On a recent walk of the banks of the Gualala River I spotted a small, purple wildflower growing in the gravel bed. Its tiny blooms were orchid-like. Not knowing its name, I sent the photo to Peter Baye. I could almost hear his chortle when he wrote back with the identification. Vinegar-weed, he wrote, aka Turpentine weed. "Too bad you didn't smell it," he said, "the aroma of the leaves can give you whiplash, kind of like smelling salts." Well, I'm very glad I didn't smell it! I think I'll just admire it from a distance.
It's a California native and its Latin name is Trichostema lanceolatum. Like many other CA native plants it has medicinal qualities. Native American peoples used it as a cold and fever remedy, for pain relief and...wait for it!...a flea repellent.