At first glance, the Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata) looks much like any other beautiful native wildflower with its showy pink and purple blossoms swaying in the summer sun. But upon closer examination you’ll soon notice it has some very unique characteristics. In fact, you could even call it downright odd. From its oversized stamens to its bean-like fruit capsules, the Rocky Mountain Beeplant is truly a hodgepodge of a wildflower. If it was an animal it would be the platypus. But its unique look is also what gives it its eye-catching beauty. If you’re looking to add some pop to your wildflower garden next season, Rocky Mountain Beeplant will provide just the touch.
Attracts Beneficial Pollinators
You can learn a lot about a plant from its common names. Rocky Mountain Beeplant is known by many names including Navajo spinach, stinkweed, bee spiderflower, stinking-clover and toothed spider-flower. Like some of these names suggest, it is well-known for its ability to attract beneficial pollinators. Bees and butterflies love its nectar-filled blossoms, and hummingbirds frequently dive in for a taste. You can also learn from these names that it doesn’t smell particularly pleasant. Its odor has been described as skunky, and its leaves have a distance tar-like smell. But don’t let this discourage you from including it in your wildflower garden as its odor is only noticeable up close.
Used As Food and Medicine By Native Americans
Rocky Mountain Beeplant, as you can also guess from its common name Navajo spinach, was used as food by Native Americans. The seedpod is edible and can be consumed raw or cooked. The seedpod can also be dried, ground up and made into bread or eaten as a mush. The leaves and shoots are edible as well and are high in vitamin A and calcium. Native Americans used Rocky Mountain Beeplant as a medicine and was used it treat fevers and stomach problems. Even today the Navajo still use Rocky Mountain Beeplant as a dye for their blankets and rugs.
Gardeners are most interested in Rocky Mountain Beeplant's unique form and upright growth habit. In most areas it grows about three feet tall, but has been known to get up to five feet in height. This makes it a great choice as a background plant or to add a vertical element to a garden. Rocky Mountain Beeplant is a summer blooming annual and is easily grown from seed. Its pink and purple flower clusters sit atop a long spike, and its distinct stamens are hard to miss as they jut out past the flowers. The fruit pods also give this wildflower an interesting look and remind me of jellyfish tentacles hanging down its side.
How to Grow Rocky Mountain Beeplant
In its natural habitat, Rocky Mountain Beeplant can be found growing along roadsides, wastelands and foothills. It’s often found growing with big sagebrush, penstemon and gambel oak. While it prefers full-sun, it can also tolerate part-shade. Plant Rocky Mountain Beeplant in sandy, well-drained soil. It has low to moderate irrigation requirements, and is a good choice to mix with grass in reclamation and soil stabilization blends.
Look for Rocky Mountain Beeplant in our Great Basin Wildflower Blend, Deer Resistant Wildflower Blend and Annual Wildflower Blend. Whether you’re trying to attract beneficial pollinators or just want a unique looking wildflower to add to your garden, our native Rocky Mountain Beeplant is a great choice.