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Arrowleaf Balsamroot: What is it and Why is it Significant to The Okanagan

Written by Deana Asham.

Named after the shape of its leaves, arrowleaf balsamroot is an Indigenous species to the Okanagan Valley. Being part of the same family as the sunflower, Asteraceae, they share a similar appearance; however, they flower slightly earlier than other members of their subtribe which bloom throughout the summer months. Seeing their vibrant yellow petals are a sure sign spring has sprung in the Okanagan. Arrowleaf balsamroot can be found alongside sagebrush, bunch grass, and within Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir forests. Large game animals such as deer, elk, and big horned sheep will feed on their stems, flowers, and leaves. It also has many traditional uses, in the form of food, medicine, and cultural practices among the Indigenous cultures of the Western United States and Southern BC, where they thrive. The Okanagan people have used the seeds to eat raw, or process them to make flour or cooking oil. Medically, the plant has been used by boiling the roots into a tea to treat rheumatism. Finally, the leaves have been known to be used during the winter months as warmers when placed into moccasins. This highlights only a few of arrowleaf balsamroot’s many uses. To learn more about the flower’s presence in the Okanagan, other uses for the plant, and additional facts about it, be sure to check out Lake Country’s annual ArtWalk on September 10th and 11th at the Lake Country Community Complex. The theme this year is “Life in Full Bloom” and The Lake Country Museum & Archives is excited to present an exhibit on the beautiful flowers of the Okanagan: Arrowleaf Balsamroot.



Tilley, Derek; St. John, Loren; Shaw, Nancy. 2012. Plant Guide: Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata [Pursh] Nutt.). Aberdeen, ID: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Aberdeen Plant Materials Center. 5 p.

Turner, N.J., Bouchard, R., and D.I.D. Kennedy. 1980 Ethnobotany of the Okanagan-Colville Indians of British Columbia and Washington. Victoria. British Columbia Provincial Museum (p. 80).

Gardiner, H. (2022, April 17). Signs of spring: Arrowleaf Balsamroot. Outside in Kelowna. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from (Photo)



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