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Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Some years back I noticed a sunflower looking plant growing on the desert between Mountain Home and Boise. And, yes, I have been referred to as an Elmore County Gawker from time to time. Anyway, when I got a chance, I stopped and picked some of these flowers. They smelled like vanilla. The people in Oregon call them the Oregon Sunflower, while the rest of us call them the Arrowleaf Balsamroot flower. These flowers grow in clumps that can reach three feet tall, with lots of yellow flowers growing on each clump of leaves. The leaves are big and green, with a sliver tint. These are hearty, drought resistant plants with roots that can grow 6 feet long and as big as your arm. They bloom from mid-May to July. William Clark, a fellow gawker, noticed these plants and recorded them in his journal in 1806. He said the Indians ate the stems raw. Actually, the whole plant is edible and has been used for medical purposes. The seeds are a great source of protein, and the leaves, if eaten young, have a citrus flavor. The mature leaves are bitter with a pine like taste. Grazing animals eat the flowers and seed heads while deer and elk eat leaves and stalks. The roots are so strong that the Indians actually tied their horses to these plants. The roots could be used to make tea or drank to cure respiratory infections. These plants thrive in the high desert from Canada to Arizona. They seem to do best on the eastern slope. I have a handful of these seeds and I hope to plant them this fall. Stay tuned. Life is good.