Photo Courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner, USU Extension
Balsamorhiza sagittata (Pursh) Nutt.
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Life Span: Perennial
Growth Characteristics: A 1 to 2 feet tall forb, growing from a branched, thickened, woody taproot with a shreddy appearance. The taproot has a pleasant (balsam) odor. Stems are erect, ascending, and wooly. It flowers May to August, reproduces from seeds.
Flowers/Inflorescence: Large, yellow, and sunflower-like, mostly solitary at the end of a 9 to 24 inch scapose stem.
Fruits/Seeds:Fruit is a glabrous achene.
Leaves: Arrow-shaped, gray-green, white-wooly, long-stalked, and basal.
Arrowleaf balsamroot is found in open, fairly dry situations such as southerly exposures, open ridges, and parks throughout the sagebrush, oakbrush, serviceberry, and ponderosa pine types. It is usually found at elevations from 4500 to 7000 feet. It is strongly drought resistant, has good winter-hardiness, tolerates semi-shade, and is strongly tolerant of grazing and trampling.
Soils: Most abundant in well-drained soils, but found on gravelly to clayey soils.
Associated Species: Big sagebrush, bluebunch wheatgrass, cheatgrass, lupine, deathcamas, and penstemon.
Uses and Management:
Arrowleaf balsamroot provides good forage for sheep and big game, and fair for cattle. The flowers are especially palatable, but all portions of the plant except the coarser stalks are eaten. Horses are especially fond of the flowers. The plants are eaten throughout the grazing season but are usually much more palatable during the spring and early summer, becoming more tough and dry later in the year.
Arrowleaf balsamroot will increase when grazed by cattle, but decrease when grazed by sheep or deer on winter ranges.
Cheyenne Indian boiled roots, stems, and leaves, and drank the decoction for stomach pains and headaches; they also steamed the plant and inhaled the vapors for the same purposes. Ripe seeds were pounded into flour. The fleshy, edible roots were often eaten raw or boiled.