Long before valley-bottom fields, grasslands and open areas in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion were covered in non-native and invasive star thistle or dyer’s woad, some were covered with the dainty, yellow, daisy-like flowers of the native elegant tarweed. Elegant tarweed is an annual wildflower in the sunflower family. In the Klamath-Siskiyou it occurs in grasslands and open forest, typically at mid to low elevation. It flowers in summer and early autumn, from Oregon, California, the Great Basin and south to Baja California. As part of its drought-adaptation, the flowers curl up during the daytime, opening late in the day and remaining open until the middle of the next morning. The foliage exudes fragrant oil, and the plants are sticky, hence the common name tarweed. It is an often-overlooked native plant that deserves more respect and attention.
The seeds of tarweed are eaten by many birds and small mammals, such as mourning doves, quail, blackbirds, finches, Oregon juncos, California horned larks, western meadowlarks, American pipits, sparrows, towhees, mice, ground squirrels and chipmunks. Being a late bloomer, tarweed is an important late nectar source for butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects. Elegant tarweed is a larval host plant for the owlet moth.
Tarweed seeds were also historically and are currently still used as food by local tribes; documented use of tarweed is known for the Hoopa, Takelma, and Shasta tribes. Seeds were/are prepared in the following ways: parched and pounded into flower; roasted with hot coals, pounded or rolled into flour; pulverized seeds are eaten as a dry meal; ground seeds are mixed with ground hazelnuts and camas; seeds are used to make pinoles.
Elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) seed packets contain approximately 190 seeds.
Seed Germination Instructions
No pretreatment required. Sow outside in fall to early spring.