Native Sunflowers

Balsamhoriza deltoidea6
Checkerspot butterfly on deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

Summer is just around the corner, but some of our native sunflowers are already in bloom! Many plants in the Asteracea (Sunflower family) are commonly referred to as sunflowers, especially those with showy, round, yellow flower heads that look like the sun.

Below we will feature some Klamath-Siskiyou native plants belonging to the sunflower family. Numerous insects, including bees and butterflies, are attracted to plants in the sunflower family and planting native sunflowers will surely benefit native pollinators in your area.

Have you stumbled across Calscape while doing botanical research online? A program of the California Native Plant Society, Calscape provides basic horticultural information for California native plants. You can search specific species through the site, or if you search a plant through Calflora (the online flora database for California), you can click on the Calscape link at the bottom of the page and it will take you to the Calscape information for that particular species. I will use examples of Calscape descriptions in this blog post to help familiarize you with this resource if you haven’t used it before. Although Calflora and Calscape are specific to California flora, they provide very useful information for native plants that have ranges extending into Oregon and beyond.

Balsamorhiza deltoidea in the Siskiyou Mountains
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) in the Siskiyou Mountains

Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

Deltoid balsamroot is a spring blooming member of the sunflower family currently blooming in grasslands, rocky areas, among chaparral, and in sunny forested openings throughout the region.

Description on Calscape: “Balsamorhiza deltoidea is a species of flowering plant in the sunflower tribe of the plant family Asteraceae known by the common name deltoid balsamroot. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to California, where it grows in many types of generally mountainous habitat. This is a taprooted perennial herb growing erect to a maximum height near 90 centimeters. The stems and leaves are hairy. The large leaves are up to 25 centimeters long and 20 wide, and are roughly triangular in shape, hairy, and often toothed along the edges. The flower cluster bears usually one or sometimes a few large flower heads, each lined with hairy, pointed phyllaries up to 4 centimeters long. The head has a center of yellowish disc florets and a fringe of pointed yellow ray florets each up to 4 or 5 centimeters long. The fruit is an achene 7 to 8 millimeters in length.”

Deltoid balsamroot is deer resistant and drought tolerant. It needs good drainage and full sun to thrive. The seeds will need 60-90 days of cold stratification or winterization in order to germinate.

Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) with silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons)
Mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia)

Narrow leaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia)

Mule’s ears blooms after balsamroot.

Description on Calscape: “Narrow Leaf Mule Ears (Wyethia angustifolia) is a native perennial herb in the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family that grows in central and northern California. It tends to grow in stream banks and springs, at elevations from 0-5,500 feet, from the coast to the Sierras. It is winter dormant and dies back to the ground. It has large flowers, up to 3″ in diameter, that last from spring to summer.”

Another common name for narrow leaf mule’s ears is California compassplant. It tolerates a wide variety of soils as long as adequate drainage is provided. It is deer resistant and drought tolerant. The seeds will need 60-90 days of cold stratification or winterization in order to germinate.

Bumblebees getting ready for sleep on mules ears (Wyethia angustifolia)
Black-tailed bumble bees (Bombus melanopygus) on Mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia)
Helianthus bolanderi
Bolander’s sunflower (Helianthus bolanderi) growing in a garden.

Bolander’s sunflower (Helianthus bolanderi)

Sunflowers in the Helianthus genus (Greek: Helios, “sun” and anthos, “flower”), are uncommon in the Klamath-Siskiyou, but many native Helianthus species are found throughout eastern Oregon and California. Bolander’s sunflower is found in California and southern Oregon.

Description on Calscape: “Helianthus bolanderi is a species of sunflower known by the common names serpentine sunflower and Bolander’s sunflower. It is native to California and Oregon, where it grows mainly in mountainous areas, often in serpentine soils. This wild sunflower is an erect annual reaching heights over a meter. It has a hairy, rough stem with leaves lance- or oval-shaped, usually pointed, sometimes serrated along the edges, and 3 to 15 centimeters long. The flower cluster holds one or more flower heads, and each plant may have many flower clusters growing along the full length of the stem. The flower head has a cup of long, pointed phyllaries holding an array of bright yellow ray florets each one to two centimeters long around a center of yellow to dark purple or reddish disc florets. The achene is 3 to 5 millimeters long.”

