Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Turkey Mullein

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Turkey Mullein
Scientific Name:Croton setiger
Plant Type:Annual
Size:up to 12" - spreads
Habitat:Common in open, sandy disturbed places
Blooms:April to November

Turkey mullein is a very low-growing plant that is commonly found in summer through fall on the sides of fire roads and other such places that are open to full sun. Its gray-green, roundish, thick leaves are 1/2 to 2 inches long, spade-shaped with 3 veins visible and covered in bristly hairs. Stems are also bristly. The pale yellowish flowers largely blend in with the foliage and are in bloom from May to November.

The species name of Eremocarpus stands for single fruit, which is present on pistillate flowers. Setigerus means that it bears bristles. Its common names tell two different stories; one, it is a food source for certain fowl that favor its seeds. Two, native peoples found the stems and leaves to contain a poison that they used to stun fish. Additional early uses were mostly topical in nature to cure chest disorders or other ailments.

One odd thing I've noted about this plant as I've been observing it this fall is the how often I find it growing in geometric shapes. I've seen triangles, squares, arrows, diamonds, and trapezoids to name a few. It is almost like searching for shapes in the clouds.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Other Similar Plants:
Castor Bean Ricinis communis
Rattlesnake Weed Euphorbia albomarginata

Originally featured: October 2007
Last modified: May 14 2017 03:01:20.
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
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves