Trichostema lanceolatum

Common name: Vinegarweed, Turpentine Weed

Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum and also called Turpentine weed) is another one of these little plants that grow out of the baked soil of San Diego’s inland areas (west of the mountains as far as I can see, just not at the immediate coast), beginning in spring and well into summer and fall. It has beautiful, near symmetric leaves of a soft green, and small blue/purple flowers that are very similar to the Bluecurls, but far more delicate. They grow and bloom well into July and August when it’s hot and dry, months after the last winter and spring rains. In years with plenty of rain, I’ve seen them nicely in bloom all the way into November – seemingly just to illustrate how miraculous nature’s work is.

It is also an incredibly aromatic plant, bearing the name for a reason. Their scent can be appreciated best by gently touching the leaves and then smelling one’s fingers. Most parts of the plants except for the flowers have tiny glands that contain an oily sap with a strong vinegar-like smell – it might be pungent even, if you don’t know what to expect or run your entire hand over the plant as if it was Artemisia californica (which is one of the best smells in the chaparral in my humble opinion). :-) You can see the small glands as brighter dots, in most of the photos below.

According to Wikipedia, “The oils have phytotoxic properties, which help the plant compete by killing or injuring other plant species.” – that sounds a bit dangerous, but I’ve touched the plant plenty of times now to enjoy the bewildering sensation of its strong smell (it doesn’t become less amazing to me even after multiple attempts:-) and never felt any adverse effects or skin reactions.

Photographically speaking, it was a real struggle to make photos of the delicate flowers – with their curled stamens and pistil, the flowers have a lot of depth from every angle, and it is tricky to get close enough to the overall pretty low-growing plant. Two of the three flower photos below are blended from two separate exposures to increase the depth of field. It would probably be considered blasphemy to actually call this crude hand-hold approach focus stacking, :-D but it works well enough for a result that pleases me more than a single image.


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