds separated by a silvery partition. When the two sides of the pod fall away releasing the seeds the partition remains attached to the stem.  Flatpod grows between one and six inches in height, however, most of the flatpod plants I find are around two inches tall.

Flatpod is the only plant in the Idahoa genus and is  a member of the mustard family. Other colloquial names for flatpod are scalepod and oldstem idahoa.

These flatpod plants were photographed on a rocky slope above Ash Creek (Lassen County CA) near the Lower Campground.

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