This is one of those underappreciated overlooked beauties. Grows just about everywhere, usually lumped in with the other myriad random asters. But it is especially impressive and pink this year, and I have yet to sing its praises so here goes nothin’:
Oh so many names. I first learned it as Perezia. In Spanish it is known as Sacapellote. The scientific name is Acourtia microcephela, which was named for Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Catherine Gibbs A’Court (no really), an amateur English botanist. Microcephela means “forming small heads, ” referring to the flowers.
Perezia is named for Lorenzo Perez, a 16th century apothecary. It’s also occasionally known as California desert peony, in case the other 3 names weren’t enough for you.
Let’s have a gander at this distinctive looking plant. Perezia is a perennial herb, which means it has no woody parts, and dies back completely late summer every year before reemerging in January. Multiple stems rise from the base to 6 feet or more, though as the flowers mature the entire stem is often dragged to the ground under the weight.
Leaves are light green, many-toothed, ovate and cauline… What, you thought I would leave you hanging with a new vocabulary word? Have no fear, cauline means that all leaves are attached to the stem (no branches or side stems). The leaves are helically alternate and sessile (no stems, the leaves clasp right to the main stalk). Leaves can be quite large, up to nine inches long near the base and four inches wide.
The flowers are numerous on domed multi-branched heads, ranging from pink to purple. Perezia is a member of the aster family, which as you remember can have disc flowers, ray flowers, or both. Perezia has ray flowers only.
The Chumash would boil the root to treat coughs, colds and asthma. Spanish Californians used it as a diuretic to treat kidney and bladder problems. The Cahuilla indians used as an “immediate” cure for constipation.
I have never seen this plant at a nursery. I plan on collecting seeds
in a month or two, you’ll be the first to know if I have any success… Have a safe day.