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Arrowleaf Balsamroot - The Prequel #3 Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/10/2022
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2 out of 5

Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest.  This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.

Arrowleaf balsamroot: Balsamorhiza sagittata also known as Cariboo Sunflower and Wild Sunflower

Secwepemc: ts’elqenúpyeʔ (balsamroot or yellow sunflower)

Tsilhqot’in: ts’ats’el (Sunflower)

Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): súxʷəәm (plant) s-níłqen  (root when cooked)

Nlaka’pamux: sníłqn (the plant, whole plant); sóxw m’ (above ground part – also thimbleberry shoots); sts’əә́k’s e sníłqn (pinenuts of the sníłqn or seeds)

Nsyilxcen: smú kʷaʔxn (Spring Sunflower)

Liľwat7úl: séxem (sunflower)


English translation: Arrowleaf balsamroot, Wild Sunflower


Family: Asteraceae

Origin: Native

Duration: Perennial

Color: Yellow

Typical Bloom (varies by elevation): Late April – July

Arrowleaf balsamroot is common in cold, dry areas, is a relative of the sunflower, and can grow up to 2.5 feet tall with one or many stems bearing blooms on a single plant. The floral heads are bright sunny yellow with ray and disk flowers atop. The leaves arrow shaped leaves can be up to 50 cm long and 20 cm wide and are silvery-green with fine felt-like hairs. As its’ name states, the Arrowleaf balsamroot grows on a large, thick taproot that can be the width of a hand and grow to a depth of 8 feet into the hillsides it takes up residence on. The balsam portion of this plant’s name comes from its’ taproot, which contains a sappy resin within.

The Arrowleaf balsamroot are a long-lived perennial herb native to North America’s Western hillsides and prairies, growing at low to mid elevations on dry, rocky slopes, in grasslands, and in open forests throughout the interior of British Columbia.

Indigenous Cultural Notes: Arrowleaf balsamroot provided an important food for Interior Indigenous peoples.  It was high in fiber and energy content, and local Indigenous groups ate various parts of it through out the year with almost every part being edible. Young shoots and leaves were harvested in the early spring before they turned green and were eaten raw, baked, or steamed. The flower stems themselves could be peeled and eaten as well. Traditional digging sticks made of wood or antlers were used to harvest the long taproots in the rocky, arid soil and were sometimes steamed or roasted for eating but could also be dried and pounded into meal or used as a coffee substitute. Seeds of the Arrowleaf balsamroot were collected in the summer months of June through August and could be roasted and eaten, or ground into a flour that would later be mixed with other berries to make cakes. Root vegetables such as balsamroot were important sources of carbohydrates and Indigenous peoples managed the crop by never harvesting the “mother” roots which could be several decades old.

Many tribes used Arrowleaf balsamroot medicinally. The root could be boiled to produce a resin that was used for fevers, headaches, stomach aches and more. A poultice made of leaves and roots was used to treat sores, insect bites, blisters, bruises and other wounds. Arrowleaf balsamroot has antibacterial properties and helped relieve the pain of burns. The root is supportive for the respiratory system and acts as an expectorant, made into a tea it was used to treat tuberculosis and whooping cough by some Indigenous groups. An infusion of leaves was used as a wash for poison ivy and running sores by the Secwepemc. The smoke from the roots was used to relieve body aches and pains.

Interesting facts:  Arrowleaf balsamroot is an important food source for deer, elk, and sheep. It is tolerant of fire due to its deep taproot. Following fires and drought, the plants will often regenerate from the basal rootstock. The flower blossoms smell like chocolate and the plants are often found in open, full sun, but can also tolerate partial shade and occur from 1,000 to 9,000 ft in elevation.

Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine.

Researched and wrote by Lana Rae Brooks

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