Growing Bolander’s sunflower is as easy as growing any other sunflower. The seeds do not need pretreatment. Plant in the late spring or early summer. The maximum height of Bolander’s sunflower under irrigated garden conditions can exceed 5 feet or more. Plant in a sunny location.

Eriophyllum lanatum1
Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum)

Oregon sunshine/Common Wooly Sunflower (Eriphyllum lanatum)

Description on Calscape: “The Common Wooly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum), also known as Oregon Sunshine, is a widespread, herbaceous dicot of the sunflower family Asteraceae. It is native to western North America, commonly growing in dry, open places below 10,000 feet, but it also grows on rocky slopes and bluffs. It is most common in California, primarily in the mountains of the northern part of the state where it is widespread. This perennial plant grows from 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) in height. Flowers are yellow and composite, looking much like true sunflowers, and sometimes grow to 2 inches wide. Both the ray and disk flowers are yellow, with one flower head on each flowering stalk. The leaves are linear on the upper stems; the lower portions of the stem have slender, pinnately lobed leaves. The species exhibits great variability. There are many recognized varieties, and some are classified as rare.”

Oregon sunshine is deer resistant and drought tolerant. It grows in a wide variety of soil types as long as adequate drainage is provided. It naturally grows in dry openings in many different habitat types, especially in foothills and mountainous areas. Seeds will require 30-60 days of cold stratification in order to germinate.

Mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) mating pair on Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) Photo: Linda Kappen
Mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) mating pair on Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) Photo: Linda Kappen

Spring Garden Fair

Spring Garden FairKlamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will make uncommon native plants — some rarely sold in nurseries — available to the public at the Master Gardener Spring Garden Fair, May 6th and 7th at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point, Oregon.

We have your interest covered with: Native larval host plants for butterflies, pollen-rich native wildflowers for bees, nectar producing plants for hummingbirds and evening and night blooming plants for our nighttime pollinating moths.

All of our plants are grown from wildcrafted local seed collected in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion.

We will also have seed packets available for over 75 species of native plants at the fair. From low-elevation shooting stars and grasswidows, to high-elevation beargrass and horsemint, and everything in between, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds helps you GROW NATIVE — GROW WILD!

Come see us at the fair! The spring gardens season is on!

Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Close-up view of heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) flowers.
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)

We will have limited heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) plants and seeds for sale at the fair!


Native Plant Appreciation Week

Celebrate Native Flora!

Scarlet fritillaria (Fritillaria recurva)
Scarlet fritillaria (Fritillaria recurva)

California is toward the end of its Native Plant Week, April 15-23, with many events organized through the California Native Plant Society.

For more information on events in California see the California Native Plant Week events page.

Oregon’s Native Plant Appreciation Week starts this Sunday, April 23rd, running through April 29th. The Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) also has many events planned for the week. NPSO Facebook page

For Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Week events see their Facebook page.

Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Week

Bumble Bee Blitz

Dr. Robbin Thorp will lead the Bumble Bee Blitz in search of Franklin’s bumble bee.

Bumble Bee Blitz

July 17-July 21 2017

Save the Date! Come out and help look for the possibly extinct Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklinii), and the rare Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) on Mt. Ashland and in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument this summer. No experience necessary!

Armed with nets and viewing jars we will follow the flowers and keep our hopes up that we’ll find Franklin’s bumble bee, a bumble bee that hasn’t been seen since Dr. Robbin Thorp’s last sighting on Mt. Ashland in 2006.

Robbin Thorp’s collection of the rare western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) and the possibly extinct Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklinii). Note the size variations between queens, males and females. The queens are the largest.

