White Pussypaws

Pussypaws (also called Mount Hood Pussypaws) formerly was placed in the Purselane Family (Portulacaceae) and is now in the Miner’s Lettuce Family (Montiaceae). To add to the confusion (as I mentioned in my 08-01-12 “Pussypaws” post), this native perennial has changed genus at least three times. Currently I believe the proper scientific name is Calyptridium umbellaum.

The flower is composed of 2 sepals and 4 petals which are overlapping (imbricate), crowded, thin, dry and membranous. Pussypaws flowers can be reddish pink or white, however, I usually see pink pussypaws flowers. In July along California Highway 89 near Bartle (Siskiyou County) I found some completely white specimens.

Fleshy, basal, spatulate leaves radiate out from a thickened taproot extending many feet into the soil making pussypaws a valuable anchor on unstable mountain slopes. Pussypaws roots as long as 11 feet in length have been measured.

The current genus designation, Calyptridium, comes from the Greek and means “cap or covering” because of the petal arrangement. The species name refers to the flowers which arise from a central point in the inflorescence, an umbel.

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