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Common Name: Meadowfoam
Limnanthes alba is a
South-western N. America - California, Oregon.
Vernal pools or low moist open places from sea level to 1200 metres[
]. The sub-species L. alba versicolor(Greene.)C.T.Mason. grows at elevations up to 1600 metres[
Succeeds in any soil[
]. Prefers an open sunny position and a cool root run, doing well by concrete paths, rocks etc. Ranging from Warm Temperate Moist through Subtropical Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, white foam, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 70 to 11 m, an annual temperature of 12 to 19°C, and pH of 5.6 to 6[
]. This species is essentially a xerophyte, flowering and setting seed on the last seasonal soil and stem moisture. It has about the same water requirement as dry-farmed winter grains, and seems to require less moisture than other species of this genus. Does well on soils with pH 6.2, especially on slopes and in cultivated fields[
Meadowfoam is tolerant of standing water for several months, providing a sufficient number of leaves can grow above the water surface[
]. The crop can therefore be grown on poorly drained soils in areas of high winter rainfall[
]. Drought occurring at any stage is likely to result in severe or total yield loss[
The seed contains about 24 - 30% of an oil that is potentially a good replacement for sperm whale oil. This species is being trialled as a possible commercial oil seed crop[
]. The sub-species L. alba versicolor has slightly higher oil yields, around 31%[
]. Experimentally, yields of 1 tonne of seed per hectare has been obtained, though these yields would need to be doubled to make the plant a commercial prospect[
]. Some new cultivars have been developed with better seed retention and higher oil yields[
A very good bee and hoverfly plant.
An oil obtained from the seed has similar properties to whale sperm oil and to Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis). It has specialized industrial applications[
]. The seed contains ca 20% protein, 25 - 30% oil, with 1.56% volatile isothiocyanates. The high concentration of C20 and fatty acids in the seed oil is unique. No other seed oil is known to have as high concentration (>90%) of total fatty acids of chain length greater than C18[
Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ. Germination takes place within 3 weeks. Germination is better at lower temperatures - good results are achieved at about 5°C, whilst temperatures in excess of 20°C give poor results[