Also Known As
Eastern mojave buckwheat, Flat-top buckwheat, Wild buckwheat
A rounded evergreen shrub with clusters of small narrow leaves and small white flowers that form in umbrella-shaped clusters at the tips of long thin, woody stems and woody, brittle branches. Large clumps will sometimes form after fires and other disturbances in dry areas.
This is the most common example of a very diverse family. Buckwheats have many small flowers, but with distinctive petals (or petal like structures) arranged in large heads, usually umbrella-shaped (umbels) and usually with leaf-like bracts which wrap around the base of the flowers and also the leaf stems. The wild buckwheats have a fused leaf-like structure that wraps around the base of the flowers (involucre), but none around the leaf stems. This species is unique in that it has narrow leaves in clusters, and several groups of flowers arranged into an umbel located on the stem tip with what appear to be white petals. It also commonly has brownish old flowers mixed in with new flowers in the flower head, and can form large clumps.
Did You Know?
Many types of pollinators visit California buckwheat, including bees, flies, butterflies, and moths. It's no surprise that commercial apiarists (beekeepers) value this species highly, so if you see stacks of honeybee boxes assembled near hillsides of California Buckwheat, they may have been placed there specifically to gain access to this plant. It is also known for its ability to recolonize habitats that have recently been burned over by wildfires. It can form large colonies and is a popular plant for landscaping.
The leaves of California buckwheat are narrow and generally vary in length from 1.5 to 3.8 in (3.8 to 9.7 cm) long to about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) wide. The leaves are slightly wider at the base. The bottoms of the leaves are fuzzy while the tops can be either smooth or fuzzy. The leaves grow in dense clusters at nodes (joints) along the branches. They are leathery and rolled under along the edges.
The flowers are very small and borne in densely packed flat-topped heads called inflorescences. Each tiny flower is 0.1 to 0.12 in (2.5 to 3 mm) wide; the inflorescences are 1.0 to 1.2 in (2.5 to 3 cm) wide. The flowers are white to pinkish and turn brown after wilting. The inflorescences are arranged in an umbel at the tips of long stalks. Flowers can be found anytime during the year, but are most common in the spring and early summer.
The tiny fruits are one-seeded achenes (small nutlets) and are about 0.07 to 0.10 in (1.8 to 2.5 mm) in diameter. Viewed in cross section, the seeds are three-angled and oval in profile. They are reddish to rusty brown and have a smooth surface. The fruits and seeds mostly ripen throughout mid to late summer and fall.
California buckwheat is found on dry hillsides, washes, roadsides and canyons usually below 2300 ft elevation (700 m). It is common in desert, scrub and chaparral habitats from central California east to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, and south to Sonora in Mexico