Sand Blazing Star
Common name: Sand Blazing Star
Latin name: Mentzelia involucrata
Height: 3-14 inches
Description: Mentzelia involucrata flowers are generally borne singly, and held by 4–5 bracts. They have five sepals 7–23 mm long and five cream-yellow petals 13–62 mm long. The fruit is 14–22 mm long and 5–10 mm wide, and contains rough ash-white seeds that are 2–3 mm long. The bracts of this species are distinctive in that they are almost entirely white, with a green border.
Leaf: The leaves are between 2-18 cm long, with an irregularly toothed margin.
Habitat: Creosote-bush scrub, washes, fans, steep slopes
Elevation: < 900 m.
Flowering time: Jan–May
Notes: Mentzelia seeds have been identified as a staple food source for Native American tribes of the Great Basin. In an ethnobotanical study of the Kawaiisu people, Zigmond (1981) noted that Mentzelia (ku?u) was mentioned whenever his informants were asked to list important foods, and its gathering appeared frequently in mythology. The seeds were gathered in June after flowers lost their petals, and used immediately or stored. They were parched with hot coals, then ground on a metate; the resulting food had a peanut butter-like consistency. Zigmond also claimed that clay pots were filled with Mentzelia seeds before firing, but others have questioned whether this would be possible without destroying the pots through heat shock. Mentzelia involucrata, a dicot, is an annual herb that is native to California and is also found outside of California, but is confined to western North America. Distribution outside California: n Mexico.
We have an online wildflower field guide that is designed to help you identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region and common name. The pictures are sized to work on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and similar devices. With your iPod or phone you will easily be able to identify wildflowers while in the desert. Links for downloads are on the bottom of the Wildflower Field Guide page.
Photo tips: Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.
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