Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Been two years since you saw any clammyweed here

with 42 comments

Clammyweed Flowering 6165

Clammyweed = Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma.

Date = September 16.

Place = Right-of-way beneath the power lines west of Morado Circle in Austin’s (and my) Great Hills neighborhood.

© = 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2015 at 4:52 AM

42 Responses

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  1. hairy flower eeeeeee


    October 5, 2015 at 4:55 AM

  2. Can’t get any more short-and-sweet than that post. Clammyweed is a new one for me.


    October 5, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    • I guess that text is as close to Mute Monday as I’ve come.

      You can check the USDA map at
      to see whether you might expect find this species near you. I hope you do, because it’s a fun one to look at. It’s also gooey to the touch, hence the “clammy” in the common name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 7:06 AM

      • Thanks for explaining the clammy. From the photo I would call the flower glammy as in glamorous rather than clammy.


        October 5, 2015 at 7:15 AM

        • Now that’s what I like to hear: glammy rather than (or at least in addition to) clammy.

          Eve and I went walking in this location two days ago and saw the clammyweed still flowering.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 5, 2015 at 7:27 AM

  3. This MUST be related to the cleome?
    though a little more ‘wild’


    October 5, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    • You’re correct. Clammyweed and Cleome are both in the Capparaceae, or caper family. At least they used to be; an online article I just checked says that Cleome and some other genera gave been moved out of Capparaceae and into Cleomaceae or into Clemoideae (a subfamily within the cabbage family).

      I expect clammyweed will remain wild. Given its gooeyness, I don’t imagine people would want to cultivate it, although to me the intricate flowers have lots of appeal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 7:20 AM

      • I had no idea that it was the cabbage family. So clammyweed is…. clammy?


        October 5, 2015 at 8:39 AM

        • I, too, was surprised to read about a part of the former caper family (including Cleome but not Polanisia) getting moved to the cabbage family. Shifty folks, those botanists.

          Yes, clammyweed is gooey to the touch. The plant also has an easy-to-notice scent that some people describe as unpleasant, but I don’t mind it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 5, 2015 at 8:53 AM

          • I can’t keep pace with all the moves. I always liked to know the Latin name for a plant, but my memory is not the same these days and I find myself settling for the common name…


            October 5, 2015 at 11:11 AM

            • In the case of clammyweed, the common name is excellent. The scientific name has stayed the same as it was, fortunately, but the genus got moved to Cleomaceae.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 5, 2015 at 11:42 AM

  4. A sweet beauty…


    October 5, 2015 at 7:06 AM

  5. Amazing how many wildflowers you have come up with; such interesting or clever names, too.
    I was just outside cleaning up yellowed hostas and cutting off their flower stems. I was reminded
    that thirty years ago a friend gave me my first ones (small and variegated); I asked the name and
    he said ellivino. I hadn’t even seen hostas in South Alabama where I had previously lived. Later I
    clarified the name with him-“Hell if I know!” Always makes me laugh when I think of it.


    October 5, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    • That’s a good anecdote about the name you were given and how you (mis)interpreted it.

      Central Texas is home to hundreds and hundreds of native species, so I have plenty to choose from. Naturally some are much more common than others, so they tend to turn up here more often, but I go out of my way to cover some of the less-familiar species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 11:31 AM

  6. This looks very similar to an annual I grow – Cleome spinosa. Do you know why they are called ‘clammy’ weeds? The cleomes feel slightly sticky due to the hairs….


    October 5, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    • Clammyweed and Cleome were until relatively recently both considered members of the Capparaceae, or caper family. An online article I checked this morning says that Cleome has been moved out of Capparaceae and into Clemoideae, a subfamily within the cabbage family. Polanisia has been moved out of Capparaceae and into Cleomaceae. Changes, changes, changes.

      Similar to what you say about your cleomes, clammyweed is “clammy,” which is to say that it feels sticky or gooey when you touch it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 1:23 PM

  7. Que grupo floral tan bonito, y que estambres tan largos tienen estas flores. Gracias Steve!

    • De nada, Isabel.
      A este tipo de estambre se le llama en inglés exserted, lo contrario de inserted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 4:03 PM

  8. I wonder if those stamens made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Them’s long. It is a lovely flower even if it is clammy.

    Steve Gingold

    October 5, 2015 at 6:46 PM

    • You raise an interesting question: how freakily long are the longest known stamens in the world?

      Clammyweed may be clammy, but I like it, and I find the flowers quite attractive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 7:11 PM

  9. Having roamed the Clammyweed archives, I’ll follow two poets and add:

    I asked myself, with glee, “What is it?”
    As I made my visual visit.

    Are the tips of the stamens green? They seem so — is that unusual? And speaking of those stamens, I was curious about dodecandra. The first thing I thought of was “dodecahedron,” so I went looking and found a couple of references that said dodecandra was chosen because the flower has twelve stamens. That’s pretty neat, and helpful for remembering at least half of its scientific name.


    October 5, 2015 at 9:45 PM

    • I’m good at taking pretty pictures, but I wish I knew more about the botany of these things. Even the largest and most authoritative botanical reference book I have for this area doesn’t give many details, presumably because they’re not important for distinguishing among species. From the picture at


      it seems that the anthers at the tips of the stamens start out red, but today’s picture of mature flowers with long stamens makes the anthers look green.

      The reference book I mentioned (like the etymology itself) confirms the 12 stamens of dodecandra. The book also explains that the genus name Polanisia comes from Greek poly ‘many’ and anisos ‘unequal,’ “in reference to the characters by which the stamens differ from those of Cleome.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2015 at 10:06 PM

  10. Such an interesting flower, I love the intricate detail…Great close-up photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 6, 2015 at 12:41 AM

    • Thanks, Charlie. “Intricate” is the right word for this species, which I find attractive in spite of the “weed” in the common name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2015 at 8:24 AM

  11. What fun. Puts me in mind of a flapper doing the charleston with fringes swirling…


    October 6, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    • Someone’s imagination is alive and well this morning. Maybe you could do a drawing or painting of a flapper in motion whose dress you’d make look like these flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2015 at 9:46 AM

  12. Lovely flower and lovely photo. I’ve read all the comments above….does it smell like Cleome? I planted the latter once and couldn’t stand the smell so never did again.


    October 6, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    • Not having smelled any plants in the genus Cleome, I can’t say, but I suspect the smells are similar. I’ve read that some people find clammyweed’s smell unpleasant, but it doesn’t bother me. Each to his own nose, right?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2015 at 12:31 PM

  13. A beautiful capture and a lovely flower!! You should consider posting them more than every second year:)


    October 8, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    • I’ll try to remember. We have so many kinds of wildflowers here that I juggle them as best I can. Some of the more prolific ones understandably get shown more often than others because I encounter them more frequently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2015 at 11:01 PM

  14. […] As if to corroborate the common name Rocky mountain beeweed, I found a native bee on these flowers of Cleome serrulata at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in northern New Mexico on June 12th. An online article about this species notes that other vernacular names for the plant are stinking-clover, bee spider-flower, skunk weed, Navajo spinach, and guaco. This wildflower is a relative of the clammyweed that grows in Austin. […]

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