Plant of the Month ~~ SEPTEMBER 2006
- Common Name(s): Vinegar Weed, Turpentine Weed, Camphor Weed, Blue Curls
- Scientific Name: Trichostema Lanceolatum
- Family: Lamiaceae, Mint family
- Plant Type: Annual Herb
- Size: small shrub, 1 to 2 feet high and 2 to 5 feet wide
- Common Habitat: dry, sunny fields or low hills
Vinegar weed, while probably better known and identifiable by its odor rather than its appearance, brings a welcome sight in the hot, dry, SoCal summers - a vibrant-looking plant full in bloom when most everything else seems so starved of moisture. It blooms from August to October. The flowers are shaped a bit like blue larkspur, though individually are a bit curlier and more of a faded purple in color. They are also fuller in spacing along the stem.
Trichostema Lanceolatum is a very smelly plant, seemingly more so in the middle of a hot sunny day. The odor resembles vinegar, perhaps a bit more medicinal. The inability to pin it down exactly is probably why it has so many common names.
The plant's oils have phytotoxic properties that kill or injure other plant species. It is said that Native peoples used the plant to relieve colds, ease headaches, repel fleas, assist in birthing, and even to catch fish.
You may remember Woolly Blue Curls, featured a couple of months ago on this site, has a similar scientific name. They share the same first name, Trichostema, meaning having hair-like stamens, but whereas lanatum means woolly, lanceolatum refers to the shape of the leaves. The two plants are often grouped together when describing, but if you have ever seen or smelled them, you will know they are different.
Contributed by Liz Baumann
Curious what was featured in past Plants of the Month? Search the Archives.
References:Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Roadside Plants of Southern California, by Thomas J. Belzer
California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien
California Herbal Remedies, by LoLo Westrich