Balsamroot is a relative of the sunflower. Its leaves are coarse and arrow-shaped, and a single plant can have many yellow flowers. It grows in clumps to a height of about 75cm (2.5 feet).
RANGE & HABITAT
Balsamroot grows from B.C. and Alberta to California in plains and valleys and to elevations of 2,700 metres.
It may take five to ten years to establish but when it does, it grows well with other kinds of plants. It is strongly drought-resistant, has good winter-hardiness, tolerates semi-shade, and is tolerant of grazing and trampling. Balsamroot may be ‘top-killed’ by fire, but its strong and persistent root allows it to regenerate following most fires.
Balsamroot is food for a variety of livestock, like sheep, cattle, horses and wildlife like mice and deer. It also acts as a cover for small mammals and birds, especially grouse.
TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES
This plant has long been used for numerous purposes because most of the plant is edible and high in fibre and energy content. The leaves are eaten, raw or cooked, and the seeds are roasted and eaten or ground into flour. The roots contain an immune-stimulating substance and a sap can be used for disinfectant. The roots were often burned, using the smoke to cure headaches or fumigate rooms. When roasted or steamed, the root becomes edible and can be ground into meal.
It is important for the grazing of domestic livestock. It is also used to plant on damaged or disturbed hills and creek banks.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Vicky Husband