Tiny wildflowers seem more numerous in the spring. These little gems are easily overlooked, but are pretty in a minimalist way and their natural history is often fascinating.
Woolly meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa) is native to and found in wet to moist depressions in open fields in Northern California and Southern Oregon. There are at least six subspecies of L. floccosa, most of which have limited ranges and are endangered. I believe this woolly meadowfoam, photographed in Shasta County CA, belongs to the subspecies floccosa, one of the more widespread subspecies of wooly meadowfoam. Yet even this subspecies is not common.
A low-growing annual, woolly meadowfoam is 2″ to 8″ in height. The entire plant is covered in white, woolly hairs. The alternately arranged leaves are pinnate with five to seven pairs of leaflets. The bell-shaped flowers have five white petals that age to pink. The petals of woolly meadowfoam are equal in length to the sepals or smaller than the sepals.
Another genus of meadowfoam is cultivated for its seed oil. Meadowfoam oil has been compared to whale oil because of its emollient properties and resistance to oxidation. Woolly meadowfoam has been used to improve the commercial meadowfoam cultivars.
It is always exciting to find an unusual wildflower.