South Dakota Native Plant Research
Capparaceae: Cleome serrulata

Capparaceae: Cleome serrulata


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Family Name


Common Name

Rocky Mountain bee plant

Native American Name

Lakota: waȟpé ȟ’eȟ’é


Cleome serrulata is an erect, branched annual herb with smooth, waxy, unarmed stems, 20-150 cm tall. The alternate petiolate leaves are compound ternate, the 3 leaflets are entire, narrowly lanceolate, 2-6 cm long and 5-15 mm wide, the tips pointed. The leaves become simple as they approach the inflorescence. The flowers are in dense, many-flowered terminal racemes, subtended by narrow bracts, on pedicels up to 2 cm long. The raceme elongates as the fruit forms, with many flowers blooming in a rounded cluster at the top and fruit forming below. The 4 green to purple sepals are about 3-4 mm long, fused in the lower half, forming a bowl with 4 lobes. The 4 pink to purple (rarely white) petals are 8-12 mm long and constricted at the base (clawed). The 6 stamens are exerted 13-20 mm long. The fruit is an elongated cylindrical capsule, 2-8 cm long, 3-9 mm wide, slightly constricted between the seeds, with a narrow, elongated stalk, 11-23 mm long, and a pointed tip. Rocky Mountain bee plant blooms from June into August on prairies, in open woodlands and disturbed areas in all but the northeastern part of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Rocky Mountain bee plant is a colorful long blooming native annual with large showy flowers. Its pink flowers produce nectar that attracts bees, butterflies including monarchs, and hummingbirds. The seeds provide food for doves and other small birds. Once established it will reseed itself.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect pods in late summer as the become dry.

Germination: Fall sow or 4 week cold moist stratification before spring planting.

Light: Full sun to light shade.

Soil: Well drained sand , loam to rocky soils.

Water: Medium dry to dry.

Capparaceae: Cleome serrulata