Twiggy Wreath Plant

Stephanomeria spp.

Overview

 

Overview
Twiggy wreath plant (Stephanomeria spp.) is easily dismissed as a dead weed. By the time flowers appear in summer, most of the leaves have shriveled and dropped, giving the plant the appearance of a skeleton lightly dusted with confetti flowers. The flowers, however, deserve a closer look. They are composite flowers (related to daisies) but have only ray florets, lacking the disk florets that give daisies their central “eye”. They look like a garden pink or a delicate sort of carnation. Walking through a "forest" of twiggy wreath plants in bloom is magical.
At present, there are two similar species of wreath plant listed as occurring in the Reserve. However, the taxonomy is being examined and it is possible that we may have more species, fewer species, or different species than we now think.
 
                        

Description

 
Description 2,11,23,59
 
Twiggy wreath plants are branching, green-stemmed, annual plants, usually less than 6 feet (2.5 m) tall.
 
A basal rosette of leaves disappears before flowering. These leaves are elongate, less than 7 inches (18 cm) in length and irregularly incised along the margins. Cauline leaves are progressively smaller and simpler and are usually withered by flowering time.
 
Numerous white to lavender flower heads occur on the terminal portions of the branches. Flower heads are less than ¾ inch (2 cm) across and consist of 6-18 ray florets, which are toothed across the end and may be striped with a darker shade; disk florets are absent. Floret color is often deeper underneath. Flower heads resemble pinks or carnations (to which they are not related) rather than daisies (to which they are). Flowers bloom in late summer through fall, July - January.1
 
The stamens are mostly purple; united in a tube around the pistil, which extends 1-2 mm beyond them. Together, both appear as a white tube with a broad purple band. The striped petals of the opening flower buds give them the appearance of mint candies stuck along the stem. Flowers open in the morning.
 
Seeds are small tapered 5-sided cylinders, less than 1/8 inch (3 mm) long, sculpted with ridges and bumps. They are wind-distributed by means of a terminal cluster of feathery white bristles (the pappus) that are slightly longer than the seeds.
 

                

Other Common Names: 
wreath plant

Distribution

 

Distribution  5,7,8

Twiggy wreath plants are a wide-spread group of species, native to western North America and found throughout California. They  occur below 7,000 feet (2,000 m) in disturbed areas in several vegetation types, including coastal sage scrub, chaparral and coastal strand.

In the Reserve, they are commonly found along the trails and in openings in the coastal sage scrub and revegetated areas along the Pole Road.{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}

 

                

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

Classification

Classification 2,11,34,143

Twiggy wreath plant is a name given to a group of species that are dicot angiosperms in the sunflower family, Asteraceae. This is the largest family of vascular plants in the Northern Hemisphere. “Flowers” of Asteraceae are made up of one or both of two types of flowers (florets): symmetrical disk florets and strapped-shaped ray 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.44,49 
 
Other familiar Asteraceae that occur in the Reserve include California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), bush sunflower (Encelia californica), and goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii).  
 
Species of Stephanomeria have only ray florets; they lack the disk florets that form the “eye” of the daisy. 
 
Three species of Stephanomeria have been reported from the Reserve: S. exigua, S. diegensis and S. virgata spp. pleurocarpa.48 At present, there is uncertainty about the validity of these species.42 A recent Jepson states “Annual species complexly interrelated, distinguished by different combinations or expressions of same traits.”  Thus, it is possible that the Reserve may have more species, fewer species, or different species than we now think. We will leave the solution this puzzle to the experts and here discuss our plants together as one.
 
              

Ecology

Ecology 

Twiggy wreath plant blooms during the driest time of the year. The loss of leaves before flowering is seen in other sage scrub plants, such as deerweed (Acmispon glaber) and sand aster (Corethrogyne filaginfolia) and is presumed to be a strategy to reduce water loss during the dry period.

 

                

Human Uses

Human Uses 16

The Kumeyaay dried the whole twiggy wreath plant for future medicinal use. A tea from the roots would get rid of intestinal worms. The Spanish used the whole plant in a tea to clean the stomach after a hangover.

 

           

Interesting Facts

 

Interesting Facts

The origin of the common name, twiggy wreath plant, comes partly from the Latin genus name Stephanomeria, which in turn comes from the Greek: “stephane”, meaning wreath and “meros” meaning division.21 While the adjective “twiggy” is appropriate, the relationship of this plant to a wreath is a mystery.23

 

             

 

Photos

Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2007
Central Basin, southwest side (Pole Road); Aug. 2013
Central Basin, southwest side (Pole Road); Aug. 2013
Central Basin, southwest side (Pole Road); Aug. 2013
Central Basin, southwest side (Pole Road); Aug. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa. Helena trailhead); Sept. 2010
East Basin, south side; Aug. 2009
East Basin, south side; Aug. 2009
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); June 2011
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Aug. 2007
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2007
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2007
Central Basin, southwest side (Pole Road); Aug. 2013
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2013
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2013
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); Sept. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa. Helena trailhead); Aug. 2013
East Basin, south side (Santa Carina trailhead); Sept. 2013
July 2011; photo courtesy of Barbara Wallach
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Sept. 2013
Central Basin, south side (Rios trailhead); Dec. 2017; photo courtesy of Mark Jenne