Sacapellote

Acourtia microcephala

Overview

Overview

A five foot tall sacapellote (Acourtia microcephala) grows beside the trail in East Basin. With with bright pink and orange curly flowers, this is not a shy plant, yet it remains one of the lesser known plants of the Reserve.

Sacapellote is one of a small taxonomic subgroup of plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The individual florets, instead of being disk shaped and/or strap shaped have two lips, resembling two straps that arch away from the floret. The most familiar relative of Sacapellote is the gerbera (Transval) daisy.

Sacapellote is a fire-follower: one of a number of native plants of the chaparral that are more abundant, or more evident after a wildfire. The first season following a burn, sacapellote sends up lush new foliage, and it blooms and sets seeds prolifically. New seedlings emerge the second season and in subsequent seasons, becoming less abundant as the mature canopy of shrubs redevelops.

                       

Description

Description 4,11,35,59,283

Sacapellote is an upright perennial herb with multiple stems up to five feet (160 cm) in height. The leaves are broadly oval with fine-toothed margins and a short point at the tip. They are alternate and sessile, clasping the stem with rounded lobes.The midvein is  prominent on the lower leaf surface. Leaves toward the bottom of the plant are eight inches (20 cm) or more in length, decreasing in size toward branch ends to about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Most of the plant is covered with short, glandular hairs; these give it a slightly sticky texture. Leaves turn yellow as the plant goes dormant in late summer, emerging again with winter rains.

Flower heads are generally less than 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) and consist of 20 or fewer two-lipped florets; one hundred or more flower heads are arranged in large domed or flat-topped, multi-branched arrays at the branch ends. The involucre is surrounded by 15-18 brown/maroon-tipped green phyllaries in four to five series. The pappus consists of many whitish bristles, 5-mm long. These are prominent even in the bud stage where, together with the pink developing petals, they give the bud a candy-striped appearance. The florets are neither disk florets nor ray florets, but "bilabiate florets." Petals are are bright to pale pink, occasionally white, coalesced into a two-lipped corolla; the larger three-lobed lip curves outward; the narrower inner lip is two-lobed, and often more strongly curved or coiled inward. There are five stamens, the anthers of which are loosely fused into a column around the style. Stamens are yellow or orange, becoming reddish on the outer portions of the anthers. The pistil  has an inferior ovary that produces a single seed and a two-branched style exserted beyond the anther column; the style branches coil outward at maturity. The major bloom time is between June and July.

The seed is a tiny ribbed cylinder, less than 3/16 inch (4.5 mm) long with a tawny pappus less than 3/8 inch (1 cm) long that parachutes the seed through the air.

            

Other Common Names: 
California desert-peony, desert peony, Perezia, purplehead

Distribution

Distribution 7,89

Sacapellote is native to the west coast of North America between Mendocino and Vizcaino Bay, Baja California, primarily west of the Coast Ranges. It occurs in chaparral and sage scrub under a variety of conditions, often appearing in openings in the vegetation.

In the Reserve, sacapellote is seen in the East Basin, along the trail as it descends the east facing slope between the Santa Carina and Santa Helena trailheads. One plant grows by the side of the trail, several more below the trail, and a sharp eye may see splashes of pink
above the trail in gaps among the chaparral shrubs.

  

This plant occurs primarily in the following vegetation types in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve: 
Chaparral

Classification

Classification 2,11,44,49,143

Sacapellote is a dicot angiosperm in the sunflower family, Asteraceae. This is the largest family of vascular plants in the northern hemisphere. “Flowers” of most Asteraceae are made up of one or both of two types of florets: symmetrical disk florets and strapped-shaped ray (ligulate) florets. These are crowded onto a common base (receptacle), and together are often assumed to be a single flower, which is called a flower head. Other familiar Asteraceae that occur in the Reserve include California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), bush sunflower (Encelia californica), and goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii). 

Sacapellote belongs to a small divergent subgroup of Asteraceae that has bilabiate florets rather than typical disk or ray florets.11,59 It is the only member of the genus in California. In a bilabiate floret, three of the five petals are joined together into a single lip that arches toward the outside of the flower head (resembling the petal of a ray floret), while the remaining two petals form a narrower lip that curls toward the center of the flower head. There are no other bilabiate composites in the Reserve. Perhaps the most familiar plant with similar bilabiate florets is the cultivated gerbera (Transval) daisy.11 Like a sunflower, a gerbera has a central eye of disk florets and a outer halo of ray florets, but between them is a ring that has a tousled appearance. This is composed of bilabiate florets similar to those of sacapellote.

         

Alternate scientific name(s): 
Perezia microcephala

Ecology

Ecology 14,35,170,281

Sacapellote is a fire-follower, one of a group of chaparral plants that are particularly abundant, or obvious, after a burn. Sacapellote regenerates burned vegetation quickly by resprouting from an underground root. Seedlings are rare the first season after a fire, but the new vegetation flowers vigorously. It is thought that the major reseeding occurs during the second year and in subsequent years, until a new canopy of mature shrubs crowds the plants out.170

            

Human Uses

Human Uses

We know of no uses of sacapellote by the local Kumeyaay, but the Chumash, to the north, simmered the root into a decoction to treat coughs, colds and asthma.15,282, 283 The Spanish modified this into a diuretic for kidney and bladder problems.283 The Cahuillas, in Riverside County, mashed the whole plant and boiled it into a very speedy relief from constipation.282, 283

            

Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts

The common name, sacapellote, is the Spanish name for the plant,
283 which does not really explain where the name came from. There is a similar word in Spanish, sacapelotas which translates as "a nickname given to common people."284 If we tolerate a small change in spelling, this word suggests that the name was given to the plant somewhere where it was very common.

        

Photos

East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2015
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2010
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); May 2015
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); Aug. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); Aug. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); July 2016
sessile leaves; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); May 2015
sessile leaves; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); May 2015
flower head with bilabiate florets; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
bilabiate floret; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
seed with pappus; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016
Gerbera daisy, another flower with bilabiate florets; East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); July 2016
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2016; photo courtes of Jayne Leslie