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Cleome platycarpa is a relatively small annual herb, usually less than two feet tall. The stem can be simple or branched and is hairy and purplish green. The seed pods are oblong and lightly hairy. The flowers are bright yellow with four petals and many long stamens, blooming between March and July (Armstrong and Thornber, 1915; Hickman, 1993; Rickett, 1973). Flowers are lightly sweet smelling while the rest of the plant has a somewhat unpleasant odor (Wilder, 1932).

Cleome platycarpa is found in the North American Great Basin Desert shrub-steppe community, which is within a cold desert biome (Woodward, 2003). It is native to eastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, northern Nevada, to northeastern California, USA (USDA, 2012). It grows in alkaline, clay, or volcanic tuff soils and often in sagebrush scrub (Hickman, 1993). The base and crevices of the otherwise barren clay hills at the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds in eastern Oregon are carpeted in the yellow blooms of Cleome platycarpa in the early summer.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Julie Maenhout, Oregon State University

Source: BOT 323 Flowering Plants of the World, Oregon State University

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