by Veronica Wisniewski, Fourth Corner Nurseries
Common Names: Deltoid Balsamroot, Puget Balsamroot
Range: Vancouver Island, BC where it is endangered, to southern California
Pollination: Insect pollinated.
Culture: Plant in well-drained sandy loam soil in a sunny location. Allow the soil to dry down between waterings.
Notes: Bright yellow sunflowers bursting from big bold leaves dot the open hillsides and meadows of the shrub-steppe, the balsamroots, beg for a place in the home landscape – east of the mountains. For those of us drenched in the liquid sunshine west of the cascades, fortunately, there is an exception that deserves a space the garden – Balsamorhiza deltoidea.
Because it is a plant of hot, dry sunny places, we have tended to relegate Puget balsamroot to the non-irrigated part of the nursery where it has taken several years to develop a substantial root system. Last year, as fate would have it, we stuck them in with our fussier perennials – a little water, a little fertilizer and one year later some of our plants grew to flowering size in the roomier portion of the bed.
Bold, tolerant of drought and neglect, but accepting of a little tender, loving care, Puget balsamroot possesses many of the characteristics of a desirable garden perennial.
Historically, in local Native American communities, the roots, shoots and seeds of Balsamorhiza deltoidea were a food source. They ate the sweet tasting roots either raw or cooked and the seeds, they ground and baked into bread. Given the scarcity of balsamroot in the Puget trough today, one must conclude they made little bread or the plants were more widespread. Make more bread possible, plant a balsamroot.