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Plant Profile: Fringepod

Discover Orange County's diverse native plants, including the extraordinary fringepod, a valuable member of the mustard plant family that plays a significant role in various habitats throughout California. 🌿🌼 #PlantProfile #Fringepod

Orange County is home to diverse and extraordinary native plants, including a species known as fringepod (Thysanocarpus). This member of the mustard plant family is a valuable component of Orange County’s natural lands. 

Fringepod is an annual plant with slender stems that can reach heights varying from 3 to 23 inches. Its smooth-edged or toothed leaves can measure up to 4 centimeters in length. During springtime, from March to May, fringepods bloom with white or purple flowers adding bright colors to the surrounding landscape. The flowers then create a unique fruit – a flattened, rounded or oval-shaped capsule surrounded by a delicate, wing-like structure.

Discover Orange County's diverse native plants, including the extraordinary fringepod, a valuable member of the mustard plant family that plays a significant role in various habitats throughout California. 🌿🌼 #PlantProfile #Fringepod
Photo of fringepod taken by Keir Morse, 2015, courtesy of CalPhotos.

Fringepod thrives in various habitats across the region, ranging from valley grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral and foothill woodland. It is native to California and Baja California. Because fringepod easily adapts to its surroundings, the species can even be found up to 5,000 feet in elevation. The plant plays a significant role in these habitats, providing food and shelter for various species of insects and animals.

There are some native plants in the mustard family, like fringepod, however, you may typically associate mustard as a non-native (a.k.a invasive) plant in California. Most non-native mustard species present in Orange County are originally from the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Africa. Southern California is similar, in that we have a Mediterranean climate, making our habitats quite comfortable for these non-native species. However, the animals, fungi, bacteria and other organisms native to our habitats are not well adapted to feed on these non-native mustards, allowing them to grow and spread mostly unchecked.

Fringepod and non-native mustards are in the same taxonomic family (Brassicaceae). This means that they share a closer common ancestor than plants outside of the mustard family. However, fringepods are more beneficial to our native ecosystem than non-native mustards, because they are a more likely food source for the other organisms that share their habitat. For example, the native sara orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis sara) primarily lays their eggs on plants in the mustard family, including those not native to Southern California, however, the harm that non-native mustards cause to our local habitat far outweighs any benefit they may have for this butterfly species.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) works diligently throughout the year to help mitigate the damage by non-native invasive species to allow for our native plants and habitats to thrive. If you are interested in helping with invasive control work, please visit letsgooutside.org for upcoming activities.