Montana Outdoors

April 29, 2011

Balsamorhiza sagittata

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 2:17 pm

Soon the lower to mid-level elevation mountainsides in Montana will be brightly colored with the large bright flowers of Arrow-leaved Balsamroot. All parts of this large plant are edible and were a very important food source for the Indian peoples who were also native to this area. Their bloom is not wide-spread yet this spring, but some flowers are starting to show up in a few sheltered, warmer locations: the one in the photo is growing on the Flathead Reservation along the lower Flathead River.

This member of the sunflower family is well-named, with its arrowhead shaped leaves and roots that have the aroma of balsam pitch.

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot


  1. Another of my favorites! They are so cheerful.


    Comment by Kim — April 29, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    • They are! There is a large hillside behind and on the side of our house that is just full of them. Those haven’t bloomed yet this year, but the plants are well up now and when they bloom it is a sea of color.


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  2. Oh, I love its sunny face. Reminds me of the wild sunflowers that grow in Kansas. The stems of wild sunflowers are thinner than the domestic variety.


    Comment by Anna — April 29, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    • This is the largest of three varieties of sunflowers that grow here. They are not as large as the domestic ones, but pretty none-the-less.


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  3. Terry! That’s beautiful! Love the DOF.


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — April 29, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  4. Very nice… if these bloom all season long, I may have an image or two from our last visit out west. They look familiar but I was snapping pictures with no reference to tell me what I was seeing… always mean to go back and identify the flowers but seem to get sidetracked so easily. HA!

    Meanwhile, I’m definitely enjoying your wildflower images (even if I cannot keep up!). 🙂


    Comment by Victoria — April 29, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    • It’s so easy to get behind on flower ID’s for me too. It can be very difficult. I’m improving though and it’s surprising how many new species I recognize every spring!


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  5. I was thinking sunflowers, too. How large are these?


    Comment by sandy — April 29, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    • This one was about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Later, when the bloom is at its peak, many will be over 3 inches.


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  6. Aroma of balsam cool that must be…


    Comment by mitambien — April 29, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

    • Every spring I think about cooking some of those roots and trying them, but I have never done it. They are large enough and plentiful enough they could be a real food source.


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  7. I’ve always wanted to taste this one.


    Comment by knightofswords — April 29, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

    • I will have to remember to try some later in the summer, near the end of the blooming season or shortly after. The Indians used to dry the seeds too and pound them into a powder. I might try mixing that with dried and powdered service berries and venison jerky, making a version of pemmican. If palatable it would be good to have in my pack during hunting season!


      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

  8. Beautiful. Keep em coming. I’m really enjoying Montana’s Spring beauty!


    Comment by anniespickns — April 30, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    • Thanks Annie! They are very slow to bloom this year, but there are many more to bloom before summer.


      Comment by montucky — April 30, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

  9. Hi Montucky, That certainly is a pretty and useful flower. Have a wonderful day today!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — April 30, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

    • It’s the largest of our wildflowers and shows up the most when all of the plants are in bloom. I look forward to that because we have whole hillside full of them near our house.


      Comment by montucky — April 30, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  10. Ohhh, sooo pretty & CLEAR! Niiice!!! =)

    In your comment, you said, “I wonder just how much our species has to do with it” – I often wonder that very thing… you’re right, too!


    Comment by Tricia — May 1, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    • Yes, perhaps the most frightening thing is that we really don’t know.


      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  11. About how large is the flower? I may have seen these in northern AZ.


    Comment by Candace — May 1, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    • They get up to over 3 inches across. You have probably seen them because they do grow in Arizona.


      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

  12. A stunning beauty! I can see the relation – for sure – to the sunflower.


    Comment by Marcie — May 1, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

    • The seeds are edible too, although much smaller than the ones that we see commercially.


      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

      • We often see birds perched on the swaying stems, eating the seeds, and have watched chipmunks bend down the stems to get at the seedheads.
        Oddly, whitetail deer seem to love eating the dried crunchy leaves later in the year.


        Comment by Kim — May 23, 2011 @ 8:14 am

        • They are so abundant this year I think they could support all of the wildlife in the area!


          Comment by montucky — May 23, 2011 @ 8:24 am

  13. Oh yeah, when seeing it, I thought that it is sunflower. This was very interesting to me to see this and the info about it. Your spring seems to be wonderful time when the nature is starting to bloom!


    Comment by sartenada — May 6, 2011 @ 12:00 am

    • It is finally warming up enough for the plants to start their growing season and the wildflowers are showing up all over the valleys. The mountain tops all around are still deep in snow though, much later this year.


      Comment by montucky — May 6, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  14. Thanks for the phone call. What beautiful photos!


    Comment by Mark Holyoak — May 6, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    • Thanks for the visit, Mark! We really appreciate your news program: it’s the best!


      Comment by montucky — May 6, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

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