Jeff Dillon, Endangered Species Division Manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explains the task this way:

“Once again, we will be spending time in the Ashland area searching for mainly Bombus franklini but also Bombus occidentalis. This year we plan to spend two full days up on Mt. Ashland (Tuesday/Wednesday), a day over at the Hobart Bluff area (Thursday), and potentially part of a day at Grizzly Peak (Friday morning). This will occur the week of July 17 to July 21, 2017. Some of us may get there early enough to chase a few bumble bees Monday afternoon at Mt. Ashland depending on our travel time (sort of a warm up for the big week).

As before, all are invited to participate – all ages and all experience levels.

If you have any questions this early on, feel free to email me or give me a call. I’ll be sending out reminder emails in the coming months.”


Jeffrey A. Dillon, Endangered Species Division Manager
US Fish and Wildlife Service Phone: 503.231.6179
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office Fax: 503.231.6195
2600 SE 98th Avenue, Suite 100 Email:
Portland, Oregon 97266

If you are interested in joining the Bumble Bee Blitz let Jeff know and he can put you on an email update list.

Viewing jars like these will be used to identify bees in the field. A bee/butterfly net will also be needed.

Sulphur flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) is potential habitat for foraging Franklin’s bumble bees. Let’s find them!

Springtime Seed Germination

Yellow faced bumble bee queen foraging on Hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande)
Yellow faced bumble bee queen foraging on Hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande)

Ahhh….spring! After a long, very wet winter in the Klamath-Siskiyou, sunshine and warmer weather have finally arrived. Spring weather has brought with it a bounty of beautiful spring wildflowers, bejeweled with overwintering queen bumble bees and butterflies, hungry and eager for the food these wildflowers offer. Another exciting thing that spring brings with it is seed germination! Yay!!!

There are little germinates all over the place where I seeded in the fall and winter —  in the garden; in the nursery; in the forest; on rocky slopes; in oak woodland; in pots in the greenhouse; in pots outside — and where it thrills me most: in the gardens, greenhouses, and on the land of my clients and customers! The wet winter has benefitted habitat restoration projects by triggering a high degree of seed germination this year. Successful projects make those of us who work hard to collect, clean and process native plant seeds happy!

Many people wonder how native plants are propagated from seed. Despite the fact that many native seeds need pretreatment, propagation can still be relatively simple. In order to help you visualize native seed germination and propagation, we offer this slideshow. Sit back and enjoy the slideshow!

Our Western Monarchs

Join Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates and native plant enthusiasts for this exciting presentation on May 9th at Southern Oregon University.

Monarch Night May 9th SOMA-SOU


Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii)

Have you seen your first spring wildflowers yet? I have, and I couldn’t be happier! Douglas’ grasswidows start blooming as early as late February through early March in the Klamath-Siskiyou.

One of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the spring, Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii), also referred to as purple-eyed grass, is a harbinger of warmer, sunnier days ahead. This cheerful grass-like plant will brighten your day as it announces the arrival of  the coming wildflower-filled spring.

Early season pollinators appreciate the early blooms of grasswidows and it is not uncommon to see native bees foraging on the flowers.

Douglas’ grasswidow is in the Iridaceae (Iris) family, in the genus Olsynium, with other species in the same genus being mainly from South America. Many folks may have gotten to know this lovely species when it was classified under the closely related genus, Sisyrinchium — hence one of its common names: purple-eyed grass.

The origin of the common name, grasswidow, has not been confirmed despite many theories.

These early blooming flowers inhabit rocky, vernally-wet places that turn very dry in the summer. You will see it growing on dry, rocky bluffs, in meadows, and in open oak woodlands from low to mid elevations.

Douglas' grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii) NRCS range map.
Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii) NRCS range map.
Douglas' grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii)
Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii)
Douglas' grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii)
Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii)
Douglas' grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii)
Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii)

2017 Siskiyou Field Institute Courses

SFI Catalog

Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds is a proud 2017 sponsor of the Siskiyou Field Institute!

The Siskiyou Field Institute (SFI) is the place to go to learn about the native flora and fauna in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. There are so many great field courses to choose from — from kids courses, introductory courses, to professional level courses, there is something for everyone! SFI is an extraordinary resource! The course catalog for SFI’s 2017 field season is now available.

To learn more or register for classes visit:

Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds