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Wild Cleome rediscovered in NV!

Southwest Wildflowers

Member Martha Brodkey has discovered “Rocky Mountain Bee Plant,” just like Lewis and Clark!

Tall Rocky Mountain Bee PlantMartha's friend is 6ft 4in so you can see the plants are tall!

We love to hear from members who have noticed beautiful native plants blooming in the wild, and then work to duplicate nature’s splendor on their own land. This is what happened with Martha Brodkey, who lives in Gardenerville, Nevada, a town that is in the “high desert” with an elevation of over 5000 ft., close to Lake Tahoe.

When she first noticed the beautiful pink flowers, Martha had no idea the plant was the famous wild cleome, Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata), the same beautiful western species that was “discovered” over 200 years ago by the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Captain Lewis entered many plant descriptions in his journals during the expedition, and over 200 unknown plants were collected, many sent directly to President Thomas Jefferson. The expedition collected three pressed specimens of Rocky Mountain Bee Plant which are still preserved in Philadelphia’s Lewis & Clark Herbarium.* Today, Martha Brodkey and all her friends love her “Bee Plants”, along with the bees, birds and butterflies. Here’s Ms. Brodkey’s story in her own words:

Rocky Mountain Bee PlantA bee knows this is his favorite flower!

Dear American Meadows:
“Several years ago, on a drive into our little town, I noticed a blooming plant growing in the gravel by the side of the road and was mesmerized by it's continued growth, given its lack of good soil and lack of any water other than a few sprinkles of rain. I waited until I saw seed pods and eventually gathered a few pods which I planted the following spring. They didn't grow that year but did come up the following spring. Just four or five plants, but enough to harvest more seeds which I sowed in the late fall, before the snow came for the winter season. At that time I also began my research for information, at which time I came across your website.

Butterfly on southwest flowers Butterflies love the beautiful pink blooms.

I was so glad to have a better source of seeds because the birds got more of the seeds from my plants than I could. I excitedly ordered my first pound of seeds from your company and again planted Fall and Spring sowings as well as sharing seeds with my family and neighbors.”

This August I ordered my second pound of seeds and our local newspaper, The Record Courier, wrote an article about my mission to get people in our Valley to plant Rocky Mountain Bee Plants because they attract bees in my garden by the thousands, as well as butterflies. The newspaper had several requests for information on where to obtain seeds and directed them to me. I gave them either your phone number or website address.

Hummingbird on rocky mountain bee plant These flowers should also be called Rocky Mtn. Hummingbird Plant!

It has been my passion to share my seeds with my friends here in Gardnerville, Nevada and Lake Tahoe, Ca. because I find them so easy to grow and so satisfying to see here in a desert location. I do not have lawn or a formal Garden, so they fulfill my needs beautifully.”
Martha Brodkey,
Gardenerville, NV

We can’t thank Martha enough for sharing all this with us and our other members. The enjoyment of our native wildflowers continues to be a joy to more and more gardeners every year. Thanks again, Martha!

* Wild Cleome in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium, Philadelphia: The following describes the three “sheets” of this species (pressed plant specimens) which are preserved from the on-site collections of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804, giving the locations of collection. The Herbarium website offers a wonderful, free index with all the plants “discovered” and collected, using common and botanical names, along with beautiful photographs of each.

Cleome serrulata Pursh, Fl. Amer. Sept.: 441. Dec (sero) 1813. (Capparaceae) - Rocky Mountain beeplant. PH-LC 65 (Moulton 49a), PH-LC 66 (Moulton 49b) and PH-LC 67 (Moulton 49c). The first and third sheets were collected along the Missouri River near Vermillion, in Clay Co., South Dakota, on 25 Aug 1804. The second sheet was collected near the White River in Lyman or Brule cos., South Dakota, on 29 Sep 1804. Synonymy: Cleome integrifolia (Nutt.) Torr. & A. Gray

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