Elegant Rockcress

Elegant rockcress (Boechera arcuata) is a native, perennial in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). It is endemic to California and often considered a variety of Boechera sparsiflora. However, geographic range and characteristics of the hairs justify giving elegant rockcress its own species designation.

Also commonly called arching rockcress, Arabis arcuata is a synonym for B arcuata. The species name means “arched” or “bent like a bow” and refers to the fruits: siliques (splits open at maturity into two halves) which are sickle-like and are held horizontally from the stem. The genus, Boechera honors Tyge Wittrock Boecher (1909 – 1983), a Danish botanist and expert on Arctic vegetation. Boecher also worked on members of the Arabis genus.

Elegant rockcress arises from a woody caudex. The basal leaves have scattered long hairs and are lance-like and generally entire, although they sometimes may have a few shallow teeth. The cauline leaves clasp the stems and resemble arrowheads.

The inflorescence is composed of 12 to 70 purplish flowers. Each flower has four hairy sepals, four petals in the shape of a cross, six stamens and a superior ovary with one style and two chambers.

Elegant rockress is found on rocky hillsides, cliffs, pine forests and chaparral between 1,870 and 7,250 feet. These specimens were growing along the Wapama Trail (Hetch Hetchy Area) in Yosemite National Park (California) in April.

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