Exploring atop Lower Table Rock (Jackson County OR near Medford) in April, Leonard and I came upon what appeared to be meadowfoam flowers protected by wire cages. Nearby signage identified the plants as Table Rock meadowfoam (Limnanthes pumila ssp pumila). As far as is known, Lower Table Rock and the nearby Upper Table Rock are the only place in the world where this subspecies grows.
Table Rock meadowfoam is a native growing in vernal pools and other moist areas of the Table Rocks. The low-lying stems may be simple or branched near the base. The hairless leaves are pinnately divided.
The flowers of this annual have five sepals and five white petals that are slightly longer than the sepals. The petals have two rows of hairs in a “vee” shape on the inside portion of each petal. Ten stamens and a superior ovary with five styles complete the flower.
Each flower has three to five nutlets. (small, dry nut-like fruit or seed). Like other meadowfoams, Table Rock meadowfoam seeds contain oil. Although the oil of Table Rock meadowfoam is not used commercially, meadowfoam oil is used in soaps, cosmetics and plastic and rubber production. This meadowfoam oil can tolerate high heat and is also used as a lubricant.
Depending on the list consulted, Table Rock meadowfoam is categorized as a “threatened” or “endangered” species. Invasive species, off-trail hiking, illegal use of an abandoned airstrip atop Lower Table Rock and grazing on Upper Table Rock threaten this fragile plant. I did not pick any flowers while photographing these specimens, but did get wet laying in the moist vegetation at the level of the plants.
The genus name, Limnanthes, comes from the Greek “limne” meaning marsh and “anthos” meaning flower and refers to the habitat of meadowfoams. The species and subspecies designations mean “dwarf” in Latin. L pumila ssp pumila is also commonly known as dwarf woolly meadowfoam.
A previous post (Woolly Meadowfoam on 04-09-14) discussed another member of this genus.