Torrey’s Cryptantha

Species distinguishing characteristics: 
  • Small white flowers with yellow throats
  • Coiled flowerheads tend to be paired
  • Nutlets have a longitudinal groove down the center 
  • Foliage covered with stiff, straight, long hairs

 

Growth habitat: 

Annual, 10-40 cm tall, lacking a tuft of leaves at the base.

 
Leaves and stems: 

Foliage covered with stiff, straight, long hairs, often arising from low bumps.   Hairs are spreading or lay flat.  Erect stems are simple or branched. Alternate leaves are linear to narrowly oval, 0.3-5 cm long, with entire margins.   

Flowers: 

Small white flowers (1 mm across) with yellow throats in coiled flowerheads that tend to be paired.  Each flower consists of 5 tiny petals that are fused at the base into a tube with 5 bulges at the throat.  Flowerheads typically emerge somewhat above the leafier part of the plant.  Hairs on the base of the petals (calyx) are more or less straight. 

 
Torrey's Cryptantha close-up by Rebecca Durham
Torrey's Cryptantha close-up by Rebecca Durham
Torrey's Cryptantha flower close-up by Rebecca Durham
Torrey's Cryptantha flower close-up by Rebecca Durham
Roots: 

Taproot. 

 
Seeds: 

Small egg-shaped nutlets (1-2.5 mm) long, are smooth and shiny. Nutlets have a longitudinal groove down the center of the back side that forks near the tip. Nutlets are not compressed. Green calyx below the nutlets is 4-8 mm long, with stiff hairs that lay flat and spreading bristles.

Torrey's Cryptantha seed close-up by Rebecca Durham
Torrey's Cryptantha seed close-up by Rebecca Durham

Torrey's Cryptantha seed with medial crease close-up by Rebecca Durham
Torrey's Cryptantha seed with medial crease close-up by Rebecca Durham
Habitat preferences: 

Dry to moist, sparsely vegetated soil of open forests at low to mid-elevations.

 
Interesting facts: 

Cryptantha refers to the presences in many members of this genus or flowers that never open and appear hidden.   Species named after John Torrey, an American botanist.  Some Cryptantha species were crushed and boiled by Native American groups for external use as a lotion for itching, boils, and fatigued limbs.

 
Biological Classification: