Leonard and I recently returned from a tent camping trip to The Pinnacles National Park CA. Woolly bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum) is one of the interesting plants we saw. The early Spanish settlers called this member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) romero, the Spanish word for rosemary, because its leaves and odor resemble those of the herb, rosemary. Romero remains another common name for T lanatum.
Woolly bluecurls is a erect, strongly-scented shrub with many brittle stems originating from a woody base. The entire plant is glandular. The opposite, sessile lance to linear shaped leaves have edges that roll under. The evergreen blades are green above and lanate (woolly) below.
The woolly bluecurls inflorescence is a dense, terminal spike. Each flower is composed of a five-cleft calyx and a two-lipped corolla with five blue petals joined into a slender tube. The superior ovary is four-celled. The four distinctive stamens are very long and arched. The entire inflorescence, including the calyces and outer sides of the petals, are covered with a dense coat of woolly hairs.
The fruits of woolly bluecurls are composed of four ridged nutlets joined at the base.
Woolly bluecurls is endemic to the dry chaparral slopes of coastal mountains in California and Baja. It us usually found below 3,500 feet.
California Indians put the woolly hairs from the inflorescence into streams to assist in catching fish. The hairs would collect in the fish gills and interfere with respiration killing or making the fish easier to catch.
These Native Americans and Spanish Californians made a tea of woolly bluecurls leaves and flowers to settle upset stomachs. Oil in which woolly bluecurls was fried made an ointment or liniment for pain and bruises or a cure for ulcers.
The genus designation, Trichostema, comes from the Greek words trichos (hair) and stemon (stamen) and refers to the hairy calyx and long, slender stamens. The specific epithet means “covered in woolly hair” in Latin.
These specimens were photographed in May along the Rim Trail.