Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the June 26, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills
somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA
PUSSY PAWS ATOP SLATE MOUNTAIN
In eastern El Dorado County, along Slate Mountain's mostly barren backbone where it's too dry, sunny and windy for average plants to survive in the gritty sand and gravel accumulated in depressions of bare, outcropping granite, sometimes you come upon small groupings of small, very strange looking plants. From spoon-shaped (spatulate) leaves densely clustered in rosettes arise fuzzy-looking, pale-pink flower heads arranged like clusters of pompoms on slender sticks. Each tiny flower bears four pink petals. Each petal forms a cylinder around EITHER one of the three stamens, OR the single slender style. Two pink, papery sepals enclose each blossom like a cupcake cup.
If you're familiar with what "normal flowers" look like, you'll find this species with its four petals, three stamens and two sepals just outrageous. The books call the plant Pussy Paws. It's CALYPTRIDIUM UMBELLATUM of the Purslane Family -- in which you also find Rose-moss, Spring Beauty and Portulaca.
Well, maybe it's a law of nature that those of us ending up occupying non-standard niches evolve into strange, atypical beings. You can see Pussy Paws at www.appliedeco.org/FlowerFinders/benfield/Calyptridium_umbellatum_CB_flr.jpg