Plant of the day: narrowleaf mule ears

A large yellow flower blooms on a grassy hillside. The single flower head atop a strong, sturdy stalk looks rather like a small sunflower, with deep yellow ray petals. Leaves are mostly basal, and can be long and skinny or spade-shaped. Both leaves and stalks are slightly hairy and the inflorescence is flanked by many small, hairy bracts.

This is narrowleaf mule ears (Wyethia angustifola) which are somewhat more common than their shorter cousin, Coast Range mule ears. W. angustifolia grow to between 1 and 3 feet tall. It also lacks large, leaf-like bracts surrounding the yellow flower.

The stems and seeds of the plant are edible; they were eaten raw, and the seeds were pounded into a sweetened flour called pinole. The leaves and roots were used medicinally; roots were pounded into a poultice used to draw out blisters or treat lung ailments. A bath made from leaves was used to treat fever.

Narrowleaf mule ears is also known as California compassplant.


Filed under Edible, Medicinal, Native, Plant of the day

3 responses to “Plant of the day: narrowleaf mule ears

  1. Doreen smith

    Text and image don’t match! The plant is Wyethia angustifolia, image is labeled correctly.

  2. Thank you Doreen! That’s what I get for blogging when sleepy. W. glabra has now been corrected to say W. angustifolia.

  3. judith lowry

    How funny, Doreen. I was just thinking I need to run this by you to see if W. angustifolia or W. glabra. The leaves are pretty narrow and basal, and the stalks with flowerheads rise above them. These are about half a mile up the Bolinas Fairfax Road from Hwy One.
    A much sturdier-looking Wyethia off Hiwy One on the east side going past Dogtown has me confused. could they be growing together? Will send the picture in seed.

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