Balsamorhiza sagittata (Oregon sunflower / Arrowleaf balsalm root)

As mentioned in the previous blog, I am interested in plants that have a range of uses and this year one of the species I am trialling will be Balsamorhiza sagittata. Native to the western areas of the USA and Canada, it is a member of the Aster family.

In its native range it can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from desert scrub to grassland and mountain forests. It is extremely drought tolerant.

It is a perennial, hardy to zone 5 in the UK and has a long tap root which in its native range can reach 2m in length and has large hairy leaves. The yellow sunflower like flowers are 2 1/2-4 inches wide borne on stems that can range from 8 – 24 inches in length. The plant prefers a sunny aspect and will not grow in the shade

Uses

Before looking at the uses I would just like to say that this section is for information only and we take no responsibility for anyone trying any of the uses listed below – so that’s the boring bit over, lets look at the possible uses for this plant.

Pollinator plant

The flowers are recognised in its native habitat for attracting many bees

Edible

The crown of the root is said to be edible raw and the roots, when cooked have a sweet taste although there are reports of the roots being a little bitter.

To cook, they are best slow roasted. Young shoots are reported to be edible and can be cooked or eaten raw in salads and the young flowering shoots can be peeled and eaten.

The seeds can be roasted and ground into a flour for cooking with or used to make a dough that can be eaten raw. The seeds may also be ground into a coffee substitute.

Medicinal

Native American Indians widely used part of the plant for medicinal purposes including an infusion of the leaves and stems to treat a wide range of illnesses from stomach pain, through to fevers and headaches.  Chewing the roots and swallowing the juice is reported to ease sore throats and toothache.

Chewing the roots and putting the pulp on skin complaints and wounds. The pulp has also been used to cool and repair burns etc.

Cultivation

Sow the seeds in early spring in a greenhouse or inside, apparently the seeds germinate quite quickly if they are only lightly covered with compost. I’m planning to sow successional batches from the end of February into march and see how fast they do germinate here and then planning to grow on both at the allotment and in our flower beds.

Once the plants are large enough, they should be ready to plant outside, again the literature seems to agree that they will tolerate a range of light and medium soil types, which suits the ground at the allotment but soil at home is slightly on the heavy side so it will be interesting to see how they grow in the slightly heavier soil.

There are other Balsamorhiza species that have similar uses but so far, I have not been able to locate any of the seed. If anyone can point me in the direction to obtain seed of the following species, I would be most grateful.

Balsamorhiza deltoidei

Balsamorhiza hookeri

Balsamorhiza incana

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