Yellow Pepperweed

In March while exploring near Eagle Mountain between Death Valley Junction and Shoshone CA Leonard and I came across a small patch of yellow pepperweed (Lepidium flavum). This native annual, in a good year, can blanket the ground. This year is very dry so there were only a few small plants. They can be found between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in the low flats and broad washes of the Southern California and Nevada deserts. The range extends into Baja.

Yellow pepperweed is a low, yellowish green, creeping plant that usually grows only a few inches high. The several stems are brittle at the joints. The fleshy leaves occur as a basal rosette and also are cauline (on the stems). The basal leaves are pinnately lobed while the stem leaves are simple and spatulate.

The tiny flowers, like those of other members of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) have four petals. The petals are spoon shaped and yellow and alternate with four yellowish sepals. There are 6 stamens.

Yellow pepperweed fruits are flat, rounded, winged capsules that contain many minuscule seeds which taste peppery.

Yellow pepperweed herbage makes a good salad addition.

The genus designation means “little scale” in Greek and refers to the fruit shape. Yellow is the meaning of the specific epithet in Latin.

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