Herbs & Plants (Spices)

Cleome serrulata

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Botanical Name : Cleome serrulata
Family: Cleomaceae
Genus: Cleome
Species: C. serrulata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Brassicales

Synonyms: Peritoma serrulata DC., Cleome integrifolia Torr. & Gray

Common Names: Rocky Mountain Beeplant, Tinking-clover, Bee spider-flower, Skunk weed, Navajo spinach, and Guaco

Habitat : Cleome serrulata is native to western N. America – Washington to Saskatchewan and south to California.It grows on waste land, plains and lower mountains, often on sandy soils.

Cleome serrulata is an annual plant growing to 10–150 cm (4–59 in) tall, with spirally arranged leaves. The leaves are trifoliate, diminutive teeth, and with three slender leaflets each 1–7 cm (0.5–3 in) long. The flowers are reddish-purple, pink, or white, with four petals and six long stamens. The fruit is a capsule 3–6 cm (1–2.5 in) long containing several seeds. Flowering lasts an extended period because it begins at the bottom of the stalk and works its way up. The onset of flowering and seed pods comes at the same time. Cell wall elasticity is higher in specimens that live in drier climates. The pollen is about 0.015 millimeters (0.00059 in) in length with three furrows which have one pore each.


Moisture, temperature, and time are critical in seed germination. Germination occurs during summer and plants can quickly grow to 1–2 meters (3.3–6.6 ft). Flowers are often covered with a variety of insects, especially bees. Elongated capsules contain the seeds, which are dark brown to black, curved, and have a wart-like appearance. After the seeds are dispersed, the plants begin decomposing.

The plant is called waa’ in the Navajo language, tumi in the Hopi language, and both a’pilalu and ado:we in the Zuni language.
Prefers a light fertile soil in a warm dry sunny position with plenty of room to spread. A frost tender plant, it can be grown as a summer annual in Britain. A very good bee plant, it is often planted by apiarists in America. This plant was probably cultivated by the N. American Indians. The Indians would allow the plant to produce seed when it was growing wild in the cornfields in order to ensure a supply the following year.

Seed – surface sow or only lightly cover the seed in spring in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 5 – 14 days at 25°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. Day time temperatures below 20°c depress germination but a night time fall to 20° is necessary.

Edible Uses:

Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Seed; Seedpod.

Young shoots, leaves and flowers are cooked and used as potherbs. The plants were gathered and, after removing an alkaline taste, were eaten with cornmeal porridge. The plant smells like a skunk, but it was an important potherb for the native North American Indians and the early European settlers in America. Seed – raw or cooked. It can be dried and ground into a meal then used as a mush or mixed with flour to make bread etc. Seedpods – cooked. The hardened cakes of dyestuff (see note on the plants other uses) can be soaked in hot water and then eaten fried.

Medicinal Uses:
A poultice made of the crushed leaves has been used to reduce swellings. The flowers have been boiled with rusty iron and the liquid drunk as a treatment for anemia. An infusion of the plant is drunk in the treatment of fevers and stomach disorders. A poultice made from the pounded, soaked leaves has been applied to sore eyes. An infusion of the plant is drunk in the treatment of fevers and stomach disorders.

In traditional Native American and frontier medicine, an infusion of the plant is used to treat stomach troubles and fevers, and poultices made from it can be used on the eyes. As a dye, the plant can be boiled down until it is reduced to a thick, black syrup; this was used as a binder in pigments for painting black-on-white pottery at least as long ago as 900-1300AD by the Anasazi. The Navajo still use it to make yellow-green dye for their rugs and blankets.

Other Uses:   A black dye is obtained by boiling down the whole plant. It is used as a paint for decorating pottery. The young plants are harvested in mid-summer, boiled well in water, the woody parts of the plant are removed and the decoction is boiled again until it becomes thick and turns black. This thick liquid is then poured onto a board to dry in cakes and can be kept for an indefinite period. When needed it is soaked in hot water until the correct consistency for paint is achieved. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a body and shoe deodorant.

Plant paste is used with black mineral paint to color sticks of plume offerings to anthropic gods, and the whole plant except for the root is used in pottery decorations.

Birds do eat the seeds and the plant provides good cover for land reclamation and upland birds. The Tewa and other Southwestern United States tribes often included Cleome serrulata as a ‘fourth sister’ in the Three Sisters agriculture system because it attracts bees to help pollinate the beans and squash
Known Hazards: Nitrate poisoning can result if too much is consumed.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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