Walk the hills around Boise in the warm season, you're sure to find certain native plants - white-flowered yarrow with its furry, pungent leaves (mashable into a throat-soothing tea), rabbitbrush and sagebrush. Those bright, early season yellow blooms that look like sunflowers and grow about a foot tall? Chances are they're arrowleaf balsam root (Balsamorhiza sagittata).
The pointed-leafed plant has nutritious seeds and a root that can grow 30 feet deep, said Cyndi Coulter, an analyst with Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Mashed arrowleaf roots make a wound dressing, she said. They taste bitter, but roots were a food source for Plains tribes, according to "Sagebrush Country," by Ronald J. Taylor.
If you want to try growing the plant in your garden, buy a small one from a nursery specializing in natives. Don't try to dig up one in the Foothills. The long root makes transplanting dicey. And digging up wildflowers is just. Not. Good.
The arrowleaf balsam root requires patience. It typically takes several years for a new plant to bloom. But they're long-lived and require little water and care once established.
Here's a beautiful word to add to your plant-word repertoire courtesy of Coulter: Arrowleaf balsam roots "senesce," or go dormant, after seeding in late spring.
Anna Webb: 377-6431