California Herperochiron

A native perennial found throughout western United States, California hesperochiron (Hesperochiron californicus) grows in swales and other moist sites in the sagebrush steppe. It tolerates slightly saline conditions.

Six to eight California hesperochiron leaves form a rosette above the short, thick root. The leaves are entire and may be sparsely hairy on both sides. Narrow and oblong to oval, the entire leaves have a petiole (stalk).

The white flowers of California hesperochiron have five petals and are united into a funnelform shape. The flowers are nestled into the basal rosette on a long, slender pedicel (stem). The inside of the corolla is yellow and hairy.

Many dark brown, ovoid, somewhat pitted seeds are contained in each mature capsule (fruit).

Another name for California hesperochiron is California monkey-fiddle. I do wonder about the origin of that common name.

I also do not understand the derivation of the genus name, Hesperochiron. “Hesperos” means “western” in Greek. Chiron was a centaur skilled in medicine. I know of no medicinal use for California hesperochiron or the other member of this genus (Hesperochiron pumilus, see Hesperochiron on 05-01-12).

In May I photographed these specimens at Gooch Springs and at Catnip Reservoir in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Nevada.

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