Field Guide

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Plants and wildflowers add to the beauty of our foothills and improve the air and water quality, enrich and maintain the soil, sustain wildlife and provide humans with food and medicine.

We hope this website enhances your enjoyment of our local wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Learning their names brings a sense of familiarity that will develop as you continue to visit the Sage Hills and watch the progression of plants through the seasons. We hope that your growing appreciation of these plants will encourage you to preserve them for future generations.

Resist the impulse to pick these beautiful wildflowers! Picking a wildflower prevents the next hiker from enjoying the same beauty. It also reduces the plant’s chance for survival, impacting the insects and animals that rely on it for food and shelter. Why not leave them for everyone to enjoy?

Interested in growing native plants in your garden? Visit one of our local nurseries for plants or seeds.

 

Arrow-leaf Balsamroot Yellow Wildflower Balsamorhiza sagittata May
Bulbous Bluegrass Grass Poa bulbosa
Great Basin Wild Rye Grass Great Basin Wild Rye
Linear-leaf Daisy Yellow Wildflower Erigeron linearis May
Shooting Star Pink Wildflower Dodecatheon pulchellum March

Arrow-leaf Balsamroot

Common Name
Arrow-leaf Balsamroot
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Scientific Name
Balsamorhiza sagittata
Scientific Pronunciation
bal-sam-or-RY-zuh saj-ih-TAY-tuh
Plant Family
Plant Origin
Duration
Color
Plant Type
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation)

Balsamroot is one of the most prevalent and showy plants in the Sage Hills. The bright, yellow “sunflowers” present a widespread colorful display in the spring. The flowers grow singly on the end of a long leafless stem that is one to two feet tall. The arrowhead-shaped leaves grow as much as twelve inches long, six inches wide, and a covering of fine woolly hair gives them a softer, grayish appearance. The plant gets its name from its balsam-scented taproots. (Balsam refers to a strong-smelling tree resin).

Balsamroot was a significant food source for Native Americans in our region. All parts of the plant were eaten. The long taproot was most important and was dug before the plant began to flower. Leaves, stalks, and seeds were also collected for food. The embryonic leaves and bud stalks (which deer like also) were collected as early spring greens. The seeds were pounded into meal, which was eaten alone or mixed into soup or other dishes.

Native American boys would wrap balsamroot leaves around their ankles and see how far they could walk before ripping the leaves. This prepared them to walk silently and carefully.

Bulbous Bluegrass

Common Name
Bulbous Bluegrass
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Scientific Name
Poa bulbosa
Plant Family
Plant Origin
Duration
Plant Type

Form: Bright, light-green appearance, easily identified by its dark purple bulbils

Height: Up to 2 feet

Flower: Does not reproduce from seeds, but from bulbs in the ground that multiply by sending new bulbs out laterally, or from bulbils (fleshy, detachable buds that are pear-shaped and approximately 1 cm long) that are produced in the flowers. These fall to the ground, root, and grow.

Stems: Erect

Leaves: Narrow, hairless, flat or loosely rolled, with "boat-shaped" leaf tips

Roots: Limited root system; grows new roots each season

Ecology: Growing in large patches across the landscape, and drying out early like cheatgrass. Often first invading species on shallow soils that are moist only during the winter and early spring. Drought tolerant. Bulbils are high in starch and fat so they are attractive to rodents and birds.

Weed control: Invasive species that reduces diversity and other organisms that depend on diversity. Invasive, but not aggressive, it can be eradicated by establishing a competitive perennial grass.

Great Basin Wild Rye

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Scientific Name
Great Basin Wild Rye
Scientific Pronunciation
LEE-mus sin-EER-ee-us
Plant Family
Plant Origin
Duration
Plant Type
Additional Common Names
Basin Wildrye, Giant Wild Rye

Form: Bunch grass; tall, native large wild rye. Largest cool-season perennial bunchgrass native to the western United States. Forms large clumps with dense spikes that resemble wheat.

Height: 3 to 5 feet

Seedhead: Thick bristly 6-inch flower spikes

Seeds: Reproduces by seed and rhizomes

Stems: Dense spikes that resemble wheat

Leaves: Up to 0.8 inch wide

Roots: Extensive soil-binding, fibrous root system, pushing as deep as 6 feet and as wide as 3 feet

Ecology: Thrives in moist, alkaline soils, though it is adapted to a wide range of other soil types. High water-use efficiency. Established stands can survive long periods of summer drought. Tolerant of partial shade. Grows in both disturbed and undisturbed soils.

Fire tolerance: Coarseness of foliage resists prolonged burning. Plants sprout from surviving root crowns and rhizomes.

Uses: Seeds were collected, roasted, winnowed, and ground to flour. Dried stalks were used for floor coverings and leaves sometimes used in weaving.

Linear-leaf Daisy

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Scientific Name
Erigeron linearis
Scientific Pronunciation
er-IJ-er-on lin-AIR-iss
Plant Family
Plant Origin
Duration
Color
Plant Type
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation)

This fleabane has yellow daisy-like flowers, an unusual color for fleabanes that are usually purple or white. There are several short and erect flowering stems two to twelve inches tall, each bearing a single head. The many narrow elongate leaves, one half to three inches long, cluster predominantly near the base of the stems, giving the plants a cushion-like appearance. Linear-leaf daisy has adapted to complete its growth and reproduction quickly before entering into a long period of dormancy.

The Okanagan-Colville Indians used a decoction of the whole plant to treat tuberculosis. They also drank a brew of this plant for general illness, backache, and cracked bones. The leaves were chewed for sore throats, or chewed up and spit on sores. Toasted leaves mixed with grease, or mashed fresh plants were used as a salve for pains, sores, swellings, and wounds.

Shooting Star

Common Name
Shooting Star
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Scientific Name
Dodecatheon pulchellum
Scientific Pronunciation
doh-dek-ATH-ee-on pul-KEL-um
Plant Family
Plant Origin
Color
Plant Type
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation)

Shooting star has flowers at the top of leafless stems two to sixteen inches tall. The leaves are smooth and oblong, one to six inches long, and grow from the base. The unusual shaped flower is easily identified by the five pink petals pulled back from five colorful stamens, nodding toward earth like a “shooting star”. It has also been described as a jet-propelled missile with its “nose-cone” being the showy yellow stamens and pistil. Some say it looks like the flowers are inside out.

Such an unusual flower requires a special technique for pollination. While hanging upside down, a bumblebee grasps the yellow band at the base of the petals. It then gives a quick buzz of its wings which shakes pollen out of the flower’s anthers and onto its abdomen. When the bee visits the next shooting star, the thin stigma protruding from the tube is perfectly placed to receive the pollen.

Shooting star was used medicinally by the Native Americans as a wash for sore eyes or for cankers. It was also used by women as a love charm and to help them control men.