March 31, 2020

Tasty Treat

Barbara Lyon Photo | Balsamorhiza sagittata - arrowleaf balsamroot

Barbara Lyon Photo | Balsamorhiza sagittata – arrowleaf balsamroot

Nothing sounds better than when you read: All of the plant can be eaten. Such is the case with Balsamorhiza sagittata or arrowleaf balsamroot. This member of the daisy family and sunflower tribe is native to western North America and grows everywhere from the mountains to grassland. It is fairly drought tolerant, which may be because of the enormous taproot it can have, up to 8 feet in length and the diameter of a hand. The plant grows between 1 and 2 feet tall, with silvery leaves covered with white hairs. The flowers, which are abundant, are 3 to 5 inches in width, glowing in a sunny yellow shade. For Native Americans, most of the plant was consumed: the roots and young shoots baked or steamed, the immature flower stems peeled and the root used as a coffee substitute. Even the seeds are nutritious. The plant was used medicinally as a pain reliever. For wildlife such as elk and antelope, it is an important source of food after winter, providing forage in the spring and again in the fall. Called a “cheery favorite of Idahoans” by photographer Barbara Lyon, this picture was taken in Idaho at about 6,000 feet elevation.

Submitted by Barbara Lyon

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