Parts of all the western states
Between 1 and 3 feet
Sandy flats, open hillsides, washes, semideserts, pinyon-juniper woodland
Palmate; 3 oblanceolate to elliptic leaflets, each up to 1.5 inches long
Polanisia dodecandra produces spherical clusters of around 20 white flowers, each consisting of four petals, wide (and notched) at the tip, but tapering to a narrow stalk. At the base of the petals are four smaller, purple sepals. The inflorescence is made quite striking by the very long stamens, 6 to 20 per flowerhead, which radiate out in all directions. They are colored various shades of purple and pink, and have different lengths. The average number of stamens is 12, hence the species name dodecandra.
Flowers are attached to the center of the cluster by short stalks which, like the main stem and leaf stalks, are covered by bristly hairs, also uneven in length. The palmate leaves have a covering of shorter hairs. Stems are leaves are somewhat sticky (glandular), and the plant exudes a strong smell.
There are 3 subspecies: dodecandra, riograndensis and trachysperma, differing in the relative length of petals and stamens, the shape of the bracts, the texture of the seeds and the shape of the leaflet tips.