The common names of flowers can be strange and interesting, piquing your interest or providing a laugh. Most names point to one of the plant's most noticeable attributes. Many plants received their names from settlers who discovered them and named them after objects from that time period.
Spectacle pod (Dithyrea californica) gets its name from its small seed pods, which resemble tiny eyeglasses. A member of the mustard family, the annual native herb grows in western North America. Spectacle pod is one of the first plants to flower in the spring, with the small seed pods forming along the flower stem as the flowers fade. Each stem holds dozens of the pods, giving the illusion of a long column of eyeglasses.
Also known as cat claw acacia, wait-a-minute-bush (Acacia greggii) gets its name from its highly effective thorns that make you think twice or wait a minute before grabbing hold of it. In the spring, the plant produces 2-inch yellow spikes of flowers. The plant thrives in the desert where it grows in alkaline soils and receives minimal moisture. The bush offers great nesting spots for birds and resting spots for rabbits.
Desert bottle cleaner
Thanks to its seed pods, desert bottle cleaner (Camissonia boothii ssp. condensata) has an appropriate name. Tiny white flowers cover each spike on the desert bottle cleaner plant. But when the flowers develop into four-pronged seed capsules completely encircling the dried flower stalk, the resemblance to a bottle cleaner becomes apparent.
Sandpaper plant (Petalonyx thurberi) gets its name from rough leaves that feel very much like sandpaper when rubbed. The desert native plant grows on sandy or gravel dunes in conjunction with creosote bushes in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. In May to June, dainty white flowers appear. During the winter or in prolonged drought, sandpaper plant fades completely away, with new growth appearing when conditions improve.
A member of the amaryllis family, naked lady (Amaryllis belladonna) gets its name from the flower stalks that bloom on the plant's bare stems. The native South African bulb grows in California gardens. During the summer, the plant's strap-shaped leaves fade away, leaving fragrant clusters of pink blossom in late summer or early fall.
Desert lantern (Oenothera deltoides), also known as dune primrose, grows in sandy soils and sand dunes, but it's not until the plant dies that its name makes sense. The plant produces large white flowers that turn pink as they age, making it a show-stopping specimen. After the flowers fade, the branches dry and curl upward towards the central stem. Held upside down, the dried, dead plant resembles a lantern.