Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

I've been doing a series of posts this Spring on the wildflowers that grow in our area. As the weeks progress, many different wildflowers come and go. The month of May is when the Balsamroot comes into bloom and thickly covers and beautifies the mountains here.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot is a sturdy, 1-2 ft. tall plant with large 4-5 in. bright yellow sunflower-like blooms. The arrow shaped, silver gray leaves are covered with fine short hairs. It grows in clumps and is a long-lived, drought tolerant native perennial that goes dormant in summer until the following spring. The above photo was taken just a short hike from our house.

This is my favorite Balsamroot photo. This clump was growing up and through another wild plant with ferny foliage, which I haven't yet identified.

Here you can see the silvery gray-green stems and arrow shaped leaves. The entire plant is edible to humans. Native Americans would peel and eat raw the tender inner portion of the young immature flower stems. They also ate the large roots and seeds. The roots are tough and woody and taste like balsam. To make them more palatable, the Indians would bake them several days in a fire pit. Medicinally, the Indians used the large coarse Balsamroot leaves as a poultice for burns. The roots were boiled and the solution was applied as a poultice for wounds, cuts, and bruises. Indians also drank a tea from the roots for tuberculosis and whooping cough.

A close up of the sunny yellow flower. It is a member of the Asteraceae or Aster family, which includes the Sunflower.


We gathered the wild-flowers. Yes, life there seem'd one pure delight.....as thro' the field we rov'd. Yes, life there seem'd one pure delight."

George Linley ~ 19th century