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Common Name: Chinchweed
Pectis papposa is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.30 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
South-western N. America - California to Utah, Texas and Mexico.
Sandy and clay flats from sea level to 1500 metres in deserts and creosote bush scrub in California[
]. Deserts, desert grasslands, dry woodlands and roadsides at elevations of 60 - 1500 metres[
We have very little information on this species. It is not frost-hardy but can be grown outdoors in Britain as a half-hardy annual and probably requires a dry to moist light or medium well-drained soil in a sunny position.
Pectis is unusual among Compositae in having the C4 photosynthetic pathway and the accompanying Kranz anatomy - leaves with vascular bundle sheath cells that contain numerous chloroplasts. All of the closely related genera have the C3 pathway. The selective advantage imparted by C4 photosynthesis (greatly reduced photorespiration in bundle sheath cells) has enabled Pectis species to occupy a variety of hot, dry habitats including deserts, tropical and subtropical grasslands, arid scrublands, and tropical beaches[
Leaves and phyllaries in all Pectis species are dotted with embedded pellucid glands (here called oil-glands)[
].. In some species, the liquid within the schizogenous cavities includes a mixture of strongly scented monoterpenes; in other species the gland contents have little or no aroma. Herbage containing strongly scented essential oils are described as 'lemon-scented' when citral is the predominant compound and 'spicy-scented' when other oils are predominant[
The flowers are used as a condiment[
The seed can be parched, ground into a powder then used as a thickener and flavouring in soups or can be mixed with water to make a mush or porridge[
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. The native American Indians would dip the leaves in salty water then eat them as a condiment with mush or cornmeal[
]. The leaves have a spicy scent[
The plant is carminative and laxative[
An infusion of the blossoms has been used as eye drops in the treatment of snow blindness[
Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
If you have sufficient seed it may be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in situ in mid to late spring.