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Vinegar Weed

January 29, 1989|MAYERENE BARKER

Vinegar weed, a leafy shrub with many branches, grows on dry slopes and fields from Oregon to Baja California. It reaches heights of five feet.

A member of the mint family, vinegar weed ( Trichostema Lanceolatum) also is known as camphor weed because of its unpleasant odor, especially strong when its leaves are crushed. Early Californians made a liniment from it.

During the flowering season from August through October, vinegar weed is easy to recognize because of its many unusual-looking blue flowers covered with fuzzy, pink wool.

The pea-shaped flowers are small, about 1/2-inch long. They have five narrow petals and four stamens that project from between two additional upper petals. The blossoms have tubes bending upward near their bases.

The opposite leaves are lance-shaped. They are 3/4- to 2 inches long and up to 1/2 inch wide.

None of the mint family of herbs and shrubs are poisonous. Many are cultivated for use as spices and condiments, such as sage, thyme and peppermint.

The only native North American species is the field mint, which has flowers that are borne in many clusters along the stem rather than at the tips.

Of the several other species, the Woolly Blue Curls also grows in Southern California. It is distinguished by dense clusters of flowers covered with violet wool.

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