I saw Mesa Greggia for the first time during 2016. They are gray green leaved with pearly white flowers that sit on a stem well above the surrounding vegetation. I knew upon first sight that this flower was something I had never photographed before.
Mesa Greggia was first collected for scientific study by a man named Josiah Gregg in New Mexico during the late 1840’s. You can read more about his story at the California Native Plant Society website. Apparently, Dr. Gregg died in California in 1850. He had been sending some of his specimens to Asa Gray at Harvard University for classification and naming. Dr. Gray named this species Greggia camporum in his honor in 1852. Camporum is the latinized version of the Spanish word Campos which means the plains. Thus, the original name for this species meant Greggia of the plains. Unfortunately, the rules of naming genera and species prohibit the reuse of a genus name and as it happened there was a prior validly named genus Greggia in the literature since 1788. So, Greggia camporum was renamed Nerisyrenia camporum in 1900. The new genus name translates as neros which means flowing and Syrenia which was a mustard genus found in eastern Europe and Central Asia which resembles this species. So, its name now means flowing Syrenia-like mustard of the plains.
From a distance, the white flowers of this species are like a beacon. Nerisyrenia camporum, as you might have guessed by now, is a member of the Brassicaceae or Mustard family. The family is also called Cruciferae by some authorities because the four petals common to Mustard flowers are arranged like a cross. Most Mustard flowers are yellow, this is the first white one I’ve seen.
While out taking pictures of this year’s (2017) spring arrivals, I stopped to catch the first Mesa Greggia’s of the season. What you see here is a flower-loving fly (Apoceridae) with long, straw-like mouthparts delving into a Mesa Greggia flower. I have never seen this kind of fly before! This fly is a member of a family with but a single genus containing 150 species worldwide. It’s nice to know that I haven’t seen everything yet, and the surprises are gifts of discovery.