California Gromwell

California gromwell (Lithospermum californicum) is a plant covered in hairs. The ecology of this native perennial is open slopes in sparsely treed woods and chaparral. It grows in California and Oregon.

Small clumps of California gromwell stems arise from a woody caudex (basal stem structures from which new growth forms) on a stout taproot. The stems are branching and spreading. The alternate leaves are oblong to lanceolate with the lower leaves being more linear and the upper leaves more ovate.

The golden yellow California gromwell flowers are in open panicles at the end of stems or occur singly in the upper leaf axils. Five petals unite to form the funnel-like flowers. The petal lobes are rounded. Hairy, pointed sepals surround each flower.

California gromwell fruits are shiny, ovoid white nutlets.

Native Americans derived a red dye from California gromwell roots. Contemporary fabric artists continue to use the roots for natural dyes.

Other common names for L californicum are California puccoon and California stoneseed. The genus name, Lithospermum, derives from Latin and means “stone seed” – lithos is stone and sperma is seed.

These California gromwell specimens were photographed along Water Gulch Trail near Lake Shasta, Shasta County CA.


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1 Response to California Gromwell

  1. tonytomeo says:

    The name resembles that of the tan oak, Lithocarpus, which seems to mean ‘stone seed’, although some would say it means ‘stone wrist’. I do not know what that means.
    Lithodora sound even funnier, as if it smells like stone.


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