A low mat of green leaves speckled with small purple flowers is growing on the hard-packed soil between the trail and the water. This plant has the wackiest plant name I’ve ever heard: turkey tangle fogfruit! Phyla nodiflora has squat spires of small purple blossoms, each with a pale yellow splotch inside. The lowest parts of the spire bloom first, so as the flowers seem to be set on a ever-expanding brown pedestal as the season progresses. The whole package is only about a half an inch tall.
I’ve only seen turkey tangle fogfruit growing in a few places–always right on the edge of a trail alongside water. These photos were taken yesterday in Inverness, on the bank of Papermill Creek. It also grows along the edge of Bon Tempe lake, but has already finished blooming there. I always thought it was probably an escaped ornamental garden plant, which is exactly what the Marin Flora says that it is. But the CalFlora database lists it as native, and the Jepson lists it as native with the caveat that it is “questionably native” and may have been introduced multiple times from multiple places, including South America. Either way, it’s a quirky little plant to keep your eye out for! The leaves apparently are edible, and can be used to make a tea with a grassy flavor. It is used to treat colds and coughs. The plant is said to have antiparasitic properties and has been used to treat hookworm and other problems.