redroot cryptantha, more...
[Eremocarya lepida (A. Gray) Greene, more]
Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Welsh et al. 2003, Allred and Ivey 2012, Kelley et al 2014 (Jepson)
Duration: Annual Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Low annual herb, 3-10 cm tall; stems very slender, branched mostly above; branches ascending, covered with small, appressed hairs, with skin peeling off the lower stems of larger, older plants; stem base and taproot charged with red-purple dye. Leaves: Opposite below and alternate above, sessile, relatively few and scattered along the stem; blades linear, less than 1 mm wide by 3-8 mm long. Flowers: White and tiny, in spikes that are curving but not strongly scorpioid, up to 5 cm long; each flower subtended by leafy bract; calyx strigose, 1 mm long in flower, persistant and elongating to 2 mm in fruit; corolla white with a yellow center, funnelform, the lobes broadly obovate-spatulate, notched at apex. Fruits: Nutlets 4, all the same size, 1 mm long, lanceolate, with rounded margins; surface can be completely smooth or tuberculate all over. Ecology: Found on sandy soil, often in creosote shrubland, below 7,000 ft (2134 m); flowers March-June. Distribution: c and s CA, se OR, NV, UT, AZ, NM, s TX; south into Baja MEX. Notes: Cryptantha is a genus of bristly herbs with white or yellow flowers in spikes that are usually 1-sided and curling like a scorpion-s tail (-scorpioid-). The seeds, called -nutlets- in the borage family, are crucial to identification of the species. As the nutlets are quite small and difficult to examine in the field with a hand lens, it is usually necessary to make a collection of mature material for later identification under a dissecting scope. C. micrantha is the smallest and most delicate of the Cryptantha. It is distinguished by the roots which are charged with purple dye; the flower spikes which are only mildly curving and not fully scorpionoid; and the stems which are less bristly than most Cryptantha, being covered with short, appressed hairs, though the leaves, bracts, and calyces are all quite hirsute (visible with a hand lens). It is similar to C. angustifolia, but that species is not quite as small, with nutlets 1.5 mm long and leaves up to 3 cm long, and only rarely has red-purple roots. Ethnobotany: Unknown, but other species in the genus have uses. Synonyms: Eritrichium micranthum, Eremocarya micrantha, Krynitzkia micrantha Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2015 Etymology: Cryptantha comes from the Greek krypto, "hidden," and anthos, "flower," a reference to the first described species in the genus which has inconspicuous flowers that self-fertilize without opening; micrantha means small-flowered.